Game wardens are certified peace officers who most often find work at the state or federal level. These law enforcement and wildlife conservation professionals, who may also be called conservation officers, game protectors, wildlife control agents, wildlife officers, and fish and game wardens, among other titles, dedicate their lives to the conservation and management of wildlife and to enforcing related laws.
Although a wildlife officer job description may vary from one wildlife department or agency to the next, the major duties, responsibilities and requirements are usually fairly similar.
Fish and Game Warden Job Description: Major Job Duties
Not all game warden job descriptions will be the same, as job duties certainly vary according to the area patrolled. For example, game wardens working along coastal areas will undoubtedly have different duties than those posted in wooded areas. However, most jobs require these wildlife professionals to:
- Enforce laws
- Investigate violations
- Apprehend violators and issues citations/fines
- Conduct surveillance
- Patrol assigned areas/regions
- Coordinate and oversee educational programs for the public
- Assist wildlife management efforts
- Partner with other law enforcement agencies
- Conduct search and rescue operations
- Write incident reports and testify in court
- Collect and catalogue evidnece
- Investigate and collect data on wildlife and environmental changes
The Skills Required of Fish and Game Wardens
Conservation officers, as certified peace officers, have the dual responsibility of enforcing laws and protecting wildlife. Their work may be very demanding, as it may require hiking, walking, swimming, and running. They must be able to successfully apprehend violators and perform search and rescue missions. As such, these wildlife champions must be physically fit.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and most state wildlife departments have a clear set of physical requirements that candidates must be able to meet to attain careers as game wardens. Physical fitness tests, medical evaluations, and rigorous training are all mandatory components of most wildlife conservation jobs. Medical evaluations often include vision testing, hearing testing, and psychological testing, as well.
Physical fitness assessments often include running, swimming, and calisthenics, with each department having minimum acceptable requirements based on age and gender.
Beyond being in excellent physical condition, wildlife officers spend a considerable amount of time interacting with the public; therefore, they must have exceptional communication and interpersonal skills, and they must be able to demonstrate strong leadership skills. They must also be able to make quick decisions under sometimes-stressful circumstances, use proper discretion, conduct affairs with integrity, and work independently.
In addition to working in a law enforcement capacity, game wardens must have a working knowledge of conservation management, wildlife biology, and botany, among other areas of natural science.
Education, Experience and Training Requirements
The minimum requirements for employment are generally standard throughout this industry, with the exception of age requirements, which may differ from state to state. The majority of states require candidates to be at least 21, while some states require a minimum age of 18. Federal game warden positions require candidates to be between the ages of 21 and 36 at the time of appointment.
- Grand Canyon University - B.S. in Justice Studies and M.S. in Criminal Justice
- SNHU - Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
- Strayer University - Bachelors of Science Degree in Criminal Justice
- Rasmussen College - Law Enforcement Associate's Degree and Post-Degree Certificates; Criminal Justice Bachelor's Degrees
- Michigan State University - Online Master of Science in Law Enforcement Intelligence and Analysis
- Saint Joseph's University - Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice
- Utica College - Online Bachelor's of Science in Criminal Justice
- Penn Foster - Online Wildlife and Forestry Conservation Career Diploma
Other minimum requirements include:
- Must be a United States citizen
- Must possess a valid driver’s license
- Must have a high school diploma or the equivalent
- Must have no felony convictions
- Must have no misdemeanor domestic violence or sexual abuse convictions
- A clean driving history
- Must not use, sell, distribute, or manufacture illegal drugs
The majority of game warden jobs stipulate specific requirements regarding education and experience. Most state game warden jobs require a bachelor’s degree in programs such as wildlife conservation, wildlife management, environmental science, or forestry, while a few states recognize an associate’s degree as a minimum educational requirement.
A small number of states accept experience in lieu of a formal education, while a few other states accept a combination of education and experience.
As certified peace officers, conservation officers must complete a course of basic training. Most training academy programs for conservation officers last between 6 and 8 months and include instruction in areas such as:
- Emergency management
- First aid
- Physical training
- Natural resource management
- Wildlife management
- Driver training
- Civil defense training
- Administrative policies and procedures
Game wardens must also be able to achieve and maintain firearms proficiency.
Upon the successful completion of basic training, newly sworn wildlife officers must then undergo an intensive field training program that can last as long as a year.