What is a Fish and Game Warden?

A fish and game warden is responsible for protecting enforcing boating, hunting, and fishing laws, protecting wildlife, and patrolling deserts, coastlines, wetlands, beaches, rivers, and lakes. Since fish and game wardens are commissioned peace officers, they may be tasked with conducting investigations, collecting evidence, searching homes and vehicles, and citing people for a number of crimes which may occur within the regions they supervise. In some jurisdictions, these professionals are also called gamekeepers, conservation officers, or wildlife officers.

Job Duties

The main responsibility of fish and game wardens is to enforce boating, fishing, and hunting laws as well as wildlife and fish codes. These individuals have many duties within law enforcement, including ensuring that trappers, fishermen, and hunters meet licensing requirements and seizing watercraft, vehicles, firearms, and fishing equipment used in the commission of game and fish crimes. Other duties include presenting educational programs to the public, conducting search-and-rescue operations, tracking and investigating poachers, managing wildlife populations, and investigating wildlife crimes.


In order to become a fish and game warden, educational qualifications vary by state. Most states require that these professionals have a minimum of an associate’s degree, while many require a bachelor’s degree to enter the field. In some states, earning an associate’s degree with law enforcement or wildlife experience may waive the four-year bachelor’s degree requirement.


Most candidates for game and warden positions must be 21 years of age. Some states allow game wardens to be 18 years old. Candidates must not have any felonies, be a U.S. citizen, be in good physical condition, and possess a valid driver’s license. Applicants may need to pass hearing and/or vision tests, physical fitness tests, and a state peace officer licensing exam.

Training Academy

Some aspiring fish and game wardens are required to attend a training academy for anywhere from three to 12 months. The academy may include courses in administrative policies and procedures, law enforcement curriculum and tactics, homeland security, and civil defense training. Other topics to be covered may include driver training, use of firearms, defensive tactics, boat operations, water rescue, first aid, physical training, and wildlife, fish, and natural resource management.

Work Environment

Fish and game wardens work almost exclusively outdoors in natural settings such as mountain areas, deserts, streams, lakes, and state and national parks. They may also work in hazardous and inclement weather conditions, particularly during natural disasters. At times, these professionals must work in extremely stressful situations that could compromise their safety and health. In addition, they may work with people who are emotionally upset, violent, injured, or otherwise pose a danger. Fish and game wardens may also work in hazardous territories such as bog areas, steep swamps or coastlines, and heavily wooded areas.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for fish and game wardens was $57,760, or $26.33 per hour, in 2016. The top 10 percent of fish and game wardens earned $77,440 per year, or $37.23 per hour, while the bottom 10 percent earned $34,360 per year, or $16.52 per hour, in 2016. The top-paying states for this occupation include Illinois ($88,370), Iowa ($81,950), New Jersey ($81,780), Maryland ($77,080), and California ($74,560). The Bureau also indicates that the states with the highest concentration of fish and game wardens are South Dakota, Montana, West Virginia, North Dakota, and Maine.

Related Resource: What is a Probation Officer?

Fish and game wardens play a critical role in ensuring the environment and its wildlife remain safe and protected. If you are looking to become a fish and game warden or are considering this career, keep in mind the educational and training requirements as well as the environment in which you will work.