The Fish & Game Warden career path is often referred to as one of the Conservation Officer or Wildlife Conservation Officer or Wildlife Officer or plainly Game Warden. Now that we got that out of the way, I know you’re itching to find out how to become a Game Warden – Conservation Officer. Read on…
Conservation officer jobs involve protecting natural resources and environments, including national and state forests, parks, lakes and other wildlife areas.
Wildlife Conservation Officers are sworn police officers who investigate reported incidences in order to provide documentation of Federal and State Environmental Conservation Law felonies, misdemeanors and violations. Given full arrest powers, they enforce laws and write up documentation of abuses.
Wildlife officers meet with groups of school children and community groups as well as hunter’s clubs to promote knowledge and compliance with environmental regulations, which includes both fish and game.
Game Warden Job Requirements (Conservation Officer)
Game Wardens need to be in excellent physical condition and, prior to being hired, pass a medical examination. They must also demonstrate the ability to swim long distances during the training period, as well as a physical agility test.
Conservation officers must also possess high moral character and have no prior history of felonies, misdemeanors, or other violations. This requirement is due to the fact that Wildlife Officers are required to be licensed to carry a firearm. They must also have a valid and unrestricted driver’s license at the time of appointment. Conservation Officers may be required to work an irregular schedule with much of the work being performed outdoors in all seasons.
Conservation Officer Education and Training
In most states a bachelor’s degree or higher will be necessary in such areas as environmental science, chemistry, biology, or geology. Some states will accept those with an associate’s degree provided the applicant has prior applicable work experience. Such experience can include the areas of environmental technology (e.g. hazardous waste), forestry, engineering, police officer, or two years of active duty within the military with an honorable discharge. Always check educational requirements with the wildlife protection agency.
Coursework includes natural resources, environmental science, physical science, computer science, as well as criminal justice. A curriculum that offers field trips whereby students may observe or participate in forestry or conversation projects is particularly useful.
Game Warden Salary – Conservation Officer Salary
As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as of May, 2008 the median hourly wages for wildlife conservation officers was $10.98 with the middle 50 percent earning in the range of $8.98 to $14.75. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.00 and the highest 10 percent earned about $20.04.
As of July 2009, many entry-level game wardens earned an average Federal minimum wage of $7.25 but many states set the minimum wage higher than the Federal levels. For example, the current annual wage for an entry-level Wildlife Conservation Officer with the Department of Environmental Conservation in New York is $42,107. After an additional 22 weeks of training and progress to Level 2 the salary increases to $46,181.
As per the BLS, the states that pay the highest salaries for wildlife conservation officers are Maryland ($67,990), New York ($62,330), Washington ($61,360), Nevada ($54,790) and Idaho ($52,980). States that employ the most Fish and Game Wardens include South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Maine, and West Virginia.
Game wardens who work for State and local governments or for large privately–held firms are generally provided with a generous benefits package in addition to higher salaries.
Game Warden Career Opportunities (Conservation Officer)
Fish and game wardens work primarily in outdoor settings such as State and National Parks, lakes, forests, and mountain areas. They work under sometimes hazardous weather conditions and during natural disasters (e.g., hurricanes and fires). They may need to traverse dangerous territory such as steep coastlines, heavily wooded areas, and slippery terrain. They may also be called upon to assist people who have sustained a serious injury or take part in a man hunt.
The primary responsibilities of a Wildlife Conservation Officer are to enforce federal and state regulations regarding the protection of wildlife, as well as hunting, boating and fishing laws. Fish and game wardens have a range of duties within law enforcement, to include the following:
- Ensuring that hunters have the required licenses;
- Managing and protecting wildlife populations;
- Tracking and apprehending poachers;
- Coordinating conservation programs;
- Ensuring public safety with regard to heavily populated wildlife areas (mountain lions, bears, coyotes, cougars and other types of wildlife);
- Helping to prosecute court cases by providing testimony of violations.
Wildlife conservation officers may advance into such roles as Senior Wildlife Officer, Conservation Inspector or Supervisor by accruing several years of satisfactory job experience and passing a series of examinations.
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