Georgia is a very diverse state in terms of its natural environment, which includes mountains (Blue Ridge and Piedmont Mountains), farmland, swamps, and coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. The Law Enforcement Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources is charged with the responsibility of enforcing the laws and regulations regarding wildlife, DNR properties, and litter and waste as well as ensuring public safety for those who utilize the land for personal enjoyment.
Usually called conservation rangers or game wardens, these law enforcement officers provide educational and safety courses for the public in addition to their law enforcement roles regarding wildlife.
How to Become a Game Warden in Georgia
Game wardens (conservation rangers) in Georgia are certified peace officers employed by the Department of Natural Resources. They patrol using boats, aircraft, ATVs, and on foot; knowing how to operate these types of vehicles is helpful when trying to become a game warden in Georgia.
Degree and Certification Requirements – Qualifications for employment include a combination of education, certification by the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (P.O.S.T.), medical standards, and physical skills. Qualified applicants will:
- Have an associate’s degree or 60 completed semester hours or a degree from a technical college, preferably in a field such as Wildlife Management, Criminal Justice, or Forestry
- Have P.O.S.T. certification or a passing score on the P.O.S.T. Entrance Exam*
- Be knowledgeable about hunting, fishing, boating, and other outdoor activities
- Be at least 21 years old
- Be a US citizen
- Hold or be eligible to obtain a valid Georgia driver’s license
- Undergo an oral interview
* The P.O.S.T. Entrance Exam is based on either the ASSET or COMPASS exams administered through the Technical College System of Georgia. Both exams cover reading, writing, and numerical skills, although for purposes of the P.O.S.T. certification, only the scores for reading and writing are considered. The ASSET exam is paper and pencil; the COMPASS test is computer based.
Other requirements for the position of game warden include:
- Background investigation
- No convictions punishable by imprisonment
- Successful completion of a polygraph examination regarding substance abuse and criminal activity
Medical and Physical Requirements – The job of a game warden in Georgia is very physical, so those who are interested in becoming a game warden must fulfill certain physical and medical conditions. These include:
- Vision – corrected to no worse than 20/40 in each eye
- Hearing – no significant hearing loss
- Physical skills – ¾ mile run, ¾ mile obstacle run, 50-yard swim fully clothed
- Medical examination – complete physical including laboratory analysis and emotional stability
Training Requirements – Training for game wardens depends on the applicant’s P.O.S.T. certification status. If the applicant is not P.O.S.T. Certified, conditional employment requires that the employee attend an 11-week basic law enforcement training course prior to attending the 12-week mandated law enforcement training for game wardens through the DNR.
Once this training is successfully completed, the applicant can be officially referred to as a Conservation Ranger or Game Warden, although they will continue to train in the field during a six-month probationary period.
Conservation Rangers are required to obtain a minimum of 20 hours of in-service training every year and can apply for advanced training through the Coast Guard, Federal Marine Law Enforcement Training Program, and the FBI National Academy. Another type of specialized training includes a three-month course with a canine training instructor in order to become part of a K-9 unit.
Joining the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Georgia
The federal government also has a strong role in protecting the various natural resources of the United States. The Office of Law Enforcement of the US Fish and Wildlife Service employs Special Agents, whose responsibilities include managing ecosystems, saving endangered species, preserving habitats, and promoting wildlife conservation in general.
Special agents specifically focus on threats to wildlife such as habitat destruction or contamination, illegal hunting and trade of animals or birds, and smuggling of imperiled animals.
Special Agents are highly skilled and trained law enforcement officers who gather information, analyze evidence using forensic science, and combat crimes against the environment using modern technology. They may be called upon to work undercover, run covert investigations, plan and carry out raids, make arrests, and prepare cases for prosecution.
For more information about becoming a US Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent, visit the FWS Office of Law Enforcement website.
Georgia’s Wildlife Areas and Natural Resources
Georgia has abundant water resources with more than 70,000 miles of streams and rivers, 425,000 acres of lakes, and 4.5 million acres of freshwater wetlands. Three of the largest and most popular lakes are Clarks Hill Lake, Lake Hartwell, and Lake Walter F. George.
Lake Hartwell, the sparkling jewel of the Hart State Outdoor Recreation Area, has almost 56,000 acres of water where visitors can enjoy swimming, boating, and fishing. These and other natural recreation areas provide ample opportunity for outdoor recreational activities.
More than 60% of the state is heavily forested with pine, making it a prime location for hunting and trapping. Georgia supervises Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), Natural Areas, and Heritage Preserves, which provide places for hunting. Click here for hunting maps in the state.
Hunting and fishing are popular and Georgia offers a variety of game wildlife, as well as and freshwater and saltwater fish. These species include:
- Blue crab
One of the most important aspects of game warden jobs in Georgia is serving as an environmental protector. Georgia has several threatened and endangered native species of plants, fish, and animals. Game wardens work to prevent illegal harm or harassment of these and other species:
- West Indian manatee
- Gray bat
- Humpback whale
- Leatherback sea turtle
- Loggerhead sea turtle
- Red-cockaded woodpecker
- Various types of mussels
Georgia Wildlife Officer Salary
The Georgia Labor Market Explorer, which is the state’s online portal for labor market data and analysis, has found that the average Georgia game warden salary was $34,126 as of 2013. Those in the top 75th percentile have been found to average about 13% more at $39,244.
The highest paying area in the state for game wardens is Dade County, which includes the cities of Trenton and Wildwood. In Dade County, the average salary was $38,826 in 2013, which is roughly 12% above the statewide average. Echols County is the 2nd highest paying area with an average there of $38,025, just 2% shy of the average in Dade County.
Here is a breakdown of salary figures among game wardens in Dade County and Echols County as reported by the Georgia Labor Market Explorer in 2012:
Dade County (Annual/Hourly)
25th Percentile: $31,207 ($15.00)
Average: $38,826 ($18.66)
90th Percentile: $49,454 ($23.77)
Echols County (Annual/Hourly)
25th Percentile: $29,440 ($14.15)
Average: $38,025 ($18.28)
90th Percentile: $43,418 ($20.87)
According to the Georgia Department of Administrative Services, game wardens are titled as Conservation Rangers and received the following salary plan as of 2013:
In addition, the following advancement opportunities are available to Conservation Rangers in Georgia: