How Much Does a Conservation Officer Make?

Research what it takes to become conservation officer. Learn about job responsibilities, education, and potential salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Natural Resources & Conservation degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Conservation Officer?

Conservation officers are law enforcement professionals who enforce laws that protect natural resources and wildlife in forests, wetlands and state parks. They issue permits to hunters and fishermen, and they may check the licenses of those they encounter in order to prevent poaching. They may also help in educating the public about conservation by answering individual questions and giving presentations to groups. Depending on where they work, they may also have administrative duties, such as budget management.

The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Education Required High school diploma at a minimum; bachelor's degree (for federal positions)
Key Responsibilities Patrol designated area, enforce game laws, prevent criminal activity on public lands
Certification Certification as a peace officer may be required in some states
Job Growth (2018-2028) 2%* (fish and game wardens)
Median Salary (2019) $52,080** (conservation program officers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

Conservation Officer Job Responsibilities

Conservation officers often work for local, state and federal government agencies. Typical job duties may include patrolling designated grounds, preventing criminal activity and enforcing hunting and fishing laws. You may also be in charge of ensuring that hunters, trappers and fishermen have the appropriate licenses. Many conservation officers are licensed to carry firearms.

What Education Do I Need?

Much of the training you'll need will take place on the job. Employers may hire applicants who've earned at least a high school diploma. In some cases, completion of an associate's or bachelor's program with coursework in criminal justice, forestry and resource conservation might be required.

You may also need to become certified as a peace officer by the state in which you work; requirements for certification vary from state to state. For example, aspiring conservation officers in Michigan attend a 22-week police academy program before earning licensure as peace officers. In Minnesota, you'll need to earn a bachelor's degree in criminal justice through a peace officer education program; these programs are offered through community colleges as well as universities. Successful completion of a licensure exam is required in both Michigan and Minnesota.

What Can I Expect To Earn? estimated that as of September 2019 conservation program officers in the 10th-90th percentile range made between $28,000 and $72,000 per year, with the median salary being $52,080. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources notes that, as of 2017, conservation officers earned an annual salary between $53,787 and $70,929 ( According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, newly hired conservation officers made an annual wage of $53,304 as of February 2015, with salary increases awarded for experience and completion of additional training (

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for fish and game wardens was $57,710 in 2018 ( The lowest paid ten percent of fish and game wardens earned about $40,090 per year; the upper ten percent made $80,140 or more during the same time.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in a law enforcement career, you could also consider becoming a police officer. Instead of just enforcing conservation-related laws, you might enforce laws related but not limited to traffic, drugs or fraud. You could also take part in crime scene investigations and testify in court. Aspiring police officers must have a high school diploma and graduate from a training academy. You might also be interested in a job as an occupational health and safety technician. In this job, you would work under the supervision of an occupational health and safety specialist to inspect workplaces for regulatory noncompliance and conditions that compromise the health and safety of workers, consumers or the environment as a whole. The minimum educational requirement for this job is a high school diploma.

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