Individuals with a love of wildlife and a desire to preserve both land and animals often consider a career as a fish and game warden and wonder what exactly it is these wardens do. Although they have many, their main duty is enforcing state and federal regulations and laws dealing with the conservation and protection of wildlife. Despite their title, these wardens also deal with laws regarding pollution; land and equipment use; wildlife trading and smuggling boating; boating and the safe use of natural resources. Game wardens may not be popular with many people but are a valuable asset to the conservation of our land.
See our ranking of the 50 Best Value Colleges for a Criminal Justice Degree.
What They Do
Conserving and protecting wildlife may be the main duty of a game warden, but it is not their only job duty. Depending on where they work, their duties may change. For instance, a game warden working in a wooded area will have some different duties than one working along coastal areas. Most game warden jobs have the following duties.
- Investigating violations, apprehending violators and issuing citations
- Enforcing regulations and laws
- Conducting surveillance
- Patrolling certain areas
- Coordinating and overseeing educational programs
- Assisting with wildlife management efforts
- Conducting search and rescue operations
- Writing incident reports and testifying in court
- Collecting and cataloging evidence
- Researching and collecting data on environmental and wildlife changes
In some cases, game wardens may not be required to have work experience but are required to have education in most states. While some states may require an associate degree, others may require a bachelor's degree. Candidates may choose from degrees in wildlife management, zoology, police science or natural resources. A criminal justice degree is also a popular choice for aspiring game wardens. States vary with the requirements. Washington requires a criminal justice degree or a closely related field but will access less if the candidate has experience. Montana and Texas will not accept experience in lieu of a bachelor's degree.
In addition to possessing a degree, candidates must meet the following requirements, according to GameWardenEDU.org.
- High school diploma or equivalent
- Must be 18-21 years old depending on the state
- Not older than 36 if working for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- Good physical and mental health
- Good moral character
- Valid driver's license
The candidate must also be able to successfully pass a psychological assessment, a medical examination, and a strength and agility assessment. They must also meet specific hearing and vision requirements.
Although fish and game wardens are not expected to see a huge increase in job growth, they do continue to be in demand to replace workers who are retiring. Individuals pursuing jobs in this field can do so through a local agency, a state wildlife agency or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the top five states with the highest number of game wardens employed as of May 2017 include:
- Texas - 470
- New York - 390
- California - 360
- North Carolina - 350
- Virginia - 230
As of May 2017 report by the bureau, fish and game wardens earned an average annual wage of $58,570 with those at the lowest 10% earning $39,170 and the top 90% earning $79,870.
When asked, most people admit they love the outdoors and wish they could spend more time outdoors. Working as a fish and game warden is the ideal career for someone who can't get enough of the outdoors and wants to preserve nature and all living things outdoors.