How to Become a Fish and Game Warden in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a fish and game warden. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average salary and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Environmental & Social Sustainability degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Fish and Game Warden?

As a fish and game warden, you'll be responsible for upholding both state and federal laws that protect wildlife. Tasks could include public education and outreach, investigating and reporting violations, and coordinating hunting and other programs. Working at the interface of human and wildlife activity, and managing the relationship between them, is a critical part of this job. Therefore, it's important to enjoy both.

Fish and game wardens typically work in one geographic area, but this could include both rural and urban land. As a specific type of police officer, you'd be required to carry and use firearms, and patrol either alone or in groups on foot, horseback, boat, or any other type of vehicle. The following chart gives you an overview about a career as a fish and game warden.

Degree Required Associate degree
Training Required Training provided by agency may be required
Education Field of Study Biology, natural resources management, wildlife management, conservation, criminal justice
Key Responsibilities Enforce boating, fish and game laws; investigate violations of these laws; patrol designated wildlife areas; verify hunters and fishermen have licenses; conduct search and rescue operations
Job Growth (2014-2024) 2%*
Median Salary (2015) $52,780*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do Fish and Game Wardens Do?

As a fish and game warden, you'll act as a police officer who makes sure that state and federal regulations are enacted to protect fish, wildlife and their environment. This may involve patrolling wildlife areas to make certain that nobody is breaking the law, issuing citations and making arrests. You'll also issue hunting and fishing licenses and help landowners enact preventative measures. You may study the health and migration of wildlife and report any changes or issues to the government. Essentially, your job duties involve any tasks which help to protect wildlife and ensure the humane trapping and hunting of animals and fish.

Step 1: Research the Career Outlook

If you want to become a fish and game warden, you'll want to understand the job prospects for this career. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), fish and game warden employment opportunities were expected to increase by two percent between 2014 and 2024 ( This provides only an additional 100 positions added to the national employment of fish and game wardens. Also, the BLS stated that as of May 2015, fish and game wardens made a median annual salary of $52,780. The top five paying states for fish and game wardens were Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, California and Tennessee.

Step 2: Finish High School

During high school you can research and prepare for this career through taking natural science courses, such as biology, chemistry and environmental science. Electives in computer science, math, physical education and criminal justice may also be beneficial. You may also gain insight into the career through shadowing a fish and game warden.

Step 3: Earn a Degree

The BLS stated that most states require fish and game wardens to have at least a college degree. You may consider an associate degree program in biology, criminal justice, wildlife management, ecology, conservation biology or fisheries conservation. Some college programs also offer a law enforcement track in conservation programs, which would be acceptable training for a position as a fish and game warden.

Step 4: Find Entry-Level Employment

In order to become a Fish and Game Warden, you would usually need to start in an entry-level position within the state's fish and game, natural resources or wildlife department. To qualify for a position, you may undergo written and physical testing. After being accepted into a position, you may complete a training program focusing on the law enforcement principles and procedures of the job.

Step 5: Become a Fish and Game Warden

Upon successful completion of any required training and working within the department for a minimum number of years, you may qualify to advance to the position of fish and game warden. Promotions are competitive and based upon experience, performance and written and verbal examinations. You will also likely undergo drug testing. Additional education may be required in some states, such as completion of a bachelor's degree program.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

While fish and game wardens fill a specific career niche, there are a number of other careers that offer similar lifestyles and training requirements. An example is working as an emergency medical technician (EMT). While this strictly involves caring for sick or injured human patients in emergency situations, it requires shift work, patrolling, and quick response to calls. Another good option is to work as a gaming surveillance officer, protecting against illegal activity such as poaching, vandalism, and trespassing.

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