Schools, Degrees and Courses for Fish and Game Officers

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Game wardens, whether at the state or federal level, have the dual responsibility of serving as both law enforcement professionals and wildlife advocates. This means that regardless of whether they work for a state-based fish and game agency or for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, game wardens must understand both state and federal wildlife laws, as well as environmental issues as they relate to natural resources, wildlife and fish and game in their jurisdiction.

Game wardens, who may also be referred to as wildlife conservation officers, wildlife control agents, and fish and game wardens, among other titles, must be experts in wildlife conservation and management as well as law enforcement practices.

It comes as no surprise, then, that the majority of state wildlife departments require game wardens to have some postsecondary education, which usually means earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also prefers candidates who possess a bachelor’s degree in a related field and allow their standard experience requirement to be substituted for college credit.

Game Warden Education and Degree Options

Individuals with their sights set on becoming a game warden most often seek formal college degree programs in one of the following areas:

  • Wildlife conservation
  • Wildlife ecology
  • Wildlife biology
  • Environmental science
  • Fish and wildlife sciences
  • Fish and wildlife management
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Wildlife and Fisheries Science Degrees and Courses

A degree in wildlife and fisheries science is concerned with how to maintain populations of wild animals while considering the interests of both wild species and the public. Students are introduced to the scholarly application of scientific information and methods regarding wild animal populations and the execution of programs that are designed to maintain specie success and prevent repetition of past failures as it relates to wildlife management.

This knowledge is accomplished through a number of key courses, such as:

  • Principles of wildlife and fish management
  • Native plants in the landscape
  • Wildlife fire behavior and management
  • Measurements and sampling
  • Ecology and management of mammals
  • Human dimensions of wildlife fisheries
  • Wetlands ecology and management
  • Wildlife techniques
  • Fisheries techniques

Wildlife Science Degrees and Courses

A degree in wildlife science, which has a basic foundation in biology, provides students with a course of study in the sound management of wildlife resources through the analysis of ecology, wildlife species and their needs, habitat manipulation, and the role of wildlife in our society.

As such, these programs prepare individuals to become game wardens by providing them with a solid understanding of the biology and ecology of wildlife species and how to use management techniques as to achieve desired management goals based on specific species.

Coursework in a wildlife science degree program includes is typically organized by:

  • Vertebrate diversity
  • Plant diversity/ecology
  • Invertebrate diversity
  • Policy
  • Structure and function
  • Technical skills

Wildlife Ecology and Management Degrees and Courses

Wildlife ecology and management is the study of animal populations and their relation to land management decisions. Degrees in wildlife ecology have a strong background in basic science, including biology and chemistry, while also focusing on critical issues in management, restoration and the conservation of wildlife.

A wildlife ecology undergraduate degree often includes courses such as:

  • The natural resources professional
  • Vegetation of North America
  • Field techniques
  • Forest ecology
  • Introduction to biotechnology
  • Natural resource policy
  • Land measurements and GPS
  • Landscapes and ecosystems
  • Field ornithology
  • Introduction to Genomics
  • Wildlife habitat

Wildlife Biology Degrees and Courses

Wildlife biology degrees are usually chosen by individuals seeking the practical uses of theoretical discoveries, wildlife management, and applied ecology.  These degree programs, whether graduate or undergraduate, exposes students to the principles of both traditional wildlife management and more modern ecosystem management. They also provide students with a solid understanding of how to utilize management techniques to achieve desired management goals based on a species’ biological needs.

Study in wildlife biology degrees often includes the following courses:

  • General biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular biology
  • Ecology
  • Evolution
  • Wildlife management
  • Fisheries management
  • Ornithology
  • Mammalogy
  • Herpetology
  • Entomology

Criminal Justice Degrees and Courses

Although many individuals study wildlife conservation and biology-related programs to become game wardens, it is also common for individuals interested in fish and game warden careers to seek a college degree in a field related to criminal justice, as these jobs include investigating crimes, collecting evidence, conducting surveillance, making arrests, and preparing evidence for court.

Criminal justice degree programs provide students with an educational background in law enforcement, corrections, and the judicial system, among others, while building upon a solid liberal arts core to achieve a balanced criminal justice perspective.

Core courses within a criminal justice bachelor’s degree typically include:

  • Criminal justice systems and processes
  • Theories of criminal behavior
  • Methods of criminal justice research
  • Criminal justice data analysis
  • Ethics in the criminal justice system
  • Leadership and management in criminal justice

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