How to Become a Conservation Officer

The job of a conservation officer (sometimes referred to as a fish and game warden) is to enforce laws that protect natural resources (mainly fish and wildlife). Conservation Officers are police officers who are often also certified to enforce other state laws such as motor vehicle laws, controlled substance statutes, etc. that occur within their jurisdiction.

Responsibilities of the conservation officer include observing hunters, fishermen, and trappers to make sure they are complying with state and federal regulations. They inspect licenses, bag (tag) limits, specimens collected, equipment used and the methods in which the game is collected by the individuals. They are also responsible for inspecting watercraft and vehicle used in gaming areas for compliance with state and federal laws.

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Conservation officers work closely with other law enforcement agencies in cases involving multi-agency jurisdictions. They prepare cases for and present cases in court. They are responsible for establishing and protecting the chain of custody in any evidence collected during investigations of violations of fish and wildlife statutes. Conservation officers are also often responsible for the enforcement of state and federal statutes in camp grounds and parks. They also conduct educational programs designed to help individuals learn to enjoy and preserve the outdoors.

How to Become a Conservation Officer

The minimum educational requirement to become a conservation officer or game warden is an associate’s degree; however, many agencies are now requiring a bachelor’s degree such as criminal justice, environmental sciences or biology. The officer needs to be familiar with state and federal statutes and posses the ability to perform the duties of a sworn law enforcement officer as well as the ability to conduct public presentations. Because these careers are mainly outdoors, they can be very physically demanding. Therefore, most agencies also require conservation officers be in peak physical condition. Contact your state’s department of fish and game to understand qualifications.

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Conservation Officer Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the approximately 6,850 fish and game warden employed in the United States earn an average annual wage of $44,540 in 2012.1

Conservation Officer Career Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t provide job projections for fish and game warden. Employment opportunities will depend on government budgets at the local and federal level and vacancies from retirements or other reasons.

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1. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/oes/2003/may/oes333031.htm

Page Edited by Charles Sipe.