Wildlife Officer: Job Description, Training & Salary

Discover how to become a wildlife officer. Learn about the job duties, training requirements, salary, and job outlook to determine if a career as a wildlife officer is right for you. Schools offering Environmental & Social Sustainability degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Wildlife officers are primarily responsible for guarding their assigned wildlife areas. This is done via patrol of the area on foot or by other means. Wildlife officers also have the authority to issue citations to those who are in violation of the law or outlined regulations. Thus, knowledge of local, state, and federal laws and regulations is required. Additionally, they conduct investigations into reported incidents as needed. Check out the table below for quick info on the requirements and responsibilities of this career.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Educational Field of Study Natural sciences, biology, criminal justice, or similar fields
Key Responsibilities Critical thinking skills, analytical skills, and communication skills
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 4% (fish and game wardens)
Median Salary (2017)* $56,410 (fish and game wardens)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Responsibilities of a Wildlife Officer?

Wildlife officers are responsible for protecting wildlife, plant or animal, via patrols in their designated areas. They ensure the public adheres to federal, state and local wildlife regulations and administer warnings or citations if outlined regulations are not obeyed. In the event of damage or injury to wildlife, wildlife officers are required to conduct investigations and compile evidence.

What Are the Educational Requirements?

Wildlife officers are generally expected to have obtained a bachelor's degree. It is usually acceptable for the four-year degree to be in a natural sciences field such as biology, criminal justice or a similar field. Wildlife officers are often required to participate in training courses mandated by their state. These programs can run anywhere between 3-12 months. Additional requirements include being a United States citizen, being at least 21 years of age and being able to pass a background check.

What Are the Skill Requirements?

Wildlife officers must possess a wide array of skills in order to perform their tasks. Communication skills are vital for communicating regulations and laws to the public and reporting information gathered in investigations. Strong reasoning and critical thinking skills would also prove to be useful as wildlife officers need to be able to process information and draw conclusions. Knowledge of laws, codes and public safety and security are also of great importance as they ensure wildlife officers are properly enforcing rules and protecting both the wildlife and the public.

How Much Can I Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median annual salary for fish and game wardens was $56,410 as of 2017. This stat is among employees who worked full-time. The top industry these officers worked in was government. Factors such as location, number of years worked and the budget of the specific agency can cause slight variations in salary in either direction. Those with advanced education and experience have the best prospects in this role.

What Is the Job Outlook?

According to the BLS, the projected job growth for fish and game wardens is 4% between 2016 and 2026. This growth rate is slower than average amongst all law enforcement officials and amongst all careers. However, those seeking a career as a wildlife officer should find little obstacles due to natural attrition and turnover, as well as current employees entering retirement which leaves room for new incomers.

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