States rely on trained and deputized fish and game wardens in order to protect natural resources within their states. It’s work for people who think the outdoors is serious fun. A fish and game warden is a highly trained professional. Their training prepares them for the important and difficult work of making rules and regulations that protect natural resources and enforcing those rules effectively.
A fish and game warden is a representative of the state that protects natural resources on behalf of the public. Many of them spend a significant amount of time outdoors. They also become experts in hunting and fishing and the regulations necessary to make these activities safe and protect the fish and wildlife population in the process.
What does a fish and game warden do?
A fish and game warden is a member of a team that works to create and enforce rules. These rules are calculated to protect the population of wild animals. The rules make hunting and fishing fair for everyone. They usually create a licensing program for individuals who want to hunt and fish including restrictions on the number of animals that a hunter can take in a day or season.
The work of a warden might focus on creating the rules. In that case, they must know a great deal about the science behind why certain rules are necessary and others are not. They must also know how to make rules that are going to be effective.
Other wardens focus on enforcing the rules. They might spend significant time in the field monitoring activity and looking for violations. They become experts in knowing the rules and knowing how to enforce them in an effective way.
Steps to becoming a fish and game warden
- Step 1 – Finish your high school education
- Step 2 – Consider getting advanced training
- Step 3 – Review the qualifications and requirements for the state where you want to work
- Step 4 – Become comfortable with firearms
- Step 5 – Become comfortable with hunting and fishing
- Step 6 – Apply for jobs
- Step 7 – Pass a physical fitness exam
Step 1 – Finish your high school education
Each state sets their own requirements for becoming a fish and game warden. However, in all cases, you must finish high school. Fish and game wardens need basic reading and writing skills. They have to be able to read and understand rules. They have to draft incident reports.
You’ll also need to use basic math in your daily work. When you’re a fish and game warden, you’ll use the communication skills that you learn in high school in order to interact with the public in an effective manner. That’s why all states require a high school education at a minimum in order to become a fish and game warden.
Step 2 – Consider getting advanced training
Even though you might be able to apply for a position as a fish and game warden with just a high school education, the most competitive applicants will have advanced training. Employers are looking for advanced education in the fields that are most applicable to the work you’ll do on a daily basis. Biology majors and natural resources and conservation majors may have a leg up in the application process. Law enforcement training is another possible education choice.
There are other, related courses that can be helpful for training to become a fish and game warden. A writing class and a public speaking class will help you hone your communication skills. Math skills are important too. Think about the skills you’ll need each day to do the work, and plan your higher education accordingly.
Step 3 – Review the qualifications and requirements for the states where you want to work
Every state creates their own rules to become a fish and game warden. They might have minimum education requirements beyond a high school education. Your criminal history might be relevant to meeting minimum requirements.
Most states also have a minimum age requirement. You should review the requirements for the state where you plan to work. If you’re not sure where you want to work, review the requirements for several states before you begin taking steps towards your career. You may have to attend a formal training that’s specific to your employer.
Step 4 – Become comfortable with firearms
A lot of what fish and game wardens do relates to knowing and enforcing hunting rules. This includes when you may have a gun, when it can be loaded, and where you can use a gun for hunting. If you’re going to succeed in your career as a fish and game warden, you must be comfortable with firearms.
You should be comfortable using the guns most commonly used for hunting. You must know them and know how to identify them. It’s common for wardens to have used firearms since a young age and be very comfortable with them by the time they’re ready to work as a professional.
Step 5 – Become comfortable with hunting and fishing
Many fish and game wardens grow up enjoying hunting and fishing. To enforce the rules well, you should be comfortable hunting and fishing yourself. Most fish and game wardens are hunting and fishing enthusiasts. A career as a fish and game warden is a natural extension for serious hunting and fishing enthusiasts. Enjoying these activities yourself is a great way to understand how things look from the perspective of the members of the public who must follow the rules.
Step 6 – Apply for jobs
When you’ve met the minimum qualifications, it’s time to apply for your job. Because you’re likely to work for the state in a position of public trust, your application likely requires you to submit significant documentation. You may have to submit official school transcripts, your criminal history or even fingerprints. Expect the hiring process to take a significant amount of time as the state works to verify your information.
Step 7 – Take and pass your physical fitness exam
The job of a fish and game warden is physical. You have to be fit to do the job. A fish and game warden needs the same levels of fitness that a law enforcement officer or corrections officer needs. In most cases, you’ll need to prove your physical fitness by taking a fitness test. You might need to run, do crunches, climb stairs and prove that you can move heavy objects.
Work environment for a fish and game warden
Fish and game wardens spend a great deal of time outside. Most wardens are boots on the ground, outdoor enforcement officers. They travel around to public property where people hunt and fish. They observe the public to find violations, and they also respond to complaints about activities.
As a warden, you can expect to spend a significant amount of time interacting with the public. You conduct investigations for violations of rules and laws just like other members of law enforcement. Some of your investigations might involve a minor incident. Other complaints might consist of long investigations into organized, criminal enterprises. Fish and game wardens often find themselves a part of the war on drugs when they find individuals using or even growing illegal drugs.
While most wardens spend their time in the field, there are management positions that focus on assigning personnel to their posts and providing oversight and leadership. Leaders play a role in creating the rules and official policy throughout the department. While leaders don’t spend as much time in the field, they perform important work ensuring that their department conducts fair and uniform enforcement throughout the state.
Jobs for a fish and game warden
A fish and game warden usually works for a state government. They’re typically part of their state’s Department of Natural Resources. There are also wardens that work for the federal government as part of the national parks. While there are a few conservation jobs in the private sector, a fish and game warden is almost always a government employee.
Key skills required for a fish and game warden
According to O*Net OnLine, a fish and game warden needs the following skills:
- Computer skills including typing, word processing and spreadsheets
- Law and government – You must know the rules for fish and game in your location
- Law enforcement – You must know how to protect your own safety and enforce laws effectively
- Customer service – A fish and game warden interacts with the public, and they must do so in an appropriate manner
- Speech clarity and communication – Whether you’re talking with a supervisor or a member of the public, you need to be able to communicate your message
- Patrol – You must observe for violations and compliance
- Good judgment – You have to make tough decisions and exercise discretion appropriately
How to choose a school to become a fish and game warden
You should choose a school that has a program of study that’s helpful to become a fish and game warden. You might also consider going to school in the state where you want to work. You should make sure your college or university has the major you want and that it’s appropriately accredited in order to be recognized when you apply for jobs.
Specialties as a fish and game warden
All fish and game wardens must know the state’s hunting and fishing rules in great detail. You never know what you might encounter on any given day at work, and you need to be prepared for every possibility. You might specialize in creating rules, policies and personnel management, but that likely comes after several years of enforcing laws in the field.
Job growth and career opportunities
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Texas employs the most fish and game wardens. They have about 470 officers. Most states employ between several dozen and several hundred wardens. If a state doesn’t formally have fish and game wardens, they might employ law enforcement officers in a similar capacity. Even though the numbers of fish and game wardens are small throughout the United States, and even though applications are competitive, it’s still an attainable and enjoyable career for individuals who meet the minimum qualifications.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics state the average salary for a fish and game warden is $51,730. Salaries range from $34,000 to $77,000. Your salary likely depends on your years of experience and your leadership within the hierarchy of your department. In addition to this salary, many fish and game wardens enjoy generous benefit packages. You might receive health insurance, paid vacations and even a generous retirement pension benefit.
Why become a fish and game warden
If you love hunting and fishing, becoming a fish and game warden is a good way to get paid for being in the great outdoors. You also get to spend your time performing the important work of helping a state preserve their natural resources. You can earn a living and perform an important service at the same time.