Fish & Game Warden Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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The average salary for a fish and game warden is around $53,000. Is it worth the education and training requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a fish and game warden is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Fish and Game Warden Career

Fish and game wardens work for state and federal wildlife agencies and are responsible for responding to hunting and boating accidents, arresting hunting violators and maintaining wildlife areas. Read the pros and cons of this career to decide if it's right for you.

Pros of Being a Fish and Game Warden
Minimum educational requirements (associate or bachelor's degree)*
Flexible job locations (jobs available in local and state agencies)*
Interacting with the public*
Working outdoors*

Cons of Being a Fish and Game Warden
Hazardous work conditions (rugged terrain and hazardous weather)*
Long hours (including nights, weekends and holidays)*
Low growth field (-2% to 2% growth predicted for 2012-2022)**
Extensive travel may be required*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net OnLine.

Job Descriptions, Salary and Career Info

As a fish and game warden, you're responsible for patrolling wildlife areas, such as forests or lakes. You will often patrol in cars and boats, although some game wardens may patrol state and federal wildlife areas on foot or by horse. You are responsible for preserving and protecting wildlife areas by serving warrants, making arrests, testing water levels and seizing unlawful equipment. Since the career requires dealing with rogue and wild animals, you may be subject to bites and scratches, or even life-threatening injuries.

Fish and game wardens cite violators of wildlife protection or safety laws and investigate infractions. They collect data or assist other law enforcement officers during investigations and legal proceedings. Wardens manage fish and game populations by restocking or managing habitats. They recommend revisions for current regulations and make presentations at sporting clubs and schools, training children and adults about wildlife conservation and hunting regulations. Additionally, fish and game wardens are responsible for responding to boating and hunting accidents and conducting search and rescue operations.

Job Growth and Salary

Due to budget restraints and cuts, there will be more competition for fish and game warden careers leading to fewer career opportunities. O*Net OnLine estimated little to no change in employment with -2% to 2% projected growth from 2012-2022. Fish and game wardens will find more opportunities in government positions. Additionally, average salaries for this career were $53,260 in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Education and Training Requirements

According to O*Net Online, about 74% of fish and game wardens have a bachelor's degree in a field such as fisheries science and management, natural resource management or wildlife management. However, actual educational requirements vary by state. Some organizations, such as the Texas Parks & Wildlife or federal agencies, require fish and game wardens to have a bachelor's degree, but this is not true for all local and state agencies. Sound judgment, honesty and integrity, as well as exceptional communication skills are also important for potential game wardens. Additional requirements that are important for game wardens include:

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Pass a background check
  • Be at least 21 years or older
  • Have knowledge of laws and regulations

What Employers Are Looking For

In addition to mental readiness, as a game warden you must also have physical readiness once you're hired. This typically requires the completion of a training academy program that can last up to a year. You'll learn how to use all terrain vehicles, handguns and evidence collection kits. The following are a few game warden job listings from February 2012 to provide you with information on the skills and experience required in the field.

  • A western state's fish and game department was seeking a wildlife habitat supervisor who can interact with local and state agencies, as well as monitor wildlife in local areas. Applicants must have been able to operate 4-wheel drive vehicles and boats.
  • The game and fish department of a northern state advertised for an upland game management technician with a bachelor's degree and the ability to fly airplanes.
  • The California government was seeking a game warden who would be able to pass the physical ability test and state examination.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Since careers in fisheries and wildlife deal with the use of operating and maneuvering a range of vehicles, prospective game wardens can increase their hiring potential by earning specific certifications or licensures, such as a forklift operation or pilot license. Additionally, depending on your location, a scuba diving license may also be beneficial. Being in excellent physical condition and possessing knowledge of firearms and firearm safety may also make you a more attractive candidate to potential employers.

Alternative Careers to Consider

If you want to protect and serve your country, but aren't particularly interested in working with wildlife, you could consider a career as a police officer. Police officers are responsible for patrolling the streets and catching offenders. They respond to accidents and are typically the first on the scene. Police officers earned a comparative average income of $55,000 in May 2010.

However, if you are more interested in working with wildlife than in enforcing the law, you can consider becoming a conservation scientist. Conservation scientists protect and manage natural resources by conducting soil surveys and protecting natural habitats. A conservation scientist typically holds a bachelor's degree in environmental science or rangeland management; however, the BLS notes that teachers and researcher requires a master's or doctoral degree. As a conservation scientist, you can earn an average wage of $63,000, stated the BLS in May 2011.

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