Minimum Qualifications for Game Wardens
Candidates seeking employment as a game warden must meet the minimum requirements set forth by the State, and be prepared for a series of written, physical, medical and psychological tests that will fully explore the candidate's ability to succeed on the job. The minimum requirements to become a game warden typically include:
- Must be a U.S. Citizen.
- Must be at least 21 years of age.
- Must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university in Wildlife Science, Environmental Science, Ecology, Wildlife Biology, Criminal Justice, Wildlife Management, or a closely related field.
- Must obtain or hold a valid drivers license.
- Must pass a full physical evaluation including a vision and hearing test, and have no disqualifying conditions, such as drug use.
- Must not have been convicted of a felony or any act of domestic abuse.
- Must pass physical fitness testing.
Candidates who meet the minimum qualifications and department criteria, are typically scheduled for a formal exam. The exam includes both written and oral components that cover a wide range of topics, including nature conservation, law enforcement, regional ecology and wildlife preservation. In addition to testing a candidate's specific field knowledge, questions will be administered to assess a candidate's critical thinking and problem solving skills. Exams are conducted by the state agency in charge of overseeing gaming regulation and wildlife and conservation efforts, such as the State Department of Wildlife, Department of Fish and Game or Department of Natural Resources.
Physical Fitness Test
Many of the daily tasks an officer will be asked to complete require physical strength and stamina, such as patrolling an assigned area on foot for several hours at a time, or lifting an injured animal or person. For this reason, all candidates for game warden and conservation officer positions must pass a physical strength and endurance test, in addition to a hearing and vision exam. The physical endurance test often requires candidates to run for an extended period of time (typically 1.5 miles), navigate an obstacle course (with push-up and sit-ups) and swim a predetermined distance.
Psychological Exam and Interview
Much like their counterparts in the police force, fish and game wardens undergo a comprehensive psychological fitness examination that seeks to evaluate a candidate's ability to perform their job duties. This typically involves a personal interview with a licensed psychologist and may include a senior officer from the department who is hiring. During the examination, the psychologist will investigate specific dimensions of the candidate's psychological profile, including:
- Attention to safety and impulse control.
- Ability to handle stress.
- Decision making and judgment skills.
- Interpersonal and communication skills.
- Ability to learn and problem solve.
The use of illegal or dangerous drugs may result in the immediate rejection of a candidate from the selection process. All applicants will be submitted to a drug screening (urinalysis) which will test for marijuana, narcotics and steroids (anabolic steroids have been deemed dangerous in many states). A short list of narcotics which will disqualify a candidate include: Heroin, PCP/Angel Dust, Cocaine/Crack, amphetamines, barbiturates, magic mushrooms, Hashish, LSD/Acid, and Peyote. Applicants will also be questioned about their use of prescription drugs, and may have their responses monitored by a polygraph machine to verify the truthfulness of their statements.
All applicants are expected to be of sound body and mind. To ensure that an applicant meets the prescribed standards for the job, all candidates will receive a full medical examination by a licensed, certified physician, and will be asked to submit a sample for blood and urine testing. During the medical examination, the physician will be looking for any conditions that may prevent an officer from completing their job duties, including heart abnormalities, chronic physical ailments or physical handicaps, and potentially dangerous health issues.
Post Hiring Training
Once you’re hired as a game warden, you will have to go through a warden law enforcement training program. This program, which is usually held at a police academy or other law enforcement training facility, will teach you how to properly handle, maintain, and use firearms. This is required in order to become a commissioned peace officer, which all game wardens are. This course will also instruct wardens in self-defense, state and federal law, arrest procedures, and basic first aid and CPR.
Wardens then go to a state training course for wardens. These courses vary in length depending on the state. Some may be as short as 8 weeks, while others may last upwards of 30 weeks. Some roll the law enforcement courses into this training, which is why they’re longer. The difference in length often depends on the requirements for peace officer certification, which are more rigorous in some states.
This training will instruct wardens on the region and state-specific regulations, needs, and requirements of all wardens. It will cover how to use different types of vehicles while on patrol, how to use different pieces of technology (GPS, digital cameras, etc.), and teach wardens how to handle dangerous animals. Wardens will learn how to identify poisonous plants and what to do when someone comes into contact with these plants, how to handle accidents, and more.
Again, the training requirements and the length of these courses varies by state and region. Those who are going into a federal game warden position will need to complete 20 weeks of training in wildlife law enforcement and criminal investigation. This training is done at the Federal Law Enforcement Agency located in Glynco, Georgia.
On the Job Training and Mentoring
Wardens also receive training on the job once they complete their training courses. A new warden will spend a good amount of time paired up with an experienced warden to learn about the area and their duties. This mentoring can last anywhere from three months to a year. Some new wardens will even rotate between different areas to learn from a number of different training officers.
Every area wardens patrol is going to be a little different, so new wardens aren’t expected to be able to jump right in on their own. In fact, wardens who transfer to a new area often spend at least a week with a veteran so they can learn how their new territory is unique and different.
Wardens will also learn how to collect information for various surveys and ecological studies, take digital photographs of areas, and more.
New federal wardens will need to complete a 44-week training and evaluation program. This program involves working with a number of different officers in wildlife law and investigation.
Specialized Training for Game Wardens
Some wardens may complete a number of different specialized training programs depending on their duties and location. Some may need specific instruction in one or more of the following areas:
- Boat operation and Water Rescue
- Wildlife and Fish Identification
- Aircraft Piloting
- Canine Tactical Operations
- SCUBA Certification and Training
- Survival Training
- Search and Rescue Training
- Forensic Data Retrieval and Preservation
- Communication and Education Training