A Department of National Resources officer is responsible for protecting and monitoring natural resources, enforcing recreational safety and environmental protection laws, compiling data and guarding fish and wildlife populations. DNR officers are also known as wildlife conservation officers or fish and game wardens, and are sworn police officers responsible for all aspects of law enforcement, including rules and regulations designed to protect natural resources. Requirements for these positions vary by state, so if you want to become a DNR officer, check first with the DNR division in your state to find out about specific requirements.
Complete any educational requirements, as defined by your state. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most states set two years of college as the educational minimum. Your education could incorporate courses in communication; criminal justice; computer science; environmental technology or engineering; freshwater, physical, marine or animal sciences; forestry; conservation; soils; mapping; hydrology; and botany. Military or police work experience as well as bilingual skills also are a plus.
Pursue the required work experience. Some states mandate that applicants have one year’s experience as a police officer before applying. Other states accept applicants who pass initial screening into their officer training programs; the applicants then fulfill course requirements to obtain officer certification. Also check with your state's DNR department about possible internships. These short-term, temporary positions offer experience working under the direction of a DNR officer.
Apply directly to your state DNR department once you have acquired the necessary education and experience. If you are pursuing a four-year degree, some states allow you to apply once you have completed two years of your program.
Pass all necessary exams required by your state. Some states require that you take a Civil Service exam administered by the Department of Civil Service. Applicants are ranked according to their exam score, with appointment eligibility governed by experience, education and score. In addition, you may have to pass an oral exam, background check and a medical, physical and/or psychological exam.
Complete a three- to 12-month training regimen if you are accepted into the DNR program. Recruits can expect to undergo an intense, mentally and physically challenging training program that will include community relations, firearms, communication and criminal law instruction. Part of your training might include completing temporary field assignments under the supervision of a DNR officer.
Bid on an available work area once you have successfully completed the DNR training program. You also might be assigned a work location. This potentially could be anywhere within your state, so you must be willing to relocate.
Tips & Warnings
- You can obtain study aids for the Civil Service exam at your library to help improve your final score.
- You must be a U.S. citizen to secure this position.
- Felony convictions and other criminal convictions, including alcohol-related violations, may invalidate your application.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook--Police and Detectives
- Minnesota Department of Natural Resources: Conservation Officer
- Michigan Department of Natural Resources & Environment: About Conservation Officers
- New York State Department of Environmental Conservation: Environmental Conservation Officer
- Photo Credit garden warden image by Pierrette Guertin from Fotolia.com
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