Fish & Game Warden: Job Duties & Career Requirements

May 22, 2019

Fish and game wardens are police officers who enforce the laws protecting wildlife and natural habitats, particularly as they apply to hunting, boating and conservation. You can explore the required training, salary and employment outlook right here, to determine if this job's for you.

Career Definition for a Fish and Game Warden

Fish and game wardens are sworn police officers, qualified to perform the same duties as city and state police officers, such as investigating crime reports, carrying firearms, issuing citations and making arrests. However, they typically patrol waterways and conservation areas to enforce laws specific to wildlife, hunting, boating and fishing. Fish and game wardens may also be called to investigate pollution, improper disposal of hazardous materials and homeland security cases.

Education Requirements vary by state, though 2- or 4-year degrees in law enforcement or natural sciences are often required; additional training takes place before entering the workforce
Job Skills Understanding of hunting and fishing, physical stamina, good vision and hearing, swimming ability
Median Salary (2017)* $56,410 (fish and game wardens)
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 4% (for fish and game wardens)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Some U.S. states require cadets to have completed a 4-year college degree program, but others require only two years of college. All states prefer an emphasis on the biological and natural sciences as well as criminal studies and law enforcement. Fish and game cadets are typically trained in state-run law enforcement academies for a period of 3-12 months, followed by several weeks of field training in wildlife conservation as well as fish and game enforcement issues.

Skills Needed

Like most jobs in law enforcement, there are rigid physical requirements: an applicant must have an understanding of hunting and fishing, an interest in the outdoors and good vision and hearing. In addition, applicants must be physically fit and proficient swimmers. Fish and game wardens must typically be U.S. citizens with clean criminal records.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 6,020 fish and game wardens in the U.S. as of May 2017, 5,120 of whom worked for state governments. Job growth for fish and game wardens was projected to grow four percent from 2016-2026, slower than the average for all occupations. The median annual salary of fish and game wardens was $56,410 as of May 2017.

Alternate Career Options

Similar career options within this field include:

Probation Officer and Correctional Treatment Specialist

These officers and specialists normally earn bachelor's degrees in criminal justice, social work or behavioral science; some employers require additional exams and a master's degree. These professionals might work in institutions or high-crime areas, working with offenders to help keep them from committing additional crimes. Six percent job growth was expected during the 2016-2026 decade for these occupations that paid an annual median wage of $51,410 in 2017, according to the BLS.

Security Guard

Security guards sometimes find employment with a high school education, but many employers seek those with degrees in criminal justice or police science; those who carry guns normally are required to register with the state. This job involves protecting properties from theft, terrorism, vandalism or other types of illegal activities. The BLS predicted average employment growth of 6% from 2016-2026. In 2017, the BLS also reported median earnings of $26,900 per year.

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