How to Become a Fish and Game Warden in the District
of Columbia

Nestled along the banks of the Anacostia and Potomac rivers, Washington DC’s territory is home to a relatively large number of parks and wildlife areas. As a place with one of the highest concentrations of different law enforcement agencies in the world, the District of Columbia counts among its protective agencies the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. With its headquarters located in the nation’s capital, it is from here that the Service directs its operations within the District and throughout the rest of the nation.

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As the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agents serve as federal game wardens whose job it is to protect parks, reserves, and forests across the country, including at locations in the DC area.

Candidates who are interested in learning how to become a game warden in the District of Columbia can start by researching the minimum recruitment requirements for these positions.

Becoming a Game Warden in Washington DC

One of the most important aspects of game warden jobs in the District of Columbia is education. Applicants can expect to go up against other qualified candidates who can offer much more than the basic requirement of a high school education or its equivalent.

Applicants are encouraged to go beyond minimum game warden requirements, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prefers candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in any of the following fields:

  • Wildlife Management
  • Land Management
  • Crime Scene Investigation
  • Forensics
  • Natural Sciences
  • Law Enforcement
  • Criminal Justice

Applicants will also have to meet the following initial prerequisites:

  • Be a US citizens between 21-36 years old
  • Be willing to move anywhere in the United States
  • Have a valid driver’s license
  • Be legally able to carry a firearm
  • Be in good physical and psychological health
  • If an eligible male, must have registered with the Selective Service System


Developing an Application with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

If applicants are confident they can meet the minimum hiring standards they can check for game warden vacancies which will be posted on the USA Jobs website. This is the main employment website for federal positions, so as candidates are searching for vacancies they should keep the following in mind:

  • Federal game wardens are referred to as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agents
  • These agents are under the employ of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is part of the US Department of the Interior

Successful applicants will be contacted by a recruiter to undertake further portions of the application process. This will include:

  • Extensive background investigation
  • Drug screening
  • Medical examination
  • Psychological evaluation
  • Physical fitness evaluation
  • Interview


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Training

Applicants who receive a conditional offer of employment will next need to complete the first portion of federal game warden training. This takes place at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia over the course of 20 weeks. This initial academy provides instruction on the essential elements to become a fully qualified fish and game warden. It covers wildlife law enforcement and criminal investigation strategies, with some highlights including:

  • Electronic surveillance
  • Crime scene investigation
  • Waterfowl identification
  • Case report writing
  • Use of firearms
  • Rules of evidence

The second phase of instruction takes place one-on-one with an experienced field training agent at strategic locations across the country. This lasts approximately 44 weeks, during which time new special agents will hone their skills developed during their basic training.

Federal game wardens must also submit to ongoing periodic medical exams, annual firearms re-certification, and may also be required to submit financial disclosure reports.

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Federal Game Wardens in the District of Columbia

Besides participating in any number of meetings, committees, and planning panels that take place at the national headquarters of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in DC, game wardens manage the lands under their jurisdiction and may also be called to assist or lead law enforcement operations with other regional agencies.

A recent District of Columbia operation that made headlines was the bust of the vice president of one of DC’s largest seafood wholesalers. The seafood company itself was also disciplined, for a fishy scheme that lasted more than a decade involving the illegal harvesting of striped bass, also known as rockfish, from the Potomac River. In sentences whose combined totals were multiple years in prison and nearly a million dollars in fines and restitution, U.S. Fish and Wildlife game wardens celebrated their victory over the criminals, the culmination of a years-long multi-state, multi-agency operation. In a similar case, a different DC fish wholesaler and his son were sentenced to pay a combined total of $203,000 for federal fishing violations.

Forty federal game wardens were involved in a recent undercover operation aimed at putting a halt to the illegal harvest of paddlefish eggs for sale on the black market to caviar dealers. As the result of a two-year investigation, more than 100 suspects were cited or arrested on related charges. This included charges brought against a man who was attempting to smuggle a quantity of the fish eggs in his checked luggage aboard a plane leaving from Dulles International Airport.

District of Columbia Wildlife Officer Salary

Wildlife officers in the nation’s capital work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as federal wildlife officers. The hiring salary for federal wildlife officers is $33,829 (GL-05), with opportunities to earn a maximum of $61,031 (GL-09).

However, wildlife officers in Washington D.C. actually earn salaries that far exceed the general LEO pay scale because of the additional locality payment of 29.32% for the Washington-Baltimore-Arlington, DC-MD-VA-WV-PA metro region.

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Given this locality increase, the salary schedule for wildlife officers in Washington D.C. is:

  • GL-05: $46,809-$58,191
  • GL-06: $49,363-$62,061
  • GL-07: $53,285-$67,391
  • GL-08: $55,539-$71,158
  • GL-09: $59,426-$76,675

Additional opportunities to earn even higher salaries exist here, too, with promotions to senior officer, zone officer, regional chief of law enforcement, branch chief, and division chief available, as well as promotions to specialized positions like canine officer, pilot, driver, training officer, and more.


Salary and employment data compiled by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management – Figures represent accumulated data for all areas of employment for federal wildlife officers. Data represents state salary ranges for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Salary data accessed in July 2019.

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