The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), Bureau of State Parks employs park rangers to oversee its system of state parks and other natural resources. The DCNR uses the general term “ranger,” as it employs these law enforcement officers in both parks and forests throughout the state. Both park rangers and forest rangers in Pennsylvania have the same authority, which includes:
- Assisting visitors with their outdoor experience
- Serving as certified Department of Health medical first responders
- Serving as law enforcement officers
Park rangers are responsible for patrolling the Commonwealth’s 120 state parks, which encompass more than 300,000 acres and welcomed more than 38 million visitors in 2010 alone.
Pennsylvania park rangers perform public safety work and promote recreation throughout the state parks. These professionals answer questions and explain rules and regulations to visitors, while checking the grounds, buildings and surroundings for signs of vandalism, safety hazards and cleanliness. During times of emergency, Pennsylvania’s park rangers may also be required to administer first aid or CPR and operate any number of motor vehicles, including watercraft, ATVs and snowmobiles.
Park Ranger Job Requirements with the Pennsylvania Bureau of State Parks
Minimum Requirements for Employment
Individuals who want to learn how to become park rangers in Pennsylvania must:
- Be a Pennsylvania resident
- Be at least 18 years old
- Possess a valid driver’s license
- Possess a current American Red Cross certification in multi-media first aid or standard first aid, or a U.S. Bureau of Mines certificate in first aid
- Possess a certificate in CPR
Although there are no educational requirements for becoming a park ranger in Pennsylvania, earning a formal degree may allow applicants to set themselves apart from other candidates and may provide more opportunity for advancement.
- Strayer University - Bachelors of Science Degree in Criminal Justice
- Michigan State University - Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice
- Saint Joseph's University - Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice
- Penn Foster - Online Wildlife and Forestry Conservation Career Diploma
Typical degree programs for individuals interested in pursuing park ranger jobs in Pennsylvania include:
- Environmental science
- Police science/criminal justice
- Earth sciences
- Natural sciences
- Park and recreation management
The Civil Service Examination Process
All candidates for park ranger jobs in Pennsylvania must first take the State Civil Service Commission. Upon completion of the examination, candidates are then reviewed using their civil service examination results, as well as their background.
Individuals with questions regarding the civil service examination or application process can contact the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Human Resources, at 717-787-8737.
Candidates for park ranger jobs in PA will have 2 ½ hours to complete the civil service examination, which includes the following subject areas:
- Reading comprehension
- Effective expression
- Interpersonal ability
- Goals and objectives of outdoor recreation
All examinations are administered in the Civil Service Commission offices in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Harrisburg, Monday through Friday. Additional test centers are located in Erie, Lock Haven, Scranton, and Johnstown, although testing dates are limited. Candidates can learn more about the dates for the civil service examination by calling 717-787-7811.
Employment and promotion lists are established using the results of the civil service examinations, and all candidates are notified of their test results.
Candidates can apply online through www.scsc.state.pa.us or by downloading, printing and mailing a paper application to:
State Civil Service Commission
P.O. Box 569
Harrisburg, PA 17108-0569
Park Ranger Jobs through the National Park Service in Pennsylvania
Individuals may also work as federal park rangers through the National Park Service. Within Pennsylvania, there are a number of national parks and natural resources at which federal park rangers work, including:
- Chesapeake Bay
- Appalachian Scenic Trail
- Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site
- Flight 93 National Memorial
- Gettysburg National Military Park
- Johnstown Flood National Memorial
- Valley Forge National Historic Park
Park rangers with the National Park Service may work as either protective park rangers or cultural park rangers, both of which have a standard set of requirements, which include:
- Being a United States citizen
- Being at least 21 years old
- Possessing a valid driver’s license
- Successfully completing a background investigation
- Successfully completing a physical efficiency battery
Candidates for federal park ranger jobs must either possess at least one year of specialized experience at the GS-4 level or possess a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university (or a combination of education and experience). Individuals who qualify through education must have completed at least 24 hours of related coursework through their degree program, which may include study in:
- Law enforcement/police science
- Social sciences
- Museum sciences
- Business administration
- Public administration
- Behavioral sciences
Candidates for protective park ranger jobs must also meet a number of other requirements, including possessing at least three years of experience in law enforcement or through the National Park Service.
Training for National Park Service park ranger jobs is accomplished through one or more of the National Park Service’s Learning and Development Center’s three training centers:
- Horace Albright Training Center at the Grand Canyon
- Historic Preservation Training Center in Frederick, Maryland
- Stephen Mather Training Center in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
The Significance of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of State Parks
These are among the most popular and well-loved parks in Pennsylvania:
- Pymatuning State Park
- Ohiopyle State Park
- Presque Isle State Park
- Bucktail State Park
- Moraine State Park
- Hickory Run State Park
- Laurel Ridge State Park
The Pennsylvania Bureau of State Parks, which was created in 1893, had just one park at the time. Since then, the Bureau has swollen to 120 parks, making it one of the largest park systems in the country.
The influence Pennsylvania’s state parks have had on the economy has been significant. In fact, according to recent studies, state park visitor spending contributed more than $1.1 billion to the PA economy and nearly 13,000 jobs.
The state park system has served as an economic generator in a number of other areas, as well:
- Visitors spent $859 million on their trips to Pennsylvania state parks in 2010, which provided $398 million in labor income.
- The statewide sales impact of out-of-state visitors totaled $274 million.
- Out-of-state visitor spending totaled $94.6 million in labor income and $154 million value-added effects
- For every dollar invested in Pennsylvania state parks, $12.41 of the value-added income is returned to Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Park Ranger Salaries
The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources employs both full-time and seasonal park rangers. Some of the parks within their capacity include Nockamixon State Park and Ralph Stover State Park near Allentown as well as Swatara State Park and Memorial Lake State Park near Reading.
According to the Pennsylvania State Civil Service Commission, there are actually 20 levels within the pay scale for park rangers in Pennsylvania. This allows for incremental salary increases, so the average park police salary in PA can fall anywhere on that scale. The variance from beginning salary to maximum, however, is wide at nearly 32%. Here is a look at some of those salary figures:
- Level 1: $27,286
- Level 2: $27,775
- Level 3: $28,362
- Level 4: $28,949
- Level 5: $29,439
- Level 10: $32,685
- Level 12: $33,976
- Level 14: $35,423
- Level 16: $36,851
- Level 18: $38,435
- Level 20: $40,098
It’s also worth mentioning that park rangers often take on many different roles. For this reason, the following tables have been provided to show how salaries can vary according to professional title:
Recreation Workers Salaries in Pennsylvania
Tour Guides and Escorts Salaries in Pennsylvania
Recreational Protective Service Workers Salaries in Pennsylvania
Flight 93 National Memorial Park
On September 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked four commercial airplanes in an attack against the United States. One of those planes—Flight 93—crashed into an open field outside of Pittsburgh in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, killing all passengers and crew members on board.
The Flight 93 National Memorial serves as a testament to the strength, unity, and courage these individuals displayed on that tragic day in American history. The National Park Service (NPS), its partners, its volunteers, and its dedicated team of park rangers now work to honor the sacrifice of the American citizens killed that day.
A Memorial Dedicated to Heroism
At about 9:28 A.M., just 46 minutes into flight, terrorists took over the cockpit of Flight 93. Upon contacting family members using the plane’s Airfones, passengers and crew members quickly learned that the hijacking was part of a larger attack and that the hijackers would attempt to crash the plane. At that time, passengers and crew members made a plan and put it into action, attempting to take control of the terrorists. After a battle between passengers and terrorists, the terrorists brought the plane down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh, killing all people on board.
The flight data recorder recovered from the crash site revealed that the terrorists had plans to crash the plane into the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. The passengers and crew members of Flight 93 were credited with preventing what would have been a large-scale attack in Washington D.C., which would have resulted in many more deaths. Due to the quick and heroic actions of Flight 93 passengers, the terrorists failed to reach their intended target.
The Current Features of and Future Plans for the Flight 93 National Memorial
The National Park Service administers and manages all of the planning, design, and operations of the Flight 93 National Memorial.
The permanent Flight 93 National Memorial was dedicated and opened on September 10, 2011. A scenic, three-and-a-half mile drive takes visitors to the Memorial Plaza, which is located at the site of the crash. The plaza features orientation panels that explain the plaza, and interpretive panels that provide an overview of the events of that day. Other features of the Memorial include:
- Visitor shelter and arrival court: This area is manned with NPS park rangers, who are available to answer questions and help orient visitors to the memorial.
- Memorial plaza wall and walkway: This wall marks the northern edge of the larger crash site and debris field, with the woods beyond marking a final resting place for the passengers and crew.
- Hemlock grove and impact site: This area, which shows a visible gap where damaged hemlock trees were removed after the crash, thereby marking the general location of the impact site.
- Wall of Names and flight path: The Wall of Names, which consists of 40 marble panels, is designed to honor the passengers and the crew. It is connected to a black granite walkway, which marks a portion of the flight path.
The Flight 93 National Memorial is a work in progress, with a number of projects planned for the upcoming years, all of which will likely then result in a larger demand for NPS park ranger involvement:
- Wetlands Bridge: The Wetlands Bridge will allow visitors to cross over the wetlands to view the Memorial and crash site.
- Reforestation: A multi-year, multi-partner effort will include reforesting much of the area through the planting of more than 25,000 seedlings over two years.
- Memorial groves: The Memorial’s 40 memorial groves, once planted, will extend from the Visitor Center Complex to the Memorial Plaza.
- The Tower of Voices: The planned tower is expected to be 93 feet tall and contain 40 wind chimes.
- Return Road: The Return Road will provide visitors with an alternate exit route.
Gettysburg National Military Park
Gettysburg, as the site of an epic Civil War battle, as well as the place where Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address, serves as one of the first national military parks in the United States. Since 1933, the Gettysburg National Military Park has been managed by the National Park Service (NPS). The park’s rangers ensure its preservation as a symbol of America’s struggle to survive as a nation and a memorial for the more than 51,000 men who perished during the Battle of Gettysburg.
Gettysburg National Military Park attracts more than 1.8 million visitors annually and is open year-round. This Park features more than 40 miles of roads, 1,400 monuments, and 400 cannons. Just a few of the significant sites within the Park include:
- The David Wills House
- The Soldiers’ National Cemetery
- The battlefield sites of Little Round Top, Devil’s Den, and Culp’s Hill
The History of Gettysburg National Military Park
The Battle of Gettysburg is, according to many historians, a pivotal period of time in the Civil War. In fact, the battle would eventually determine the fate of the nation. This battle resulted in a Union victory and the end of General Robert E. Lee’s attempt to invade the North. It was also the bloodiest battle of an already bloody war, resulting in more than 51,000 casualties. One the third day of July in 1863, following three, harrowing days of bloodshed, General Lee retreated and ordered his army to return to Virginia.
Following the retreat of the Union soldiers, the residents of Gettysburg were left with destruction and devastation, with dead bodies littering the land and nearly every building filled with wounded soldiers. Residents of Gettysburg became concerned with the poor condition of many of the soldiers’ graves and voiced their concerns to Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin, who eventually asked the State to purchase a portion of the battlefield as to provide a final resting place for defenders of the Union cause.
The Soldiers National Cemetery was established as a result, and the relocation of the dead began in 1863. The dedication of the cemetery on November 19, 1863, included a speech made by Abraham Lincoln, which was later coined the Gettysburg Address. The cemetery was eventually transferred to the federal government in 1895 and was immediately designated as a national military park. Administration of the park was transferred to the NPS in 1933, who now continues its mission of protecting, preserving, and interpreting the events of Gettysburg to current park visitors and future generations.
Along with the Gettysburg Foundation, the NPS continues its campaign to restore and preserve the historic integrity and the amazing resources located here. The efforts of the NPS and the Gettysburg Foundation have allowed visitors to view the battlefields not seen in more than 100 years, while also allowing them to better understand the course of events during those three days in July 1863. Also included in the preservation efforts is the creation of a sustainable environment, which includes improvements to the wetlands, the water quality, and wildlife habitats.
Gettysburg National Military Park Features and Interpretive Services
The park rangers of the National Park Service work tirelessly to ensure the continued preservation and interpretation of Gettysburg. This includes patrolling and enforcing rules and regulations throughout the park.
There is a wide host of park ranger programs available at Gettysburg National Military Park, most of which are offered from April through October. All programs, which are led by NPS park rangers, cover a variety of subjects, including:
- The three days of the Battle of Gettysburg
- The Soldiers’ National Cemetery
- The Gettysburg Address
- A soldier’s life
- Civil War medicine
Park rangers also lead extended battlefield tours and campfire programs during the summer months. Licensed Battlefield guides take visitors through the park in the comfort of their own vehicle or in bus tours. There is also a Self-guiding Auto Tour, a bus tour with a Licensed Battlefield Guide, and Audio Tours that can be purchased at the Museum and Visitor Center. Visitors may also tour the Gettysburg National Military Park on bike or horseback using the designated trails or on foot using the Boy Scouts of America Gettysburg Heritage Trail Guide.
Ohiopyle State Park
Ohiopyle State Park, which is located along the southern Laurel Ridge, consists of more than 20,000 acres of natural beauty. Not only is Ohiopyle State Park one of the biggest state parks in Pennsylvania, it’s also one of the most popular, with millions of people visiting annually. In fact, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) reports that Ohiopyle State Park is one of the most visited state parks in the United States.
Although many visitors flock here for Ohiopyle’s fantastic scenery, this state park may be best known for its whitewater rafting. The Youghiogheny River Gorge, which winds its way throughout the park, has a reputation for providing visitors with some of the best whitewater rafting in the eastern United States.
The park rangers of Ohiopyle State Park, who work for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), the agency that oversees all 120 state parks in Pennsylvania, are an important and constant year-round presence in this park.
Working as a Pennsylvania Park Ranger at Ohiopyle State Park
The patrol and enforcement efforts of Ohiopyle State Park rangers ensure that visitors here remain safe, thereby allowing them to enjoy all that this park has to offer, which includes:
- Picnicking: There are two, major picnic areas in Ohiopyle State Park: Cucumber Run Picnic Area and Tharp Knob Picnic Area. The Cucumber Run Picnic Area is located adjacent to the picturesque Cucumber Run Creek and the Great Gorge trail. The Tharp Knob Picnic Area features a large ball field, playground, and volleyball court.
- Waterslides: There are two natural waterslides at Ohiopyle State Park, in Meadow Run.
- Whitewater Rafting: Guided whitewater rafting expeditions are available throughout most of the year.
- Fishing: Trout are stocked throughout the entire section of river within Ohiopyle, thereby making this park very popular for fishing.
- Hunting: More than 18,000 acres of Ohiopyle are open to hunting and trapping during established times throughout the year.
- Rock Climbing: There are several rock climbing areas throughout Ohiopyle State Park, including the Meadow Run Climbing Area, the Bruner Run Climbing Area, and along the Lower Youghiogheny at the Great Allegheny Passage.
- Hiking: There are nearly 80 miles of trails throughout Ohiopyle, many of which offer superb views of the beautiful Laurel Highlands.
- Biking: There are 27 miles of biking trails along the Great Allegheny Passage, which connects Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Cumberland, Maryland.
- Mountain Biking: Ohiopyle State Park has more than 25 miles of mountain biking trails.
- Horseback Riding: Nearly 12 miles of horseback riding trails are found within the Sugarloaf Trail System and the Pressley Ridge Trail.
- Camping: The Kentuck Campground has about 200 campsites that are open from April to December. Ohiopyle also has a number of camping cottages.
- Cross-Country Skiing: There are nearly 34 miles of trails for cross-country skiing throughout the park.
- Sledding: Sledding is a popular winter activity in the park.
- Snowmobiling: There are more than 15 miles of snowmobile trails within the Sugarloaf Trail System and Pressley Ridge Trail.
Further, the park rangers of Ohiopyle State Park are heavily involved with environmental education, recreation, and interpretive programs. They provide visitors here with everything from hands-on activities and guided walks to special evening programs. Just some of the interpretive programs offered by Pennsylvania State park rangers at Ohiopyle State Park are focused on the Youghiogheny River, the Youghiogheny River Gorge, and the natural, cultural, and recreational resources in the Ohiopyle area. Park rangers are also often involved in environmental education programs for schools and youth groups.
It is also typical to find Ohiopyle State Park rangers at the Ohiopyle State Park Visitor Center, which is located in the town of Ohiopyle.
Pymatuning State Park
Pymatuning State Park is not only one of Pennsylvania’s largest state parks at more than 21,000 acres, it is also home to the largest lake in the state—the Pymatuning Reserve, at 17,088 acres—and has the most campsites in the Pennsylvania State park system. It is no wonder, then, that record numbers of visitors ascend upon Pymatuning State Park each year.
The majority of Pymatuning State Park is located in Jamestown, Pennsylvania (21,122 acres), with the remaining acres (3,512) located in Ohio. Pymatuning State Park’s ideal location—it is less than 100 miles from Youngstown, Warren, and Cleveland, Ohio, and New Castle, Erie, and Sharon, Pennsylvania—and its large number of recreational opportunities make this state park popular among both Ohio and Pennsylvania residents.
Environmental Education and Interpretation within Pymatuning State Park
The Pennsylvania State park rangers, who are managed by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), not only provide patrol, protection, and enforcement services within Pymatuning State Park as to ensure that all park services and recreational amenities are enjoyed safely and within the Park’s rules and regulations, but their work involves serving in an interpretive capacity, as well.
Pymatuning State Park is home to a wide variety of environmental education and interpretive programs, such as guided walks, evening programs, classroom programs, and hands-on activities. It is through these programs that park rangers help visitors understand and develop a sense of stewardship of the park’s natural and cultural resources.
Park rangers also provide a number of curriculum-based education programs and teacher workshops, and programs are offered year-round. Park rangers here promote an understanding of the relationship between the ecosystem and humans, a basic knowledge of the natural laws that govern the environment, and the development of a stewardship ethics toward the conservation of Pennsylvania’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage. This is accomplished through student field learning experiences, environmental forums, and watershed educational programs.
Pymatuning State Park’s Most Popular Recreational Activities
Pymatuning’s most popular recreational activities include:
- Camping: Pymatuning has three state campgrounds with hundreds of campsites in each. There are primate campsites, modern campsites, and rental cabins throughout the park.
- Swimming: There are four managed beaches within Pymatuning State Park: Linesville Beach, Jamestown Beach, and Jamestown Campground Beach. These beaches are open to swimming during the summer months.
- Fishing: Pymatuning Lake is known for its excellent fishing opportunities, and ice fishing here during the winter months is also commonplace.
- Boating: The massive Pymatuning Lake presents near-endless opportunities for boating, and visitors can rent boats or dock their boats at the park’s three marinas: Espyville, Jamestown, and Linesville.
- Picnicking: There are ten picnic pavilions in the Pennsylvania portion of Pymatuning State Park, all of which have grills and tables.
- Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Hatchery in Linesville: One of the largest warm water fish hatcheries in the world, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Hatchery is open every day to visitors.
- Winter Activities: Pymatuning doesn’t shut down to visitors during the winter, as ice fishing, ice skating, ice boating, sledding, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing are all popular activities enjoyed here.
- Hunting: About 10,000 acres of Pymatuning State Park is open to hunting and trapping during established times during the year.
- Hiking: There are more than 7 miles of trails throughout Pymatuning.
- Disc Golfing: Pymatuning State Park is home to an 18-hole disc golf course located in the Jamestown Day Use area.
Valley Forge National Historic Park
Valley Forge National Historic Park, which is located near King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, was the site of the winter encampment for George Washington and his army during the Revolutionary War. Valley Forge National Historic Park holds a deep significance to our nation and is therefore under the watchful eye of the National Park Service (NPS) and the many park rangers who work there.
Valley Forge National Historic Park, which encompasses more than 3,500 acres, is visited by more than 1.2 million people annually who want to better understand the hardships endured by Washington’s army during the winter of 1777-1778, and be reminded of the sacrifices that so long ago shaped our freedoms today.
Park Ranger Programs at Valley Forge National Historic Park
Although the NPS park rangers at Valley Forge National Historic Park are involved in patrol and enforcement activities as to ensure that all visitors are abiding by park rules and regulations, the historic significance of this park calls for a large number of park rangers serving in an interpretive capacity.
For example, Valley Forge National Historic Park is home to many classroom field trip programs, which are conducted by park rangers dressed in period clothing. These programs are designed to educate, entertain, and engage students. Park rangers provide guided tours of Washington’s headquarters, the Valley Forge Train Station, the Houdon statue of Washington, Washington’s command center residence, and George and Martha’s private residence.
NPS park rangers at Valley Forge National Historic Park are also involved in the Rangers in the Classroom program, which provides third-through-eighth-grade students with an in-class Valley Forge experience.
The Recreational Amenities of Valley Forge National Historic Park
Although no battles were fought, more Americans died at Valley Forge—2,000—than at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown combined, due to hunger and disease. Today, Valley Forge National Historic Park is home to George Washington’s original headquarters, which have been furnished and restored, along with soldier huts, a train station with interactive exhibits, and a number of statues and monuments, all of which serve as reminders of America’s strength and resilience.
Other features of Valley Forge National Historic Park include a visitor center, which houses exhibits and artifacts, and more than 20 miles of multi-use trails. NPS park rangers are on hand to provide ranger-led hikes and trolley tours, and many visitors also choose to complete the Park’s self-guided walking and auto tours.
Although Valley Forge National Historic Park is certainly popular among history buffs, this National Park is also attractive to outdoor enthusiasts, as it is home to a number of picnic areas and ten miles of equestrian trails. Visitors at Valley Forge National Historic Park can fly fish in Valley Creek, bicycle through the more than 18 miles of authorized bike trails, or head out for a hike at the Park’s numerous trails:
- Chapel Trail
- Joseph Plumb Martin Trail
- Mount Joy Trails
- Mount Misery Trails
- North Side Trails