How to Become a Game Warden in Minnesota

Minnesota’s game wardens work for the state’s Department of Natural Resources and are known as conservation officers. These certified peace offers are often referred to as “The Thin Green Line” because they protect the state’s abundant natural resources, its outdoor recreational areas and the public.

While known as the “Land of 10,000 lakes,” Minnesota actually contains 11,842 natural lakes that are within the state or border it. In addition, Minnesota contains more than 8,100 fishable rivers that provide more shoreline than California, Florida, and Hawaii combined. Conservation officers in Minnesota protect these natural resources and outdoor recreational areas while also protecting the public.

The duties of a conservation officer include patrolling to protect fish and wildlife and Minnesota’s hunters and visitors, assessing damage or issues and trying to improve them, and collecting census data on wildlife. Most conservation officers are responsible for an area of the state or a whole county, and this makes the position both physically and mentally demanding.

Since the hiring process for conservation officers in Minnesota is highly competitive, applicants should have highly honed skill sets to improve their chances of being selected. The best applicants posses a high level of enthusiasm along with a strong interest in conservation and hunting and fishing.

Applicants who exceed the minimum qualifications are more likely to be chosen. Read further to discover to learn more about the role of conservation officers in Minnesota.

Minnesota Game Warden Eligibility Requirements

Conservation officers in Minnesota both love the outdoors and enjoy the practice of law enforcement. As accredited peace officers, Minnesota’s conservation officers can enforce all state laws.

In addition to acting as law enforcement agents by apprehending poachers and other criminals, these officers advocate for the Department of Natural Resources. They speak to schools and advocacy groups and offer hunting, firearms, and boating safety courses.

Applicants for conservation officer positions should study the minimum qualifications for conservation officers, so they can prepare themselves to meet the criteria.

Basic Job Qualifications for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website offers information on training, volunteer opportunities, and job positions. Eligibility criteria include:

Age: 21 years of age or older at the time of appointment

Citizenship: Proof of U.S. Citizenship or naturalization documents are required as well as proof of residency within the state

License: A valid Minnesota-issued driver’s license is required, with a ‘clean’ record

Military Service: A discharge "Under Honorable Conditions" is required for US military veterans

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. Candidates will be subject to mandatory drug screening.

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

  • Good moral character
  • Not been placed currently on court-ordered probation
  • Not been convicted of a felony or a crime involving moral laxity
  • Never convicted of a felony offense
  • No drug or alcohol addiction
  • Not been convicted of a crime 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

Meeting the Peace Officer Training Requirements

Applicants must:

  • Become certified as a Peace officer through POST
  • Complete basic police training in lieu of POST
  • Pass a general written exam

General Officer Training

  • 12 weeks of classroom studies and field work covering:
  • Firearms safety
  • Marksmanship
  • Minnesota hunting and fishing laws
  • Environmental law
  • Defensive tactics
  • Emergency vehicle operations
  • Physical fitness
  • Boat training/exiting a submerged vehicle

Field Training

Three months in the field partnered with a seasoned officer

Interview: Candidates will have a formal panel interview with senior officers and human resources personnel to evaluate experience and knowledge.

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 good corrected or uncorrected binocular vision, and have color vision consistent with the demands of a warden officer.

Physical Readiness Testing: The applicant must successfully complete a physical readiness test showing that he or she is able to complete performance in line with state minimum standards.

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

Ongoing Professional Development

Each officer is required to complete 50 hours of continuing education each year

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
  • Receptive, expressive and written skills in additional languages are an asset.
  • Knowledge of current principles and practices of habitat resources, law enforcement and wildlife management
  • 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
  • Remain committed to professional development
  • Effectively operate and negotiate a 4-wheel drive vehicle on rugged terrain
  • Effectively utilize boats, snowmobiles, and ATVs for patrol and pursuit
  • Effectively use firearms and train others on firearm usage and safety
  • Professional development or college courses in psychology, law enforcement, sociology, or natural resources management

Conservation Officer Salaries with the Minnesota DNR

Minnesota’s conservation officers earn salaries that are higher than what is typical for this profession in most other parts of the country. In addition to their base salaries, they are also eligible for seasonal overtime pay, and enjoy a substantial benefits package.

The Minnesota Management and Budget Office provides salary ranges for state conservation officer positions at various levels as calculated for fiscal year 2017.  Even the minimum salary for Minnesota’s conservation officers exceeds the national median for this profession:

  • Conservation Officers in general service: $53,787 - $70,929
  • Conservation Officers in specialized roles: $57,044 - $75,293
    • Community Liaison
    • Regular Training Officer
    • Water Research Specialist
  • Conservation Officer Unit Leader: $57,044 - $75,293
  • Conservation Officer Special Investigator: $59,383 - $78,279
  • Conservation Officer Pilot: $60,510 - $79,866


Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155-4040
Phone: (888) 646-6367

School Programs

ProgramPrograms Offered

Anoka-Ramsey Community College

11200 Mississippi Blvd. NW, Coon Rapids, MN 55433-3470
Phone: (763) 433-1100
  • Biology

Augsburg College

2211 Riverside Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55454
Phone: (612) 330-1000
  • Biology

Bemidji State University

1500 Birchmont Dr, Bemidji, MN 56601
Phone: (800) 475-2001
  • Wildlife and Wildlands Science and Management
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Bethany Lutheran College

700 Luther Dr, Mankato, MN 56001
Phone: (507) 344-7000
  • Biology

Bethel University

3900 Bethel Dr, Saint Paul, MN 55112
Phone: (651) 638-6400
  • Biology

Carleton College

One North College Street, Northfield, MN 55057-4001
Phone: (507) 222-4000
  • Biology

Central Lakes College-Brainerd

501 West College Drive, Brainerd, MN 56401-3900
Phone: (218) 855-8000
  • Natural Resources, Conservation
  • Natural Resource Recreation and Tourism
  • Natural Resources Law Enforcement and Protective Services
  • Conservation Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Century College

3300 Century Ave N, White Bear Lake, MN 55110
Phone: (651) 770-3200
  • Criminal Justice
  • Security and Protective Services

College of Saint Benedict

37 S. College Ave., Saint Joseph, MN 56374
Phone: (320) 363-5011
  • Biology

Concordia College at Moorhead

901 S 8th St, Moorhead, MN 56562
Phone: (218) 299-4200
  • Biology

Concordia University-Saint Paul

1282 Concordia Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55104-5494
Phone: (651) 641-8278
  • Biology
  • Law Enforcement Administration
  • Criminal Justice

Crown College

8700 College View Drive, Saint Bonifacius, MN 55375-9001
Phone: (952) 446-4100
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Gustavus Adolphus College

800 West College Avenue, Saint Peter, MN 56082-1498
Phone: (507) 933-8000
  • Biology

Hamline University

1536 Hewitt Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55104-1284
Phone: (651) 523-2800
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Inver Hills Community College

2500 80th St E, Inver Grove Heights, MN 55076-3224
Phone: (651) 450-3000
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Itasca Community College

1851 Hwy 169 East, Grand Rapids, MN 55744-3397
Phone: (218) 322-2300
  • Forest Resources Management
  • Forest Firefighting and Investigation

Leech Lake Tribal College

6945 Littlewolf Road NW, Cass Lake, MN 56633
Phone: (218) 335-4200
  • Forestry
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Macalester College

1600 Grand Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55105-1899
Phone: (651) 696-6000
  • Biology

Metropolitan State University

700 East Seventh Street, Saint Paul, MN 55106-5000
Phone: (651) 793-1212
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Minneapolis Community and Technical College

1501 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55403-1779
Phone: (612) 659-6000
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice
  • Security and Protective Services

Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical

1250 Homer Rd, Winona, MN 55987
Phone: (507) 453-2700
  • Criminal Justice

Minnesota State Community and Technical College

1414 College Way, Fergus Falls, MN 56537-1000
Phone: (218) 736-1500
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Minnesota State University Moorhead

1104 Seventh Avenue South, Moorhead, MN 56563
Phone: (800) 593-7246
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Minnesota State University-Mankato

South Rd and Ellis Ave, Mankato, MN 56001
Phone: (507) 389-1866
  • Biology
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Normandale Community College

9700 France Ave S, Bloomington, MN 55431-4399
Phone: (952) 358-8200
  • Criminal Justice

North Hennepin Community College

7411 85th Ave N, Brooklyn Park, MN 55445
Phone: (763) 424-0702
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Northland Community and Technical College

1101 Hwy One East, Thief River Falls, MN 56701
Phone: (218) 683-8800
  • Security and Protective Services

Northwestern Health Sciences University

2501 W 84th St, Bloomington, MN 55431
Phone: (952) 888-4777
  • Biology

Ridgewater College

2101 15th Ave NW, Willmar, MN 56201
Phone: (800) 722-1151
  • Biology

Rochester Community and Technical College

851 30th Ave SE, Rochester, MN 55904-4999
Phone: (507) 285-7210
  • Criminal Justice

Saint Cloud State University

720 Fourth Ave. South, Saint Cloud, MN 56301-4498
Phone: (320) 308-0121
  • Biology
  • Ecology
  • Law Enforcement Administration
  • Criminal Justice

Saint Johns University

2850 Abbey Plaza, Collegeville, MN 56321
Phone: (320) 363-2011
  • Biology

Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

700 Terrace Heights, Winona, MN 55987-1399
Phone: (507) 457-1600
  • Biology
  • Environmental Biology
  • Law Enforcement Administration

South Central College

1920 Lee Blvd, North Mankato, MN 56003-1920
Phone: (507) 389-7200
  • Biology

Southwest Minnesota State University

1501 State St, Marshall, MN 56258-5468
Phone: (507) 537-7678
  • Biology
  • Law Enforcement Administration

St Catherine University

2004 Randolph Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55105
Phone: (651) 690-6000
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

St Olaf College

1520 St Olaf Ave, Northfield, MN 55057-1098
Phone: (507) 786-2222
  • Biology

The College of Saint Scholastica

1200 Kenwood Ave, Duluth, MN 55811-4199
Phone: (218) 723-6000
  • Biology

University of Minnesota-Crookston

2900 University Ave, Crookston, MN 56716-5001
Phone: (800) 862-6466
  • Natural Resources, Conservation
  • Biology
  • Law Enforcement Administration

University of Minnesota-Duluth

515 Darland Administration Bldg, Duluth, MN 55812
Phone: (218) 726-8000
  • Biology

University of Minnesota-Morris

309 Behmler Hall, Morris, MN 56267
Phone: (320) 589-6035
  • Biology

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

100 Church Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455-0213
Phone: (612) 625-5000
  • Natural Resources Management and Policy
  • Fishing and Fisheries Sciences and Management
  • Wildlife and Wildlands Science and Management
  • Natural Resources and Conservation
  • Biology
  • Botany, Plant Biology
  • Microbiology
  • Ecology
  • Conservation Biology

University of Northwestern-St Paul

3003 Snelling Ave N, Saint Paul, MN 55113-1598
Phone: (651) 631-5100
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

University of St Thomas

2115 Summit Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55105-1078
Phone: (651) 962-5000
  • Biology
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Vermilion Community College

1900 East Camp Street, Ely, MN 55731
Phone: (218) 235-2100
  • Natural Resources, Conservation
  • Land Use Planning and Management or Development
  • Natural Resources Law Enforcement and Protective Services
  • Wildlife and Wildlands Science and Management

Winona State University

175 West Mark Street, Winona, MN 55987-5838
Phone: (507) 457-5000
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice