What Does a Wildlife Conservation Officer Do?

Research what it takes to become a wildlife conservation officer. Learn about job duties, typical education needed, and potential salary 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 Does a Wildlife Conservation Officer Do?

Wildlife conservation officers, also known as game wardens, enforce fishing and hunting laws, protect indigenous wildlife and direct wildlife programs. They need to have a good knowledge of national and local hunting laws and procedures and a general understanding of environmental conservation science. They may work with private entities such as companies or governmental organizations in order to negotiate safe and sustainable land use. They may also be commonly found working in national parks or on nature reserves.

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

Education Required Associate's degree at minimum
Training Required Peace officer academy training may be required
Field of Study Forest and wildlife ecology; earth science; criminal investigation
Key Responsibilities Patrol designated public lands; enforce game laws; investigate and prevent criminal activity within public areas
Job Growth (2018-2028) 3%* (all conservation scientists and foresters)
Median Salary (2019) $41,547** (conservation officers)

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

What Job Responsibilities Could I Have as a Wildlife Conservation Officer?

Wildlife conservation officers ensure that hunting, fishing and gaming laws are obeyed. Depending on the territory you're assigned to work, you might patrol lakes and wetlands or enforce hunting areas. You may work in state parks or in commercial and recreation spots. To get around, you may utilize cars, horses, boats or airplanes to patrol your assigned areas.

In some cases, you'll have the authority to issue warrants and citations, and to arrest individuals who violate fish and game regulations as well as federal and local laws. For example, you might take individuals into custody who were boating or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, illegally hunting wildlife or violating traffic laws. You may be required to investigate hunting accidents and claims of hunting or fishing violations. Other responsibilities may include protecting ecosystems and plants, participating in search and rescue missions and studying wildlife habitats.

What Do I Need to Study?

High school coursework that may help you prepare for a career as a wildlife conservation officer are biology, natural resources, computer applications, chemistry, algebra and environmental science. At the minimum, you'll need to obtain an associate's degree in wildlife management, wildlife law enforcement or environmental science.

These degree programs allow you to study topics such as applied chemicals, wildlife botany, wildlife law and policy, fishery management and wildlife management techniques. Some of the wildlife law enforcement programs you may take include criminal investigation, forest skills, report writing, criminal evidence procedures, park ranger training and wildland recreation management.

You may also be required to take environmental science courses such as forest ecology, wildlife ecology, rivers and streams and earth science. Upon completion of your educational training, you may need to enroll in a peace officer academy and complete training to obtain your law enforcement certification.

How Much Could I Earn?

According to PayScale.com, conservation officers earned between $33,000 and $60,000 in November 2019, with a median salary of $41,547. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports federal fish and game wardens earned average annual salaries of $59,260 in May 2018 (www.bls.gov). Those who worked for state government earned wages of about $60,620.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you enjoy working with wildlife, you may also want to consider becoming a zoologist or wildlife biologist. Open to those in possession of a bachelor's degree, these positions involve studying animals in their natural environment and may require a lot of fieldwork or travelling. Alternatively, you could become a veterinary technician, aiding the veterinarian in their treatment of domestic or wild animals. Although some veterinary technicians have a bachelor's degree, some colleges offer associate's degree programs that provide sufficient training for this position.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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