How to Become a Game Warden in New Mexico

Game wardens in New Mexico are known as conservation officers and are employed by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. These professionals are certified peace officers with a great deal of expertise in wildlife and fish management along with the investigation of wildlife crimes.

As peace officers, New Mexico’s conservation officers have the primary responsibility for enforcing conservation laws related to illegal hunting, fishing, trapping and harvesting. In addition to laws that govern game, fish, and outdoor recreation, these officers are also responsible for enforcing laws for off-highway vehicles, criminal trespass, negligent use of a firearm, and illegal dumping and littering.

Conservation officers also must be highly knowledgeable about New Mexico’s wildlife. This in itself is a challenge, since the state has habitats ranging from desert to alpine. The combination of wildlife expertise and law enforcement appeals to a lot of men and women, both those with a background in conservation and in law enforcement. Therefore, the competition for these positions can be fierce.

Candidates who understand the selection process, qualifications, and requirements of the New Mexico Department of Fish and Game are in the best position to showcase their qualifications. Read on to determine which qualifications are most helpful to game warden applicants in New Mexico.

New Mexico Game Warden Eligibility Requirements

Conservation officers in New Mexico both love working outdoors among the state’s fish and wildlife and enforcing the law to preserve the state’s variety of pristine habitats. In addition to their roles in law enforcement, these game wardens apply their knowledge to educate the public and mentor youth who are interested in conservation. They also collect census data on animal and bird populations.

Basic Job Qualifications for the New Mexico Department of Fish and Game

The New Mexico Department of Fish and Game website provides full details on what it takes to become a conservation officer. Eligibility criteria are shown below:

Age: 18 years of age or older at the time of academy training

Citizenship: Proof of U.S. citizenship or of permanent resident alien status for those who are eligible and have applied for citizenship. Must be a resident of the state at the time of appointment.

License: A valid New Mexico-issued driver’s license is required. Individuals must maintain a ‘good’ driving record

Military Service: Applicants who are former members of the United States military require ‘Under Honorable Conditions’ discharge documentation.

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 background check in order to continue the application process. Disqualifying elements include:

  • Multiple convictions or arrests within the past three years
  • Being in arrears on child support payments
  • Convicted of a felony in New Mexico or any other state;
  • Convicted of any offense in any state which would have been a felony if committed in New Mexico;
  • Failed urinalysis due to presence of drugs

Academic Credentials: High school diploma or its equivalent; a bachelor’s degree in one of the following areas: agriculture, animal sciences, ecology, biology, criminal justice, environmental science, forestry, range science, or wildlife enforcement or management.

Additional Requirements:

A background questionnaire

Law Enforcement Academy Training

Law Enforcement Academy in Santa Fe

The 21-week course certifies candidates as Peace Officers and readies them to continue the Wildlife Officer Application process. Training includes:

  • Criminal, civil, and court proceedings
  • Environment specific training
  • Best practices for traffic management and officer patrol
  • Firearms training
  • Trafficking enforcement
  • Additional Specific Training
  • Rookie School Training for 4 weeks
  • Firearms training for 2 weeks
  • Field training with a Training Officer for 1 year

Interview: Candidates will have a face-to-face panel interview during the later stages of the application process to assess general knowledge, abilities and skillsets

Medical Condition: The applicant must be examined by a licensed physician to ensure that they are in good health.

Hearing: The applicant must have unaided hearing adequate to perform all the essential duties and functions of a Warden

Vision: Visual acuity correctable to 20/20 in each eye. Normal binocular color vision with a full field of periphery is required. Applicants who have had surgery to improve vision may be required to submit additional information.

Physical Readiness: The applicant must be in sound physical condition and able to swim.

Applicants must successfully complete each component of the physical readiness testing.

Psychological Condition: Applicants will participate in a psychological assessment to determine overall indicators of mental health.

Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, and Desired Qualifications

  • Use and carry various firearms safely and effectively
  • Demonstrate an aptitude for collecting and preserving evidence, writing reports, and testifying in court.
  • Ability to promote and coordinate hunter education programs
  • Ability to collect and report information on the conditions of fish and wildlife and their habitat
  • Willingness to enthusiastically and professionally represent the agency at New Mexico schools and meetings of special interest groups
  • Ability to engage in minor mechanical work.
  • Ability to use professional level English grammar, spelling, punctuation, vocabulary, and composition; reading and comprehension
  • Ability to use foundational math skills including advanced arithmetic, payroll/accounts receivable, and estimation
  • Additional languages are an asset

Salaries for New Mexico’s Game & Fish Wardens

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that game & fish wardens in New Mexico earned an average salary of $42,990 ($20.67/hour) as of 2016.  Those with the most experience earned within the top 10%, making an average of $50,710 ($24.38/hour) that year.

The New Mexico State Personnel Office reported salary information for game & fish wardens in various specialized roles and different levels of authority as of 2017:

Game & Fish Warden B (Basic)

  • Minimum – $26,229 ($12.61/hour)
  • Midpoint – $35,944 ($17.28/hour)
  • Maximum – $45,656 ($21.95/hour)

Game & Fish Warden O (Operational)

  • Minimum – $28,766 ($13.83/hour)
  • Midpoint – $39,413 ($18.95/hour)
  • Maximum – $50,045 ($24.06/hour)

Game & Fish Warden A (Advanced)

  • Minimum – $31,782 ($15.28/hour)
  • Midpoint – $43,549 ($20.94/hour)
  • Maximum – $55,307 ($26.59/hour)

Game & Fish Warden Supervisor

  • Minimum – $35,381 ($17.01/hour)
  • Midpoint – $48,479 ($23.31/hour)
  • Maximum – $61,568 ($29.60)


New Mexio Department of Game and Fish

PO Box 25112
Santa Fe, NM 87507
Phone: (505) 476-8066

School Programs

ProgramPrograms Offered

Central New Mexico Community College

525 Buena Vista SE, Albuquerque, NM 87106
Phone: (505) 224-3000
  • Biology
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Eastern New Mexico University-Main Campus

1500 S Ave K, Portales, NM 88130
Phone: (575) 562-1011
  • Wildlife and Wildlands Science and Management
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell Campus

52 University Blvd, Roswell, NM 88202-6000
Phone: (575) 624-7000
  • Criminal Justice

Eastern New Mexico University-Ruidoso Campus

709 Mechem Dr, Ruidoso, NM 88345
Phone: (575) 257-2120
  • Natural Resources, Conservation
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Luna Community College

336 Luna Drive, Las Vegas, NM 87701
Phone: (505) 454-2500
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Mesalands Community College

911 S Tenth Street, Tucumcari, NM 88401-3352
Phone: (575) 461-4413
  • Law Enforcement Administration

New Mexico Highlands University

University Ave, Las Vegas, NM 87701
Phone: (505) 425-7511
  • Natural Resources Management and Policy
  • Forestry
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

801 Leroy Place, Socorro, NM 87801
Phone: (800) 428-8324
  • Biology

New Mexico State University-Alamogordo

2400 North Scenic Drive, Alamogordo, NM 88310
Phone: (575) 439-3600
  • Criminal Justice

New Mexico State University-Carlsbad

1500 University Dr, Carlsbad, NM 88220
Phone: (575) 234-9200
  • Criminal Justice

New Mexico State University-Dona Ana

2800 N. Sonoma Ranch Blvd., Las Cruces, NM 88011
Phone: (575) 527-7500
  • Criminal Justice

New Mexico State University-Grants

1500 N. Third Street, Grants, NM 87020
Phone: (505) 287-6678
  • Criminal Justice

New Mexico State University-Main Campus

2850 Weddell Street, Las Cruces, NM 88003-8001
Phone: (575) 646-0111
  • Wildlife and Wildlands Science and Management
  • Biology
  • Ecology
  • Criminal Justice

Northern New Mexico College

921 Paseo de Onate, Espanola, NM 87532
Phone: (505) 747-2100
  • Natural Resources, Conservation
  • Natural Resources Management and Policy
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

San Juan College

4601 College Blvd, Farmington, NM 87402-4699
Phone: (505) 326-3311
  • Natural Resources, Conservation
  • Biology

Santa Fe Community College

6401 Richards Ave, Santa Fe, NM 87508-4887
Phone: (505) 428-1000
  • Natural Resources, Conservation
  • Biology
  • Law Enforcement Administration
  • Criminal Justice

Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute

9169 Coors Blvd NW, Albuquerque, NM 87120-3101
Phone: (505) 346-2347
  • Natural Resources and Conservation

University of New Mexico-Gallup Campus

705 Gurley Ave., Gallup, NM 87301
Phone: (505) 863-7500
  • Criminal Justice

University of New Mexico-Main Campus

1700 Lomas Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87106
Phone: (505) 277-0111
  • Biology

University of New Mexico-Taos Campus

1157 County Road 110, Ranchos de Taos, NM 87557
Phone: (575) 737-6200
  • Criminal Justice

University of the Southwest

6610 North Lovington Hwy, Hobbs, NM 88240
Phone: (575) 392-6561
  • Biology
  • Environmental Biology

Western New Mexico University

1000 W. College Ave, Silver City, NM 88061
Phone: (505) 538-6336
  • Wildlife and Wildlands Science and Management
  • Biology
  • Botany, Plant Biology
  • Zoology and Animal Biology
  • Criminal Justice