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How to Become a Fish and Game Warden in Tennessee

Game wardens in Tennessee, also known as Wildlife Officers, work as part of the state Wildlife Resources Agency to ensure Tennessee’s natural treasures and those who harvest them are safe and acting within the laws. It is understandable that hunters would be tempted to break the law by failing to wear safety-colored clothing. What is less forgivable is when heavily armed hunters trespass on restricted military territory for hunting, such as sometimes occurs at Fort Campbell, where they may encounter live fire and unexploded mortar shells.

Dealing with hunters that break the law, poachers, polluters, and intoxicated or unlicensed boaters is just some of what Tennessee’s game wardens deal with daily.

Candidates who are interested in serving the wildlife and residents of the state through game warden jobs in Tennessee can start by reviewing the application process.

Becoming a Fish and Game Warden with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

Satisfy Job Requirements – Tennessee’s Wildlife Officers are some of the best and brightest public servants the state has to offer. Part of the explanation for this starts with the high bar the Wildlife Resources Agency sets for minimum game warden job requirements.

Important among these is education. All game wardens must have a bachelor’s degree in one of the following subjects:

  • Wildlife Management
  • Fisheries Management
  • Wildlife Biology
  • 20 semester hours in wildlife-related subjects plus one of the following:
    • Biology
    • Zoology
    • Animal Sciences
    • Agricultural Sciences
    • Ecology
    • Forestry

For candidates considering federal game warden careers, the government personnel office gives a preference to those with a bachelor degree in a field related to Wildlife Management or Criminal Justice.

Prospective applicants must also meet some other basic requirements:

  • Willingness and ability to carry or use firearms
  • Be US citizens at least 21 years old
  • If previous military service, must have an honorable discharge

Submitting an Application – The employing department for game wardens in the state is the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. However initial applications must be filed online through the state Department of Human Resources. Applications are accepted through the Wildlife Officer job description and may only be filed when there is a vacant opening. Applicants can sign up to be notified by email when Wildlife Officer positions become available. Hiring usually starts towards the end of July or beginning of August each year.

If applicants make it to the later stages of the hiring process, they will need to complete:

  • Interview with officials from the Wildlife Resources Agency
  • Comprehensive personal history background investigation
  • Physical and psychological evaluation

Game Warden Training – Those who successfully make it through the application process will proceed with their training. New officers will learn the essential skills of how to become a game warden over the course of a eight weeks at the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy, followed by a year of probation with the Wildlife Resources Agency. Game warden training includes:

  • State and federal wildlife laws and regulations
  • Firearms training
  • Law enforcement techniques
  • Evidence preservation and gathering
  • Courtroom procedures
  • Use of law enforcement equipment

After their first year of employment, Wildlife Officers will need to participate in an additional 40 hours of refresher training annually.

Becoming a Federal Fish and Game Warden in Tennessee

Federal fish and game wardens also operate across Tennessee in a supplementary role alongside their counterparts with the state Wildlife Resources Agency. These federal officers go through an entirely different application and training process, although there are many similarities between the two systems.

Known officially as US Fish and Wildlife Office Special Agents, the federal process for becoming a fish and game warden starts by meeting the minimum requirements. These are similar to the state requirements. Applicants must be between the ages of 21-36, and as mentioned earlier, applicants will be given a preference if they have a bachelor’s degree in a field related to Criminal Justice or Wildlife Management.

After completing the application process, those selected for hire will ship out to Glynco, Georgia to complete 20 weeks of game warden training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. Next they will complete an additional 44 weeks of field training before they receive their first assignment.

Duties of a Wildlife Officer in Tennessee

When they are not conducting public education campaigns or being trained on the latest technology in their field, Wildlife Officers can preoccupy themselves with snagging the ever-present problem of wildlife poaching. Two recent cases involve:

  • Action against five men who were discovered in an unregistered pickup along a dark road on Evensville Mountain. They were witnessed shining a spotlight into the brush in an alleged attempt to poach deer. A Wildlife Officer arrested three of the men who were not cooperative on charges related to poaching and cited the two other more cooperative men for spotlighting. Officers discovered a loaded SKS semi-automatic rifle and a 7mm Mauser rifle.


  • Charges against three men related to trespassing and poaching, stemming from their illegal activities in Fort Campbell. The men allegedly shot dozens of big-game trophy deer within the confines of Fort Campbell, a restricted military zone protected by a fence. The 100,000-plus acres of the fort are used for mortar practice and live-fire training. The fact that the facility is fenced and hunting is not allowed has also made it a refuge for large deer.

Tennessee Wildlife Officer Salary

According to the Tennessee state government sponsored source for labor market information, Jobs4TN Online, the median wildlife officer salary in Tennessee was $50,710 in 2013. This represents an hourly wage of $24.38.

The range, however, is wide with those at the entry-level earning an average of $36,070, and those at the experienced level earning $57,290 that year. This shows how experienced wildlife officers in the state can earn 37% more than the average entry-level salary as they progress in their carer.

One factor that affects salaries among wildlife officers in Tennessee is location, which can be seen here when comparing workforce investment areas throughout the state (Jobs4TN Online, 2013):

LWIA 9 (Nashville)

Entry Level: $46,055
Median: $66,100
Experienced: $72,270
LWIA 5 (Chattanooga)

Entry Level: $34,062
Median: $44,076
Experienced: $48,865
LWIA 8 (Clarksville)

Entry Level: $34,942
Median: $51,471
Experienced: $55,273
Based on these figures, an experienced wildlife officer in Tennessee could potentially earn about 32% more working in the Nashville area versus the Chattanooga area.

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development provides the following fish and game warden professional classifications along with their respective salaries (2013):

Wildlife Officer

Minimum: $34,908
Maximum: $54,192
Wildlife Sergeant

Minimum: $39,840
Maximum: $61,836
Wildlife Lieutenant

Minimum: $41,628
Maximum: $64,620
Wildlife Captain

Minimum: $45,456
Maximum: $70,560
Wildlife Major

Minimum: $49,632
Maximum: $77,064
Additional salaries for wildlife officers in Tennessee are shown in the table below, which is comprised of data supplied by the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2013:

Area name
Annual mean wage
Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin TN
Western Tennessee nonmetropolitan area
South Central Tennessee nonmetropolitan area
North Central Tennessee nonmetropolitan area

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