A game warden is a law enforcement position that focuses on wildlife aspects of the law. They often work alone patrolling their assigned areas, or assisting other law enforcement groups in related tasks and search-and-rescue operations. This is a job that requires extensive training in the physical challenges of the job as well as fish and game regulations.
Game wardens enforce hunting laws for federal and state governments. Their duties include patrolling hunting areas and educating the public about regulations. Education requirements vary, with federal agencies generally requiring a bachelor's degree. Completion of a training academy program is required after hiring. Few new positions are expected to be created in this field over the next few years, so competition for jobs will be tough.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree often required, but military or law enforcement experience may suffice|
|Other Requirements||Complete training academy program|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||2%|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)*||$52,780|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
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Game wardens are peace officers tasked with enforcing the laws regarding wild animals, especially those relevant to hunting and fishing. The areas they patrol are varied, including wilderness, parks and waterways. As government employees, game wardens must be U.S. citizens 21 years or older. Positions often require complete background checks, and they may also require polygraph testing prior to hiring. A felony record may prevent applicants from being selected. Additionally, physical fitness and firearms proficiency are considered job requirements.
Game wardens generally enforce a specific area of the law. They are concerned with the poaching of both fish and wildlife. In addition to hunting law, game wardens may also be called on to enforce boating laws and assist in search and rescue operations. Game wardens often patrol alone, and with limited backup, in remote areas. They may travel not only by car or truck, but also by foot, all-terrain vehicle or watercraft. Like all law enforcement positions, this one can be relatively dangerous. Additionally, the extensive training commitment may be difficult for some applicants, as it may create additional strain on family obligations.
Salary Information and Employment Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), game wardens earned a median annual salary of $52,780 as of 2015. The BLS states that employment opportunities in the field are expected to increase only 2% throughout the 2014-2024 decade, which will lead to competition for positions.
Departments may now require that applicants have 4-year degrees. In some cases, these are 2+2 degrees, meaning that the future game wardens complete police training in a 2-year associate program before moving to a 4-year institution to complete bachelor's programs. Not all departments require bachelor's degrees for all applicants, and law enforcement or military training may substitute in some cases.
Once game wardens have been provisionally hired, they immediately begin training in an approved of state-run program that may last 3-12 months. These programs cover physical fitness, legal knowledge, firearms training, wilderness knowledge and a host of other skills necessary for the position.
Besides being a U.S. citizen 21 years or older, with a clean background check, game wardens need to have completed a degree program that includes a police training program. Game wardens should be knowledgeable with firearms, as well as driving different types of patrol vehicles. They can work for parks, reserves, and waterways.