Fish and Game Wardens
Education and Training Requirements
It is advisable for high school students interested in a career in this field to take courses in biology, environmental science, and other science subjects; geography; mathematics; social studies; and physical education. Look for cooperative programs that are available at some high schools and colleges; these programs allow you to study as well as work in programs at refuges and other facilities—and in some cases, get paid for some of the hours you work at the facility.
All positions in this category require a bachelor's degree or three years of work-related experience. Higher positions require at least one year of graduate studies; as you move up the scale to increasingly professional positions, master's or even doctoral degrees become mandatory.
Specialized positions require advanced education or training. For example, all biology-related positions require a bachelor's degree in biology or natural resources management, or a combination of education and experience equivalent to a degree that includes an appropriate number of semester hours in biological science. Special agents with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife service need at least a bachelor's degree in wildlife management, criminal justice, or other related fields. Visit http://www.fws.gov/humancapital and http://www.fws.gov/le/careers.html for an overview of educational requirements for various positions in the service.
Additional on-the-job training is given for most positions. Natural resource managers and related professionals receive training at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Special agents receive 20 weeks of formal training in criminal investigative and wildlife law enforcement techniques at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia. They also complete a 44-week Field Training and Evaluation Program, in which they work closely with experienced training officers to develop their investigative skills and increase their knowledge of wildlife laws. Wildlife inspectors complete an eight-week basic training program at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia, and also participate in on-the-job training. In addition, the service typically requires its employees to receive 40 hours of training each year.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
Because fish and game wardens serve as law enforcement officers, familiarity with firearms is necessary and certification as a police officer may be required, depending on the state of employment. Passing a civil service examination may also be required.
Some positions have physical fitness and ability requirements, so you must undergo a battery of physical tests. To qualify for a special agent position, you must meet strict medical, physical, and psychological requirements. You must also participate in mandatory drug testing and psychological screening programs. Possessing a valid driver's license is required.
Only the most highly qualified candidates will be interviewed for special agent positions. Those chosen undergo extensive background investigations to determine suitability for appointment. All U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service special agent appointees must be citizens of the United States and between 21 and 36 years of age when entering. Additionally, you must sign a mobility agreement, which indicates a willingness to accept a reassignment to any location in the future.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Prior experience in law enforcement, the military, or in related environmental law enforcement jobs may provide an advantage in the job search.
Important traits for successful fish and game wardens include a love for the outdoors and protecting the natural world, physical fitness, and strong leadership ability. It is important to bear in mind that fish and game wardens don't just work with fish and game. They spend a lot of time working with other officials and with members of the general public. Therefore, they must have good communication skills and enjoy working with people as much as caring for and protecting animals.