State Park Peace Officer Cadet Selection Process

The application cycle for the State Park Peace Officer Cadet Academy is currently closed and will re-open in the spring of 2022. To receive a notification of its opening, please join our Parks Jobs Mailing List. Help us protect California’s most valued natural and cultural resources and create opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation. Learn how to become a Ranger or Lifeguard in the nation’s largest state park system!

About our Peace Officer Cadet Classification

The State Park Peace Officer Cadet (Ranger/Lifeguard) classification is the entry and training level for men and women interested in a law enforcement career with California State Parks. The position is one of public service that can make a difference each and every day. Career opportunities are available throughout the entire state. Areas of responsibility include:

  • Law enforcement and public safety
  • Natural and cultural resource protection
  • Education, interpretation and program management

Selection Process

The selection process for entering into this classification takes a minimum of approximately 15 - 18 months and includes the following elements:

View the SPPO Cadet Academy Timeline

Submitting your Application

The first step in the selection/examination process is submitting your application during an open filing period for the State Park Peace Officer Cadet (Ranger/Lifeguard) Exam on a Standard State Application - Form 678. Your application is used to determine if you meet the minimum qualifications for admission into the examination and may subsequently be used to admit you into the next phases of the selection process (background investigation, oral interview, medical and psychological evaluation). Keep in mind your application also conveys an impression of your overall strengths and weaknesses.

Applicant Checklist

Before completing the application form, review the entire exam bulletin. Pay particular attention to the sections titled Minimum Qualifications, Position Description, Scope, Special Personal Characteristics, Additional Desirable Qualifications, and Special Physical Requirements.

1.  Fill out your Application completely

  • EASY ID: An EASY ID is not needed, however, it is recommended for applicants to create a CalCareer account/profile on
  • SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER: Include your SSN– while not required at the time of application, POST requires this information before the PELLET-B (Written Examination) will be scored. 
  • HOURS WORKED: Be sure to list your hours worked with “From” and “To” dates for each box in your Employment History. Include specific hours worked per week (ie: 20/wk for a part-time job).
  • SIGNATURE AND DATE: Be sure to SIGN and DATE your application. A significant number of applicants forget to sign and date their application, which may cause delays in the acceptance process.

2.  Review the Rough Draft of your Application

When preparing a rough draft of the Standard State Application – Form 678, match your experience with the position description and the scope by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Does my application establish my qualifications in relation to the Minimum Qualifications on the Examination Announcement?
  • Does my application adequately describe my experience and abilities in reference to the Minimum Qualifications?
  • How can I improve upon what I have written?

Consider showing your application to someone you trust. Ask if they think you have adequately described your qualifications and abilities.

This is an application to an examination and resumes are not required. If necessary, you may attach an addendum to include additional employment experience. If you do so, use the same format for listing the experience as on the application form. This will ensure that all requested information is included.

3.  Include College Transcripts

Including college transcripts with your application is not required (though necessary later in the process), but creates ease of calculating required units for our Examination Unit staff and is appreciated.

4. Complete the Criminal Record Supplemental Questionnaire

Do not forget to include the signed Criminal Record Supplemental Questionnaire – your application will be REJECTED without it.

5. Make a copy

Before you mail your application, make a copy of it and keep the copy in a safe place.

6. Mailing and Delivering your Application

Applications must be mailed or filed in-person at the address specified on the exam announcement. The “open filing period” and the “final filing date” will be stated on the exam announcement. Applications will not be accepted if postmarked or hand-delivered before the open date or after the final filing date for any reason. Candidates are encouraged to mail their applications by certified mail with return receipt services.

About the Written Examination

The Department uses the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Entry-Level Law Enforcement Test Battery (PELLETB) as its written exam. The PELLETB is used by many law enforcement agencies and is designed to assess applicants' reading and writing ability. Applicants will have 2.5 hours to complete the exam, and it will account for 100% of their exam score.

In order to pass the exam and be ranked on the final eligibility list, applicants must obtain a score of 70% or higher (equivalent to a T-score of 42 or higher). An applicant's ranking will later be used to determine his or her priority in choosing a work location once hired and assigned to a training academy. Those applicants with the highest standing will have first choice of available work assignments.

The Department will accept PELLETB T-scores obtained by applicants through testing at other agencies, provided certain conditions are met. These conditions are provided in the examination announcement.

Written tests are administered in two California locations: one in Northern California and one in Southern California.

Preparing for the Written Exam

California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) provides an applicant guide to the PELLETB at:

However, as POST notes, “The best method for preparing for the test is to participate in activities that involve reading and writing. Assessment centers at community colleges can generally provide information about specific reading and writing deficiencies and guidance on how to improve those deficiencies. Online writing labs (OWLs) are another tool that can be used to identify weaknesses and improve reading and writing skills. A simple internet search will render results for the many OWLs that are currently available for free on the internet.”

California State Peace Officer Cadet (Ranger)
California State Peace Officer Cadet (Lifeguard)

Being a State Park Peace Officer is a physically demanding profession. In accordance with Government Code 18930, all candidates will be required to successfully complete a physical agility test (PAT). The purpose of the PAT is to ensure that applicants who are eventually hired and assigned to a training academy will be able to meet the physical requirements of the job.

The department's PAT is typically administered during the examination phase of the selection process, and is scheduled in both Northern and Southern California. Please note, however, that all Cadet (Lifeguard) applicants are scheduled to attend testing in Southern California.

PAT elements are listed below and also briefly depicted in a video. Each of these physical tasks is designed to simulate physical tasks required at entry to the class of State Park Ranger or Lifeguard.

Clothing Requirements: Candidates are required to wear LONG cotton work pants (ie: Docker-style), long-or short-sleeved t-shirt, tucked in to pants, a belt, and athletic shoes.  Gloves are allowed for the weight-carry test.  Shorts, denim, sweat-pants or athletic track pants are not allowed.  Sleeveless and tank-top shirts are not allowed.

Pre-Test (Lifeguard candidates perform these tests before tests 1 - 6 of the PAT): 
Applicants for Cadet (Lifeguard) must:
 A.  Swim (ocean) 1,000 yards
 B.  Run 200 yards – Swim 400 yards – Run 200 yards

Test #1:  
The test consists of a step test of 310 steps on a 10 -inch high step with 2.5 pound weights attached to each ankle in ten minutes or less.
(This test simulates the foot patrol of a marsh for a distance of 1,250 yards).

Test #2:
Pick up and carry two 45-pound weights, one in each hand, for a distance of 110 yards, reverse the course and carry the weights 110 yards, back to starting point; put one weight down and continue carrying one weight for 110 yards, around the cone and proceed back to the starting point, 110 yards, in six minutes or less. 
(This test simulates, with the assistance of one other person, carrying a 185-pound person on a stretcher for 220 yards, then with the assistance of three other persons carrying the stretcher for another 220 yards.)

Test #3:
With peace officer protective equipment (P.O.P.E.) belt, run 500 yards in 2 minutes and 20 seconds or less. 
(This test simulates an officer in full uniform chasing a suspect on foot.)

Test #4:
In no more than 17 seconds, lift and drag a 165-pound dummy for 32 feet over rough cement or asphalt. 
(This test simulates dragging an unconscious 165-pound person 32 feet to safety.)

Test #5:
Sprint 100 yards in no more than 19 seconds. 
(This test simulates sprinting in full uniform to safety.)

Test #6: 
Fully clothed, with and a 9-pound weight belt (provided at site), jump into the deep end of a swimming pool.  Remove weight belt and, if desired, shoes, pants, and shirt.  Tread water for 1 minute then swim 20 yards. 
(This test demonstrates the ability to survive an unexpected fall into the water.)

In addition to the PAT described above, POST requires that cadets must complete a 36-session physical conditions program at the academy.  This conditioning program consists of aerobic, strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility conditioning. Cadets must pass the POST Physical Agility Test before academy graduation.

Preparing for the PAT and Physical Conditioning at the Academy
Your success in the PAT, as well as the physical conditioning program at the academy, is directly related to the amount of time you devote to physical conditioning in your daily life and prior to the test. Applicants who are physically active generally do not have any problems. However, sedentary individuals will experience difficulty. Suggested elements of an exercise program include:

  • Aerobic conditioning, 3-5 days per week, 20-60 minutes each day, continuous jogging on most days each week.

  • Muscular strength/endurance 2-3 days per week, one set of 8-10 exercises including upper body, core, and legs, 8-20 repetitions per set.

  • Grip / Wrist / Forearm exercises - In preparation for the 220 yard hand-weight carry (Test #2), practice lifting and carrying 45-lb dumbbells along with regular one-arm barbell curl exercises. Additional exercises with hand grips and stress balls will help to build and condition your hand, wrist, and forearm strength. This type of strength is critical for effective handgun and other weapon use, as well as tactical and rescue requirements of the job.

  • Flexibility, static stretching at least 2-3 days per week, preferably 5-7 days, 8-12 stretches each day, hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds and repeat each 2-4 times.

Applicants should achieve continuous participation at the above-described levels that lasts for six months without injury. If your exercise program does not meet these specifications, then you should consider taking a body conditioning, weight training, or jogging class as needed.

California Government Code Section 1031 requires that all peace officers be of good moral character as determined by a thorough background investigation. A comprehensive investigation explores a candidate’s employment, pre-employment, arrest/citation/conviction, legal, military, financial, driving and educational history, including information that might otherwise be privileged and/or confidential. 

Candidates who successfully pass their physical agility test will be given a background investigation packet with instructions and documents to complete within a given deadline. As part of this process, candidates must furnish required documents. Because it takes time to acquire some of these documents, candidates are encouraged to begin collecting them as soon as possible.

Once a candidate successfully passes the written exam and is ranked on the exam certification list, California State Parks' Background Investigation Unit will select candidates to continue with the process. If a candidate is selected, a background investigator is assigned. Selection is based on education, experience with State Parks, and a preliminary review of background information.  Ranking within the top three ranks does not automatically qualify a candidate for selection.  Candidates who are selected to continue with the background investigation process will be contacted by an investigator. The investigator’s role is to conduct an objective, thorough and legally sustainable investigation focused on: 1) both positive and negative job-related information, and 2) the accuracy of information received from all sources, including the candidate. The investigator's job is to gather facts. Investigation results are then evaluated by the California State Parks' hiring authorities.

The only information to which candidates have access during and after the background investigation is the information which they personally provide.

A key document used during background investigations is the Personal History Statement (PHS) (see link below).  Candidates may type, print or electronically complete this form.  A printed copy of the PHS is provided in the candidate packet. An electronic Word-version can be downloaded for completion. However, a completed form must then be printed, individual pages initialed, and signed personally submitted by the candidate at the PAT.
PHS - Word version (use fillable form - external link)

The key to “passing” the background investigation stage is complete honesty. There are very few automatic bases for rejection. Even issues of prior misconduct, such as prior illegal drug use, driving under the influence, theft or even arrest or conviction are usually not, in and of themselves, automatically disqualifying. However, deliberate misstatements or omissions can, and often will, result in a candidate’s application being rejected, regardless of the nature or reason for the misstatements or omissions.

POST requires that all peace officer candidates participate in an oral interview prior to receiving a conditional offer of employment. In this interview, conducted during the background investigation, candidates may be asked about their experiences, problem solving skills, communication skills, interest and motivation, interpersonal skills, and community involvement/awareness. Subsequent questions may be more directly related to the duties of the position. Answers do not require specific knowledge of the Department’s policies and procedures but do require common sense and an ability to think through a problem.

Applicants who successfully pass the background investigation and oral interview stages are offered a "conditional offer of employment" pending successful completion of the psychological and medical evaluation stages.

Psychological Screening

Pursuant to California Government Code Section 1031(f), all California peace officers must be found to be free from any ". . emotional, or mental condition which might adversely affect the exercise of the powers of a peace officer" as determined by a qualified, experienced psychologist or psychiatrist.  To meet this requirement, applicants complete a psychological profile questionnaire and take three written tests.  They are then scheduled for a one-on-one interview with a state contracted psychologist.

Medical Suitability

Applicants must meet the physical requirements for a State Park Peace Officer.

Peace officers must also be free from any physical condition which might adversely affect the exercise of peace officer powers. The California Government Code requires that physical condition shall be evaluated by a licensed physician and surgeon.  An applicant will first complete a medical history statement and then set up an appointment at a local clinic within his or her geographical area.  Lastly, a review of the medical report is completed.

Drug Screening

At some point after a "conditional offer of employment", the applicant will be scheduled for a drug screening test.  Every effort is made to schedule the applicant at the closest collection site to his or her geographical area.

Upon successful completion of the selection process, you may be invited to attend a 6-8 month long academy including specialized training as a State Park Peace Officer Cadet. At the academy you will be trained to become a State Park Peace Officer Ranger or Lifeguard. Currently, most cadets attend training at Butte College Law Enforcement Academy; however, it is at the department's discretion to determine academy location for each class.

Use these forms to apply:

Official STD 678 Application Form

Criminal Record Supplemental Questionnaire

Read the official exam bulletins here:

State Park Peace Officer Cadet (Ranger)
State Park Peace Officer Cadet (Lifeguard)

 For more information, see the Frequently Asked Questions.

Click here to see a sample Application STD 678 form and Criminal Record Supplemental Questionnaire.


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