How to Become a Game Warden in Iowa

Eager game warden candidates in Iowa compete for the few job openings that become available each year. In order to ensure that they are the best match for the role, applicants should be passionate about fishing and wildlife advocacy as well as possess the ability educate the public, hunters, and fishermen on ways to help preserve our natural resources.  A warden's responsibilities might include issuing fishing and hunting licenses, making arrests for infractions, and data collection related to specie populations.  The jurisdiction of each game warden can vary, but often includes monitoring the natural resources of large protected wildlife regions within the state.

Competition for these jobs is fierce, with some applicants waiting for months in a pool of potential candidates before receiving an offer.  This makes it critical to understand what qualifications the hiring agencies are looking for.

Iowa Game Warden Eligibility Requirements

With both Iowa’s eastern and western borders formed entirely by rivers, the state is central to the American Heartland. As such, those individuals that enjoy working outdoors and who also have an interest in law enforcement would be ideal candidates for conservation officer jobs in the state.

Sometimes called game wardens, Iowa’s conservation officers are fully certified peace officers responsible for environmental protection of fisheries, wildlife, parks and forested lands. As peace officers, conservation officers have the authority to enforce any Iowa law at any time.

Deputized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Iowa’s conservation officers can cross state lines in pursuit of federal violators. For those who are motivated by justice, this career path has exciting opportunities for growth and advancement.

Conservation officers use education, presence, and enforcement action in order to manage the activities of hunters and fishers among their many other job responsibilities. This means the job is a challenging one and only the finest candidates are selected for hire. Listed below are the minimum qualifications to apply for the role of Conservation Officer in Iowa. Further information, videos and job postings can be found on Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources website:

Basic Qualifications for Jobs with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Age: 18 years of age or older is required at the time of appointment

Citizenship: Proof of U.S. citizenship or naturalization documents are required, as is proof of state residency

License: A valid Iowa-issued driver’s license is required.

Military Service: A discharge "Under Honorable Conditions" is required of any former member of the military

Work Eligibility: New employees must present original documents that establish identity and eligibility for U.S. employment opportunities as per federal law – applicants must be eligible to accept employment before the process continues

Background and Legal History: Applicants must pass an intensive fingerprint background check in order to continue the application process to ensure that candidates have:

  • No addictions to drugs or alcohol
  • Good moral character
  • Not currently been placed on court-ordered probation
  • Not been convicted of a felony or a crime involving moral turpitude
  • Never convicted of a felony offense
  • No record of domestic violence, misdemeanor or otherwise
  • Not been convicted of perjury or false statement
  • Never been discharged or resigned under threat of discharge from any law enforcement position

Academic Credentials: Completion of high school or GED is required

Additional Requirements:

  • Transcripts
  • Results of Initial Testing including Cognitive Survey, Writing ability assessment, Vocational interest inventory exam, Personality Profile Application Process and Screening

Interview: Candidates will have a panel interview with enforcement officers designed to evaluate experience and knowledge in the areas of hunting, fishing, boating and related outdoor activities. Officers will evaluate appearance, demeanor, verbal skills and ability to make ethical judgment at this time and throughout the hiring process

Polygraph Test: A series of questions detailing past experience with substance abuse and criminal activity.

Medical Evaluation and Physical Readiness

Medical evaluation: The candidate will be evaluated by a medical professional to ensure that he or she is in satisfactory health.

Hearing: The applicant must be able to demonstrate good hearing with or without hearing aids

Vision: The applicant must have better than 20/100 uncorrected vision with both eyes, corrected to 20/20, and have color vision consistent with the demands of the job.

Physical Readiness: The applicant must successfully complete a physical readiness test showing that he or she is able to complete performance as shown on the state’s minimal physical fitness performance requirements chart, consisting of:

  • Sit and Reach
  • Sit-ups
  • Push-ups
  • 1.5 mile run

Psychological Condition: The applicant must be in suitable psychological and emotional health according to medical criteria

Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, and Desired Qualifications

  • Demonstrate effective use of English including both written and oral formats.
  • Demonstrate effective use of mathematics including advanced arithmetic, basic accounting, estimating, and data collection
  • Demonstrated bilingualism is an asset.
  • Computer spreadsheet, word processing, email, GIS, and database knowledge in a networked environment is required; the state uses proprietary programs for training and information delivery
  • Establish and maintain effective interpersonal relationships within and outside of the department
  • Effectively utilize boats, snowmobiles, and ATVs for patrol and pursuit
  • Effectively use firearms and train others on firearm usage and safety
  • Professional development criminal justice, biology, fish and wildlife management
  • A history of volunteer or paid participation in outdoor recreation
  • Basic knowledge of the principles of fish and game management;
  • Basic knowledge of the principles of nature conservations;
  • High moral character, demonstrating integrity and honesty;
  • Excellent communication skills, including the ability to deal with members of the public in a courteous manner
  • Ability to work without supervision

Salaries for Conservation Officers with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Iowa Workforce Development reported that the median salary among conservation officers was $62,303 as of 2016. This salary exceeds the national average for game wardens by more than 20%. Entry-level game wardens earned $48,975 on average, while those in the top 10% averaged $71,193.

Game wardens who work for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources are known as conservation officers and are official peace officers for the state. The state’s Department of Administrative Services provides the minimum and maximum salaries for conservation officers in Iowa as of fiscal year 2017:

  • Annual: $48,006 - $72,155
  • Hourly: $23.08 - $36.11

Iowa Department of Natural Resources

502 East 9th Street, 4th Floor
Des Moines, IA 50319-0034
Phone: (515) 725-8200

School Programs

ProgramPrograms Offered

Briar Cliff University

3303 Rebecca Street, Sioux City, IA 51104
Phone: (712) 279-5321
  • Biology

Buena Vista University

610 W 4th St, Storm Lake, IA 50588
Phone: (712) 749-2400
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Central College

812 University, Pella, IA 50219
Phone: (877) 462-3687
  • Biology

Clarke University

1550 Clarke Dr, Dubuque, IA 52001-3198
Phone: (563) 588-6300
  • Biology

Coe College

1220 First Ave NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402-5092
Phone: (319) 399-8000
  • Biology

Cornell College

600 First St. SW, Mount Vernon, IA 52314-1098
Phone: (319) 895-4000
  • Biology

Dordt College

498 4th Ave NE, Sioux Center, IA 51250-1697
Phone: (712) 722-6000
  • Natural Resources Management and Policy
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Drake University

2507 University Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50311-4505
Phone: (515) 271-2011
  • Biology

Ellsworth Community College

1100 College Ave, Iowa Falls, IA 50126
Phone: (800) 322-9235
  • Natural Resources, Conservation
  • Fishing and Fisheries Sciences and Management

Graceland University-Lamoni

1 University Place, Lamoni, IA 50140
Phone: (641) 784-5000
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Grand View University

1200 Grandview Ave, Des Moines, IA 50316
Phone: (515) 263-2800
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Grinnell College

1121 Park Street, Grinnell, IA 50112-1690
Phone: (641) 269-4000
  • Biology

Hawkeye Community College

1501 E Orange Rd, Waterloo, IA 50701
Phone: (319) 296-2320
  • Natural Resources Management and Policy

Iowa State University

3410 Beardshear Hall, Ames, IA 50011-2030
Phone: (515) 294-5836
  • Fishing and Fisheries Sciences and Management
  • Forestry
  • Forest Sciences and Biology
  • Wildlife and Wildlands Science and Management
  • Biology
  • Microbiology
  • Ecology

Iowa Wesleyan College

601 N Main Street, Mount Pleasant, IA 52641
Phone: (319) 385-8021
  • Biology
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Kirkwood Community College

6301 Kirkwood Blvd SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52406-2068
Phone: (319) 398-5411
  • Natural Resources, Conservation

Loras College

1450 Alta Vista, Dubuque, IA 52004-0178
Phone: (563) 588-7100
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Luther College

700 College Drive, Decorah, IA 52101-1045
Phone: (563) 387-2000
  • Biology

Marshalltown Community College

3700 S Center St, Marshalltown, IA 50158
Phone: (641) 752-7106
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Morningside College

1501 Morningside Ave, Sioux City, IA 51106-1751
Phone: (712) 274-5000
  • Biology

Mount Mercy University

1330 Elmhurst Dr NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402-4797
Phone: (319) 363-8213
  • Natural Resources, Conservation
  • Natural Resources Law Enforcement and Protective Services
  • Biology
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Northwest Iowa Community College

603 W Park St, Sheldon, IA 51201
Phone: (712) 324-5061
  • Natural Resources, Conservation

Northwestern College

101 Seventh St SW, Orange City, IA 51041
Phone: (712) 707-7000
  • Biology
  • Environmental Biology

Saint Ambrose University

518 W Locust St, Davenport, IA 52803-2898
Phone: (563) 333-6000
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Simpson College

701 North C St, Indianola, IA 50125
Phone: (515) 961-6251 x1517
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

University of Dubuque

2000 University Ave, Dubuque, IA 52001
Phone: (563) 589-3000
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

University of Iowa

101 Jessup Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242-1316
Phone: (319) 335-3500
  • Biology
  • Botany, Plant Biology
  • Microbiology

University of Northern Iowa

1227 W 27th St, Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0005
Phone: (319) 273-2311
  • Biology
  • Microbiology
  • Ecology

Upper Iowa University

605 Washington St, Fayette, IA 52142-1857
Phone: (563) 425-5200
  • Natural Resources, Conservation
  • Biology
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Wartburg College

100 Wartburg Blvd., Waverly, IA 50677-0903
Phone: (319) 352-8200
  • Biology

William Penn University

201 Trueblood Ave, Oskaloosa, IA 52577
Phone: (641) 673-1001
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice