Fish and game wardens, also known as wildlife officers, protect wildlife by enforcing fishing, hunting and boating laws, including licensure requirements. Specific state requirements vary, but becoming a game warden generally requires at least two years of college, field experience in national parks or other wildlife settings, a physical exam, a background check and successful completion of a training academy program.
In 2007, about 7,500 people were employed as game wardens, and 87% of these were on the state government level. South Dakota, Montana, Maine, Idaho and West Virginia employ the highest concentration of game wardens in the country. Other employers include local governments and the federal executive branch.
To become a game warden, an associate or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or wildlife management is encouraged.Online degree programs abound in these two areas of study and preparation can start as early as high school with courses in animal science and wildlife. Students can also perform internships, attend field trips or shadow workers of wildlife-related careers. Note that some states accept field work in place of a degree, so experience in wildlife settings is always a positive.
Game wardens are responsible for protecting wildlife through the enforcement of gaming, hunting and boating laws. Not surprisingly, game wardens spend a lot of time outdoors patrolling wildlife areas such as lakes, rivers and forests, but that’s not their only duty. Other jobs of the game warden include:
Game wardens carry a firearm, thus there is an importance placed on law enforcement education and criminal justice. They may also be promoted within the traditional law enforcement hierarchy including positions from detective, sergeant and lieutenant to captain, deputy chief and chief.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the middle 50 percent of game wardens earned between $37,180 and $60,390 in 2007, with a median salary of $47,830. The highest paying states were Maryland, Washington, Nevada, South Carolina and Colorado.
Job growth is expected to be modest for game wardens as there are considerably more applicants than available positions. This is all the more reason to get an online degree to boost qualifications.