How to Become a Park Ranger in California

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How to Become a Park Ranger in California

Have you dreamed of working as someone in charge of a state park in California?

This is the way to go for those who love the great outdoors and seeing the impressive trees and wildlife of this Pacific Coast state.

Whether you have lived in CA all your life or you are interested in moving there to become a park ranger, here is what you need to do to make that happen.

We’ve also touched on some interesting points, such as how much you can expect to make as a park ranger in CA and whether you can carry a gun.

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Requirements to Become a Park Ranger in California

Becoming an official park ranger in CA starts with working as a State Park Ranger Cadet.

This is an entry-level park ranger position, which leads to a State Park Ranger job.

From here, the requirements to be a park ranger are to graduate from a college or post-secondary degree-bearing school.

Park rangers must also be licensed to drive and be eligible to attend Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) training.

Park Ranger Duties in California

General park ranger tasks for California State Parks include operating and managing a state park.

This job involves providing resource protection and patrol, as well as safety and law enforcement for visitors and staff. Park rangers supervise staff, assist in emergencies, and manage fire suppression.

State Parks in California

MacKerricher State Park

Three miles from Fort Bragg in the northern part of the state sits MacKerricher State Park.

This is an aquatic park with a bluff, dunes, wetlands, and a beach area surrounded by a forest.

Visitors come to see tide pools and seals, along with nearly 100 types of birds and whales.

Emerald Bay State Park

Only 12 miles north of South Lake Tahoe is Emerald Bay State Park.

Fannette Island is boat-accessible only and is within the state park.

There is also Vikingsholm, a Scandinavian-styled house that was constructed in 1928.

Hiking is permitted to the home, which is within the park system as well.

Richardson Grove State Park

At Richardson Grove State Park, the campgrounds include Madrone, Huckleberry, and Dawn Redwood, which is a group camp.

This park was established in 1922, making it one of the state’s first.

There is a visitor center and nature store to oversee in the busy summer season as a park ranger.

Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park

The Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park is right smack dab in the middle of the Redwood Forest.

Here is the home of the tallest trees in the world, and a state park for you to manage as a park ranger.

Mill Creek Campground populates the state park, which is remote and small, measuring only eight miles of coastline.

Malibu Creek State Park

At Malibu Creek State Park, visitors have access to rock climbing, mountain biking, and fishing–all within 25 miles of Los Angeles.

Explore 14-mile-long Malibu Creek that feeds into Malibu Lagoon, while surrounded by the Santa Monica Mountains.


The annual salary for a park ranger in San Francisco, CA ranges from $42,432 to $62,112.

San Francisco has one of the highest costs of living at 38 percent greater than the national cost of living.

Compare this to San Diego further south of the coast where park rangers earn anywhere from $36,633 and $53,623 annually.

Here the cost of living is only four percent higher than in the rest of the US.

As a result, you can anticipate earning less as a park ranger in San Diego in comparison to San Francisco.

Annual Salary Range:
Annual Salary by Location:
Location Avg. Annual Salary
Los Angeles $46,445
San Diego $44,317
San Jose $51,538
Long Beach $45,789
San Francisco $51,332
Fresno $40,852
Sacramento $44,388
Oakland $48,868
Santa Ana $45,830
Anaheim $45,891

Regional Salary in California

Region Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
Fresno, CA30$80,800$38.84$123,000$35,980
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA240$73,200$35.19$130,400$38,280
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA30$81,840$39.34$128,100$34,400
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA70$76,940$36.99$115,590$45,500
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA160$94,700$45.53$154,750$49,310
Salinas, CA50$79,730$38.33$119,790$48,230
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA120$83,350$40.07$128,230$43,000
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA220$91,450$43.97$128,760$53,430
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA40$101,260$48.69$152,570$52,130
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA30$91,290$43.89$161,820$48,970
Santa Rosa, CA50$80,770$38.83$123,080$43,160
Stockton-Lodi, CA30$74,570$35.85$116,980$49,450
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Conservation Scientists, OCC Code 19-1031, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the three park ranger classes in California?

In California, the CA State Parks and Recreation have determined there are three classes of park rangers.

The incoming class is State Park Ranger Cadets.

From there, the next class is State Park Ranger, followed by Supervising State Park Ranger.

Incoming park rangers work as State Park Ranger Cadets unless they are transferring from another state with applicable experience.

How do I get to be a Supervising State Park Ranger in CA?

The role of a Supervising State Park Ranger in CA requires two years of experience as a State Park Ranger or Lifeguard.

In addition, you need three years of administrative or management experience in a California state park or similar type of facility.

Do CA park rangers carry guns?


CA park rangers are trained to carry guns, and they do have permission to carry and use firearms, as well as chemical agents and batons.

These are part of the protective equipment that park rangers are required to use by the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

Can park rangers work in California seasonally?

Park rangers in California can work seasonally in the role of park aide or park interpretive aide.

However, most park rangers work year-round in the state parks in CA.

Do you need a degree to be a park ranger in California?

To be a State Park Ranger in California, you have to have a college degree.

However, to start out, you only need to have earned two full years of college credits.

This is required to get a job as a State Park Ranger Cadet.

To move up to the role of State Park Ranger, you will need to have a Bachelor’s degree in a related field.

USA Park Ranger by State

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