How to Become a Park Ranger in Pennsylvania

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How to Become a Park Ranger in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is one of only seven states with a Park Ranger Law Enforcement Academy Training Program (PRLEA).

However, you do not have to attend the program at Temple University in Philadelphia to become a park ranger in the Keystone State.

Nevertheless, doing so makes you eligible for assignments in any National Park in the country once you work in a Pennsylvania park for two to three seasons.

The PRLEA program is the internship stage of the ProRanger program at Temple U, part of their Certificate in National Park Service Management program.

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Requirements to Become a Park Ranger in Pennsylvania

Education and Experience

Pennsylvania State Park rangers fall under these four Law Enforcement and Safety job titles:

  • Forest Patrolman
  • DCNR Ranger
  • DCNR Ranger Trainee
  • Park Ranger

Personnel with these four job titles serve as law enforcement and safety agents through the State Civil Service Commission.

To be considered, you must live in Pennsylvania and take and pass the Civil Service Exam.

Moreover, all park rangers in Pennsylvania begin employment as DCNR Ranger Trainees.

They must turn 21 before their first workday.

The position is full-time and seasonal.

You must participate in all the formal classroom and informal outdoor training before taking your Civil Service exam to get onto the waiting list for open positions.

You must earn 15 college credits in related fields such as natural resource or wildlife management, park oversight, outdoor recreation planning and development, environmental protection, outdoor resource education, and ecology.

You must provide a copy of your college transcripts to apply for the ranger trainee program.

In addition, you will have to obtain a Class C driver’s license.

Despite being full-time, the position does not provide benefits other than your wages and union membership.

Seven related non-law enforcement job titles fall under Engineering and Environmental Control.

They include:

  • Forest Assistant Manager
  • Forest Program Specialist
  • Forester
  • Forest Technician
  • Natural Resource Specialist
  • Park Manager
  • Recreation and Conservation Advisor

Park Ranger Duties in Pennsylvania

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Keystone State has 124 national parks containing 300,000 acres of recreation land.

In addition, the DCNR manages another 1.9 million acres of forest.

Covering all that ground and keeping visitors safe requires 1400 full-time employees, plus another 1300 seasonal workers.

However, not all of them are park rangers.

Are Pennsylvania Park Rangers Law Enforcement Officers?

Yes, all park rangers in the Keystone State have the same stopping, detaining, and arresting powers as other LEOs.

However, their primary focus lies in protecting the park and the public.

This protection includes providing land and water rescue services and administering first aid, Narcan, CPR, and AED.

In addition, rangers confirm park permits and hunting and fishing licenses, verify vehicle registrations and check IDs.

Finally, park rangers can arrest anyone drinking alcohol, whether or not the person is operating a motor vehicle or piloting a watercraft.

Three State Parks in the Keystone State

Pennsylvania State Parks charge day-use or entry fees.

However, camping reservations incur a $6.50 non-refundable reservations and registrations transaction fee.

In addition, alterations to any reservation result in a $10.00 charge unless you decide to extend your stay.

Because concessions run the pools, they charge a fee to use them.

Restrooms and cabins comply with ADA design principles even in areas not explicitly designated as accessible.

Call 888-PA-PARKS (888-727-2757) Monday through Saturday between 7:00 AM and 5:00 PM to make reservations.

French Creek State Park

This 7,730-acre park in the Schuykill Highlands provides the most extensive uninterrupted forested area between Washington, DC, and New York City.

The park holds a National Audubon Society designation as an Important Bird Area and Important Mammal Area status from the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

In addition, Pine Swamp’s claim to fame is its designation as a State Park Natural Area.

Hickory Run State Park

Located in the western foothills of the Poconos, this park features Boulder Field, a National Natural Landmark, among its 15,990 acres.

The park also contains three areas with breathtaking natural and artificial waterfalls.

Due to its popularity, expect large crowds and difficulty parking, so arrive as early in the day as you can and expect long waits to enter.

Presque Isle State Park

This 3,200-acre sandy peninsula extends into Lake Erie and serves as Pennsylvania’s only natural beach.

The park does not have overnight camping facilities, although you will find plenty of options near Erie.

The park holds more endangered, threatened, and rare migratory bird species than anywhere else in the state.

Visit the Tom Ridge Environmental Center (TREC) daily between 8:00 AM and 4:00 PM.

Park Ranger Salary in Pennsylvania states that park rangers’ median salary nationwide is $41,066.

However, the permanent Pennsylvania park rangers job listings on the Commonwealth website range between $41,311 and $69,373.

Park ranger trainees make about $13,665.60 per 90-day season.

Annual Salary Range:
Annual Salary by Location:
Location Avg. Annual Salary
Philadelphia $43,990
Pittsburgh $40,450
Allentown $41,386
Erie $37,933
Upper Darby $43,990
Reading $40,850
Scranton $37,904
Bethlehem $41,386
Lower Merion $43,990
Bensalem $44,353

Regional Salary in Pennsylvania

Region Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ40$65,610$31.54$93,630$45,200
Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA100$63,490$30.53$87,380$34,990
Lancaster, PA40$50,630$24.34$75,950$32,200
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD340$60,900$29.28$98,260$32,280
Pittsburgh, PA150$58,900$28.32$80,480$34,150
Reading, PA40$56,870$27.34$78,310$33,370
Scranton--Wilkes-Barre--Hazleton, PA50$50,590$24.32$75,030$29,020
York-Hanover, PA40$59,280$28.5$82,470$40,870
* 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

Are Pennsylvania park rangers considered law enforcement officers?

Yes, they can stop, detain, arrest, and charge anyone who is a danger to themselves or others.

Can park rangers in the Keystone State make arrests?

Yes, they can make arrests if necessary, but they usually attempt to de-escalate and defuse situations first.

What is the difference between park rangers, park police, game wardens, and park security in Pennsylvania?

The first three have law enforcement powers and extensive training in first aid, CPR, Narcan administration, and AED use.

On the other hand, park security may not have LEO training and authority.

USA Park Ranger by State

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