Not every state requires a college degree for their game wardens, although many individuals have found a college degree has improved their job performance and given them an advantage over other candidates for the same position. Biology, Environmental Science and Criminal Justice are common degrees for game wardens. Game Wardens need to be in good physical shape and a U.S. citizen. Fish and wildlife experience, or law enforcement experience are a definite plus.
Most states require at least a high school diploma or GED and two years of college with 18 credit hours in biology, law enforcement, natural resources or similar areas such as marine biology or forestry. A four-year degree helps, as game warden positions are few in number and with many candidates. Game wardens spend as much time teaching about wildlife as they do enforcing game and fish laws.
Other helpful skills include basic computer aptitude and vehicle repair skills, because you are patrolling alone far from mechanical assistance. Also helpful is the ability to operate boats of various sizes and, in some states like Alaska, piloting small aircraft is a necessity. Wardens must be skilled in written and verbal communication skills, as you write legal reports and testify in court. Second languages come in handy in states such as California, Florida and Texas. Courses in sociology and psychology provide skills in understanding and relating to people.
Prospective wardens must pass a state exam that include principals of law enforcement and conservation, the ability to reason logically, and that state's fish and wildlife. They must also pass a physical endurance test and a physical exam. Once hired, candidates take a fish and game, law-enforcement training program. Federal game wardens are required to have a four-year degree in biology or criminal justice. Interest in hunting, fishing and the outdoors help candidates prepare for the career of game warden.
About 7500 fish and game warden positions exist in the U.S. in 2009, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Advancement is possible, moving from warden to detective to sergeant on up to chief. Experience as well as additional education helps advancement. Some wardens in the federal service work in airports and with other countries enforcing endangered species laws. Game wardens are commissioned peace officers in many states and provide assistance to other law enforcement agencies, particularly in states such as Alaska. Wardens enforce state and federal fish and wildlife codes as well as boating laws. In the process, they educate the public on how to enjoy the outdoors and ensure the safety of both people and wildlife.
- Photo Credit Andy Reynolds/Lifesize/Getty Images