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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.

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 such as those involving homeland security.  New York state game wardens helped with the following emergency situations:

  • The 9/11 aftermath
  • Wildfires on Long Island in 1995
  • The crash of TWA Flight 800

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.

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

According to the New York Department of Labor, at $68,590, the average fish and game warden salary in New York in 2013 was 30% higher than the nationwide average of $48,070 that year. In fact, fish and game wardens in New York are some of the highest paid in the United States.

Their average starting salary that year was $57,090, which is 15.7% more than the overall nationwide average, and their salary at the experienced level reaches $74,340.

Fish and game wardens working for the New York State Department of Civil Service go by the official title of Environmental Conservation Officer. All environmental conservation officers are required to begin as trainees and complete a 26-week training program. During that time, their salary begins at $53,304 according to the Department of Civil Service. After 30 weeks of employment as a level 1 trainee, the salary then increases to $55,703.

Environmental conservation officers work as level 1 trainees for an additional 22 weeks before being promoted to level 2 trainee environmental conservation officers. As a level 2 trainee, the salary is increased to $58,170 according to the Department of Civil Service.

Upon completion of the entire 2-year training program, the salary then increases to $60,769 and thereafter increases incrementally.

The table below reflects additional salary data obtained from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2013:

Area name
Annual mean wage
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island NY-NJ-PA

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