If you have a passion for environmental conservation, a desire to work with wildlife, and the determination to overcome a diverse range of challenges, becoming a fish and game warden might be the right career for you.
Game wardens are responsible for enforcing environmental conservation laws within federal, state and local jurisdictions, acting as law enforcement officers who play a crucial role in environmental protection. If this aspect of environmental conservation appeals to you, you can begin your journey to become a game warden.
What Do Fish and Game Wardens Do?
When considering a career in law enforcement, most people think of police officers who are tasked with protecting people. But there are other officers who are responsible for protecting and conserving wildlife and natural resources.
These professionals have a varied set of responsibilities to accomplish that mission, but their main task is educating the public about natural resources and the role of the public in protecting them. They also investigate, track down and arrest poachers while on duty. They even execute search and rescue operations when people, such as hikers or campers, become lost or endangered in the wilderness.
It’s an exciting line of work, and no two days are alike. The daily responsibilities of a game warden will depend on the needs of their jurisdiction at any given time. In general, however, a game warden might do any of the following tasks:1
- Patrol forests, beaches, lakes, rivers, deserts and coastlines
- Investigate crimes committed against wildlife, such as poaching, and make arrests
- Protect wildlife and natural resources by enforcing laws pertaining to hunting, fishing and boating
- Develop educational programs about wildlife and present them to the public
- Protect the public from potentially dangerous wildlife, such as bears, coyotes and mountain lions
In addition, game wardens often contribute to researchers’ conservation efforts by compiling biological data. They also often assist with wildlife population management efforts and play a supporting role in conservation programs as well.
Requirements To Become a Game Warden
Before you can become a game warden, you’ll first need to determine whether you meet the minimum requirements. Every state establishes its own specific standards, so you’ll need to make sure you look at those in the state where you plan to work.
Although the basic requirements can vary, most states require game wardens to be at least 21 years of age. In addition, aspiring game wardens must generally:2
- Possess a valid driver’s license
- Pass a criminal background check
- Be in good physical condition
- Be a U.S. citizen at the time of the appointment
- Pass a vision and hearing test
- Pass a state licensing exam
In addition, aspiring game wardens must also meet the educational requirements for their state. It’s typical for states to require that game wardens successfully complete a professional training program in an academy setting, just as a police officer would.
What Education Do I Need To Become a Game Warden?
Education is essential to becoming a game warden. Higher education teaches important skills that all law enforcement officers need, such as critical thinking, solid communication skills, ethical servant leadership and a strong sense of professional ethics.
Students can learn these skills in many different degree programs, so this career doesn’t require a specific degree; however, there are some degrees that are particularly well-suited for aspiring game wardens. One such degree is a bachelor’s in justice studies. Along with learning intangibles such as professional responsibility, students will learn the fundamentals of the law, public policy, threat assessment and criminal procedures.
Although a justice studies degree will typically satisfy education requirements to become a game warden, it would also be a good idea to take classes in other subjects as well. Because these professionals work with wildlife, a minor in biology could serve you well. A game warden can benefit from knowing the basics of botany, wildlife biology and conservation management.
The Best Skills To Have as a Game Warden
While earning your justice studies degree, you’ll begin acquiring and refining the crucial skills that will help you to become an effective employee in your future career as a game warden. These skills include:
- Leadership skills: A game warden is expected to take charge in challenging situations. To be effective in this field, you must be able to calmly evaluate a situation and choose the most reasonable course of action based on the facts at hand.
- Professional ethics: All types of law enforcement officers must abide by a strict code of professional ethics and moral conduct. As a future game warden, the environment you patrol, the wildlife within it and the people affected by it will all rely on you to make ethical decisions.
- Communication and interpersonal skills: Although game wardens may spend most of their time outside in natural settings, they do interact with people, including colleagues, hunters, hikers and campers. It’s just as important to know how to actively listen as it is to know how to clearly communicate information.
- Physical stamina: The job of a game warden is an extremely active one. Since much of their time is spent on patrol, chasing down poachers or conducting search and rescue operations, they must be able to run, walk, swim and hike, often through difficult terrain. Good physical conditioning is important for these professionals.
As you can see, game wardens must be at the top of their game to do their job effectively. It’s a challenging yet rewarding line of work.
Where Do Game Wardens Work?
Game wardens are employed by government agencies to enforce federal, state and local regulations, but most work for state-level governments. Federal game wardens, however, are considered special agents and work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Although these professionals can be found in all states, the following states have the highest number of game wardens:2
- New York
Game wardens spend some of their time in an office setting, primarily managing their paperwork and filing reports. They also typically spend some time in courthouses testifying for the conviction of poachers.
For the most part, however, you can find game wardens patrolling their assigned jurisdiction. They spend most of their time outdoors, surveying forests, mountains, coastal areas, lakes and other natural settings.
If you’re ready to begin your career as a game warden, Grand Canyon University offers various degrees in criminal justice to help you start your journey. These include a Bachelor of Science in Justice Studies a Bachelor of Arts in Government with an emphasis in State and Local Public Policy and a Bachelor of Science in Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Click Request Info at the top of your screen to begin exploring your future at GCU.
1GameWardenEDU.org, What is a Fish and Game Warden in May 2021
2All Criminal Justice Schools, Fish and Game Warden Careers in May 2021
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.