Wildlife officers are primarily responsible for the enforcement of laws and regulations regarding fish and wildlife. However, in many jurisdictions, wildlife officers enforce other laws, often in conjunction with other law enforcement officials. The requirements to become a wildlife officer often correspond to the requirements to become a police officer, but wildlife officers also require skills and knowledge related to fish and animals.
The most basic educational requirement for a wildlife officer is the completion of a high school diploma or GED. A basic understanding of English, and in some areas Spanish, is important for wildlife officers to communicate effectively both orally and in writing with members of the public and others in law enforcement. States also require wildlife officers to obtain certification from a police academy or other state training facility. Some states require applicants to have this certification, while others require newly hired officers to complete the training within a prescribed time.
While some states only require wildlife officers to possess a high school diploma or GED, the requirement that officers have a college degree is becoming more common. Some states require that applicants possess an associate's degree, while others require a bachelor's degree. Because there is often keen competition for wildlife officer positions, wildlife agencies are more likely to hire applicants with a college degree regardless of the state’s specific educational requirement. A wildlife officer with a college degree can also advance more quickly in her career than an officer without a degree.
Courses of Study
There are a variety of academic fields that a prospective wildlife officer can study. Criminal justice, environmental science, biology, animal science and fish or natural resource management are examples of majors useful to wildlife officers. Most colleges and universities offer degrees in these majors. Regardless of major, a student who wants to become a wildlife officer should take courses in various related fields to gain a broad educational background.
Other Skills and Knowledge
In addition to formal education, there are a number of skills that are useful for a wildlife officer. Familiarity with the operation of four-wheel-drive vehicles, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), firearms, boats and other outdoor-related equipment makes applicants more attractive to wildlife agencies. Knowledge of hunting, trapping and fishing practices, regulations and equipment is also beneficial for wildlife officers. States also have physical fitness and health requirements for wildlife officers.