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How to Become a Fish and Game Warden in New Jersey

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, game wardens in New Jersey had the highest annual salary in the country in 2012, at an average of $79,540.  These law enforcement officials include both those working for the state’s Division of Fish & Wildlife and federal game wardens who work for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement.

New Jersey game wardens that work for the state are known as conservation officers.  Fifty-five to sixty of these individuals act statewide enforcing the laws and regulations that protect the habitat and wildlife of New Jersey.  Dating back to the creation of fish wardens in 1871, these officers belong to the oldest law enforcement agency in the state.  Their work combines traditional fish and game management techniques with the latest technology for law enforcement.

State game wardens have the authority to enforce all state and federal laws in place for the protection and management of New Jersey’s natural resources.  Frequent issues involve off-roading in state wildlife management areas (WMA).  This type of activity is illegal in New Jersey, since it frequently results in the destruction of natural habitat.

In 2013, two individuals were arrested for off-roading a pickup truck in the Assunpink WMA in Upper Freehold Township.  In this case, they destroyed five acres of a farmer’s soybean crop.  They were charged with the following crimes:

  • Destruction of agricultural property
  • Operating a vehicle off-road in a WMA
  • Careless driving
  • Driving with a revoked license (in one case)

In addition, they are liable for compensating the farmer for his lost crop and damage to his soil, which was compacted by the vehicle.

Requirements for Becoming a Game Warden with the New Jersey Division
of Fish & Wildlife

The state of New Jersey has stringent requirements for those seeking jobs as fish and game wardens with the Division of Fish & Wildlife.  Interested individuals are encouraged to apply when there is a vacancy in any area, even if they are looking for positions in other parts of the state.  Once they have passed the state’s examination, they will be on a list for future vacancies.

Educational Requirements:

    • A bachelor’s degree in one of the following areas:
      • Biological sciences
      • Environmental science
      • Environmental study
      • Natural resources management

 

  • 24 semester hour credits in a combination of one of the following areas:
    • Biological science
    • Ecology
    • Fisheries science
    • Natural resource management
    • Wildlife science

Experience Requirement:

  • One year in one of the following areas:
    • Environmental enforcement activities
    • Environmental science
    • Fisheries science
    • Law enforcement
    • Wildlife science

Special Requirements:

  • Being at least 18 years old
  • Being a U.S. citizen

Training Requirements:

    • Police training by either one of the following:
      • Completing the New Jersey State Police training course
      • Attending another accredited police academy that has been certified by the Police Training Commission
        • Trainees must become proficient in the use of firearms
          • Quarterly recertification is required

 

  • Division of Fish & Wildlife Training
    • Completing an eight week training course
      • Fish & wildlife rules
      • Regulations of the position

 

Requirements to Become a Federal Game Warden in New Jersey

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement employs officers who work as federal game wardens in New Jersey.  They are trained in both wildlife management and law enforcement.

Basic Requirements:

  • Age of 21 to 36
  • U.S. citizenship
  • Valid driver’s license
  • Selective service registration (if appropriate)

Educational Requirements:

  • A bachelor’s degree in a field such as:
    • Criminal justice
    • Police science
    • Wildlife management

Training Requirements:

    • Law enforcement training:
      • Federal Law Enforcement Training Center for 20 weeks

 

  • State training at the first duty post
    • 44 weeks of Field Training and Evaluation Program

 

Common Duties Performed by New Jersey’s Game Wardens

Conservation officers in New Jersey have a wide range of professional activities in their combined role of being experts in fish and wildlife management and law enforcement officers.  Some of their duties include the following types of activities:

    • Patrolling designated parts of the state
      • Including state wildlife management areas
      • Conducted by motor vehicle, ATV, boat, foot, etc.
      • Participating in sea and air patrols

 

    • Coordinating enforcement efforts with other agencies and officers
    • Collecting data and samples to help biologists develop management and research programs for the state’s fish and wildlife
    • Providing information and conducting educational programs for the public
    • Assisting the Forest Fire Service to identify and suppress fires and investigate suspected arson cases
    • Conducting investigations of:
        • Applicants who are applying to buy, sell, or house nongame or endangered species
        • Reports of accidents related to hunters
        • Potential wrong-doing involving the illegal removal or possession of fish and wildlife species that are regulated by the state or federal government
          • Maintaining notes and completes reports
          • Protecting and preserving the ballistic and biological evidence
          • Preparing affidavits and search warrants

       

      • Reports of water pollution or dumping
      • Fishing vessels that are docked
      • People that are harvesting and selling shellfish

 

  • Helping to protect and/or remove marine mammals that are stranded


New Jersey Wildlife Officer Salary

According to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the average New Jersey game warden salary was $79,540 in 2013, which was nearly 40% higher than the national average of $48,070. The Department also reports that those in the top 50th and 75th percentiles earned an average of $82,330 and $87,720 respectively.

Officially, the New Jersey Civil Service Commission recognizes game wardens as Conservation Officers.

There are three rank levels and 10 salary steps for each rank. Salaries were reported by the New Jersey Civil Service Commission as follows in 2013:

Conservation Officer 3

Step 1: $58,454.43
Step 2: $61,375.96
Step 3: $64,297.49
Step 4: $67,219.02
Step 5: $70,140.55
Step 6: $73,062.08
Step 7: $75,983.61
Step 8: $78,905.14
Step 9: $81,826.67
Step 10: $84,748.20
Conservation Officer 2

Step 1: $62,273.18
Step 2: $65,389.25
Step 3: $68.505.32
Step 4: $71,621.39
Step 5: $74,737.46
Step 6: $77,853.53
Step 7: $80,969.60
Step 8: $84,085.67
Step 9: $87,201.74
Step 10: $90,317.81
Conservation Officer 1

Step 1: $69,517.77
Step 2: $72,994.97
Step 3: $76,472.17
Step 4: $79,949.37
Step 5: $83,426.57
Step 6: $86,903.77
Step 7: $90,380.97
Step 8: $93,858.17
Step 9: $97,335.37
Step 10: $100,812.57

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