How to Become a Fish and Game Warden in Maryland

Maryland’s team of natural resources police officers work to protect the state’s natural resources and patrol the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. These certified law enforcement officers are part of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the state’s oldest law enforcement agency.

The 244 sworn officers of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources are recognized nationally for their efforts in conservation and boating law enforcement.

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Requirements and Training to Become a State Game Warden in Maryland

Those who apply for game warden jobs with the state of Maryland are seeking to join an agency that is recognized nationally for its leadership in the fields of boating law enforcement and conservation.

The process to become a part of the Maryland National Resources Police is highly competitive.  In the most recent round of hiring, only 13 people were chosen from 199 applicants.  The requirements, along with the hiring and training processes are described below.

Basic Requirements:

  • U.S. citizenship
  • A valid driver’s license from any state
  • 20/20 vision uncorrected
  • Being at least 20 ½ years old
  • Being in excellent physical condition
  • Not having any domestic violence court orders

Educational Requirement:

  • A high school education
    • Given the high level of competition, many applicants obtain one of the following types of associate or bachelor degrees:
      • Criminal justice
      • Wildlife Management

Hiring Process:

  • Physical fitness assessment
    • 18 push-ups in 1 minute
    • 27 sit-ups in 1 minute
    • Being able to reach about 1.5” beyond toes
    • Running 1.5 miles in 15:20 or less
    • Pulling a handgun trigger 10 times using each hand
  • Written examination
  • Polygraph examination
  • Background check
  • Medical examination
  • Psychological examination
    • Written test
    • Interview with the agency’s psychologist

Training Process:

Cadets for game warden positions in Maryland are trained in law enforcement techniques and have classroom lessons on state laws and regulations about wildlife.  Part of their training takes place in other Department of Natural Resources units such as:

  • State Parks
  • Fisheries, Wildlife, and Heritage
  • The Forest services
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Requirements and Training to Become a Federal Game Warden in Maryland

Federal game wardens in Maryland work for the Office of Law Enforcement of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Office.  These certified law enforcement officers are experts in wildlife law.  Applicants to become federal game wardens must meet both the general requirements to become a federal law enforcement officer and have a high level of education.

Basic Requirements:

  • Being at least 21
  • Being younger than 37
    • Veterans and federal law enforcement officers may be exempt from this
    • Possessing a valid driver’s license
    • Having registered for Selective Service, if appropriate

Educational Requirements:

  • Four years of college in a field such as:
    • Criminal justice
    • Wildlife management

Training Processes:

  • Law enforcement training:
    • 20 weeks at the FLETC (Federal Law Enforcement Training Center)
  • Game warden training:
    • 44 weeks in the field at their first duty post

Interception of a Large Scale Oyster Poacher in Maryland

Oyster poaching has been a grave problem for Maryland since the early 1800s when schooners from New England came down the coast to ravage the oyster beds in the Chesapeake Bay.  The first wildlife law enforcement officers in Maryland were the Oyster Police.  This agency was created in 1868.

The population of oysters in the Chesapeake Bay declined precipitously in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.  The state is making an effort to reintroduce oysters as the bay is being cleaned up, and this area is one of the few in the world that can support a commercial oyster harvesting industry.

Threats to this industry continue, however, as people poach oysters on a large scale. As oysters become scarce throughout the harvest season, poachers seek out oysters that are undersized.

In January 2014, state game wardens acted on a tip and seized a tractor-trailer passing through Easton that was filled with many undersized oysters.  Seventeen officers and cadets spent six hours measuring every oyster to find that 187 of the 188 bushels contained undersized oysters.

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The police returned the approximately fifty bushels of undersized oysters to a sanctuary on the Eastern Shore.  The driver of the truck faces a fine of up to $1,000 for each bushel of undersized oysters.

Maryland Wildlife Officer Salary

The Maryland Workforce Exchange provides a detailed salary schedule for the natural resources police officers of the Department of Natural Resources. A natural resources police officer candidate earns a base salary of $35,000. Following training, these professionals earn the following salaries:

  • Officer I: $48,099-$86,697
  • Officer 1st Class: $51,467-$92,765
  • Senior Officer: $52,496-$94,620
  • Master Officer: $53,545-$96,510
  • Corporal: $55,151-$99,408
  • Sergeant: $59,012-$106,367
  • Lieutenant: $67,191-$121,017
  • Captain: $70,719-$127,469
  • Major: $75,670-$136,386
  • Lieutenant Colonel: $80,966-$145,936


Salary and employment data compiled by the Maryland Department of Budget and Management – Figures represent accumulated data for all areas of employment for natural resources police 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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