How to Become a Fish and Game Warden in New York

There are two sources of jobs for game wardens in New York.  The primary employer is the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.  Game wardens who work for the state are known as environmental conservation officers (ECOs).  The other option is to work at the federal level for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement.

Being a fish and game warden in New York offers a great deal of diversity given the variety of habitats found in the state.  ECOs in upstate New York face quite different challenges than ones based in New York City.

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The duties of game wardens in upstate New York frequently involve fish and wildlife issues that include dealing with wildlife nuisances such as bears and investigating the theft of timber.

Those who work in New York City tend to work with issues related to air and water quality such as monitoring diesel truck emissions and enforcing solid waste laws. These game wardens may also be faced with investigating the illegal trade of exotic animals such as endangered species, which is prevalent in New York City.

Since game wardens are certified law enforcement officers, they are frequently called on to assist in times of crises, including everything from wildfires to situations with national security implications.

As sworn police officers, all New York state game wardens carry a firearm.  Their law enforcement duties also involve using K-9 units in search and rescue operations.

The requirements and training involved in obtaining state and federal game warden jobs in New York are quite different and are described below.

Becoming a Game Warden with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation

The first requirement to become a game warden for the New York Department of Environmental Conservation is to pass a civil service exam.  This exam is only given every few years, so it is critical for aspiring game wardens to monitor when the test is given.

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Requirements to Take the ECO Trainee Test:

Having at least a bachelor’s degree

  • Supplemented by or including 18 credit hours in areas such as:
    • Criminal justice
    • Environmental studies
    • Natural science
    • Natural resource conservation
    • Physical science


  • Computer science credit can meet this requirement if it’s up to 6 hours
  • Or having an associate’s degree with these 18 credit hours

And having one of the following:

  • A year’s experience in one the following fields:
    • Environmental engineering
    • Environmental technology
      • Must be at a paraprofessional or higher level
        • Pollution prevention
        • Remediation
        • Solid and hazardous waste
        • Freshwater or marine sciences
        • Forestry


  • A year’s experience in law enforcement with either type of certification:
    • A police officer from a Municipal Police Training Course
    • A federal law enforcement officer
    • NOTE:  a certified Peace Officer Training Course will not satisfy this requirement


  • Two years of active military service
    • For the U.S.
    • An honorable discharge

Screening Steps after Selection from an Eligibility List:

  • Physical
  • Psychological screening
  • Agility test
  • Board interview

Training by the Department of Environmental Conservation:

  • Basic Training School for Uniformed Officers for 26 weeks
      • Police skills
        • Operating a police vehicle
        • Firearms training
        • Physical fitness


  • Classroom instruction
      • Environmental law enforcement technical aspects


  • Field Training and Evaluation Program
  • Evaluation of work by a senior officer

Steps as an ECO Trainee:

  • ECO Trainee 1 for 30 weeks with their own patrol area
  • ECO Trainee 2 for two years
  • ECO

Requirements for Appointment:

  • At least 20 years old
  • Resident of New York State

The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that the forty game wardens employed in New York state in 2012 had the top fourth average annual salaries of any in the country.  Their annual mean wage for that year was $67,770.

Becoming a Federal Game Warden with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
in New York

Those seeking federal game warden jobs with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must both meet the requirements to become a federal law enforcement officer and have a high level of education.

Basic Requirements:

  • A valid driver’s license
  • At least 21 and younger than 37
  • U.S. citizenship
  • Selective service registration

Educational Requirements:

  • Possession of a four year degree in one of the following or a related field:
    • Wildlife management
    • Police science
    • Criminal justice

Training Requirements:

  • Academy training:
    • 20 FLETC (Federal Law Enforcement Training Center) weeks


  • Training in the field:
    • 44 weeks of Field Training and Evaluation Program at the first post

New York Wildlife Officer Salary

The New York State Department of Civil Service’s environmental conservation officers (ECOs) are hired in the position of ECO Trainee 1, which comes with an annual salary of $54,243. Upon completing the 26-week residential basic training academy, the salary for these professionals increases to $56,820. Then, after another 22 weeks, they are able to advance to the ECO Trainee 2 position, and their salary increases again to $59,448.

After the ECO trainee’s two-year traineeship, the starting salary for ECOs is $62,229.

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ECOs work throughout the state, and ECO trainees are allowed to bid on available assigned patrol areas. ECOs may also qualify to take the promotional exam for environmental conservation investigator 1, environmental conservation investigator 2, and supervising ECO.

Other positions available through competitive examination and satisfactory experience include:

  • Chief environmental conservation police officer
  • Environmental conservation investigator 4
  • Assistance director division of law enforcement
  • Director division of law enforcement


Salary and employment data compiled by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. Figures represent accumulated data for all areas of employment for environmental conservation officers

Figures represent accumulated data for all areas of employment andfor workers at all levels of education and experience. It does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Salary data accessed in August 2019.

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