If you are looking to start a career in wildlife law enforcement, you might be wondering how to become a fish and game warden. Also known as wildlife or conservation officers, fish and game wardens are responsible for enforcing boating, trapping, fishing, and hunting laws. Their main goal is to protect wildlife, which may include pursuing prosecution, investigating complaints, collecting data, and patrolling assigned hunting and fishing areas. When a human’s or animal’s safety is compromised, they may also conduct search-and-rescue operations. Fish and game wardens must have the ability to detail with dangerous and stressful situations, and they should be proficient swimmers and be comfortable spending time outside in all types of weather conditions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Earn an Associate’s Degree
In most states, aspiring fish and game wardens are required to earn a minimum of a two-year associate’s degree or at least 60 hours of college credit. Appropriate majors may include natural resource management, ecology, biology, and wildlife management. Although some may consider majoring in criminal justice, it is important to become proficient in the life sciences. In addition, federal government positions typically require a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or biology. Aspiring fish and game wardens should also consider completing available internship programs to gain on-the-job experience with issues like forestry and fishing while also building their resumes. Participating in recreational outdoor hobbies such as boating, fishing, hunting, camping, and hiking is also beneficial for seeking employment as a fish and game warden.
Gain Law Enforcement Experience
Those looking to enter the field may need to work as police officers for two years before they are eligible for a position. To complete this requirement, prospective candidates can attend a state-certified policy academic. These programs may provide college credit, and students can generally complete them in about four months. Students who have two years of experience in a natural resources job or two years of full-time military service may be able to have this requirement waived.
Seek On-the-Job Training
Once a position is obtained, future fish and game wardens must complete training programs. These three- to 12-month programs teach them about the numerous laws that affect animal habitats and endangered species. Candidates must also receive training to learn how to handle violations of smuggling and drug laws. In some areas, wardens receive instruction on how to enforce criminal, motor vehicle, and recreational laws.
Move Up in Rank
Similar to police officers, beginning fish and game wardens who gain additional experience may become majors, captains, or lieutenants. Qualifications for advancement may include fulfilling performance requirements or passing exam scores. In some states, fish and game wardens may be trained for positions in forensics reconstruction teams, marine investigation units, search and rescue teams, K-9 teams, and other types of specialized units.
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Keep in mind that specific training, education, and experience requirements will vary depending on the state in which you work as well as each individual employer. However, in general, ensuring you are physically sound, earning an associate’s degree, gaining experience in law enforcement, receiving on-the-job training, and continuing to advance in rank are excellent steps to follow if you wish to become a fish and game warden.