How to Become a Game Warden in Virginia

Virginia’s state game wardens work for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and are known as conservation police officers. The state is also home to Federal Wildlife Officers that work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Intercepting poachers is one of their key duties within the natural habitats that range from two inland national forests to the Atlantic coastline.

Conservation police officers in Virginia face everything from big game poachers in its forests to those who illegally harvest marine life. For example, harvesting undersized oysters is a particular problem in Virginia.

In addition to their law enforcement duties, Virginia’s conservation police officers analyze wildlife and habitats, assess habit damage and remediate it, and educate the public on conservation law and practices.

These range of duties make the job of a Virginia conservation police officer a challenging one. Still, there is stiff competition for available positions and the demand for these jobs outstrips the supply.

Applicants who have a thorough understanding of the requirements and application processes are better prepared to pass the hiring committee’s rigorous selection process. Read on to determine which qualifications will help potential game wardens gain employment in the field.

Virginia Game Warden Eligibility Requirements

Individuals with law enforcement expertise and a passion for the outdoors, fishing, or hunting make ideal candidates for Virginia’s conservation police officer jobs. With roles ranging from law enforcement to educating student groups about the value of conservation in Virginia, applicants should be prepared to demonstrate everything from strong communication skills to a basic knowledge of state law and arrest procedures.

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Job Qualifications

Additional information on the requirements to become a conservation police officer as well as job postings can be found on the website of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Age: 21 years of age or older at the time of academy entrance

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 Virginia-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 and urinalysis to complete the application process. You may be disqualified if you have been:

  • Convicted of a felony in Virginia or any other state;
  • Convicted of any offense in any state that would have been a felony if committed in Virginia;
  • Charged with a crime of domestic or sexual violence
  • Addicted to drugs or narcotics
  • Convicted of any offense which precludes you from carrying a firearm under State or federal law

Academic Credentials: High school diploma or GED is required; completion of two years of college with a major in biological sciences, police science or law enforcement, natural resources conservation, ecology or related fields. Candidates who wish to challenge the guideline with equivalent credentials may submit them for review.

Post Academy and Field Training

POST Training:

29 weeks of Basic Law Enforcement Academy which includes modules on foundational concepts in law enforcement

Field Training Program

  • 15 weeks with an experienced conservation officer. Modules include:
  • Firearms
  • Virginia State and federal laws
  • Emergency first aid
  • Swimming
  • Wildlife crime scene processing
  • Suspect arrest and detention
  • Patrol and pursuit maneuvers
  • Personal self -defense

Interview: Candidates will have a face-to-face panel interview during the later stages of the application process

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

Hearing: Candidates should have a ‘normal’ range of hearing and may be subject to a hearing test.

Vision: Vision corrected to 20/20 in each eye. Normal binocular color vision with no other conditions is required for the role; night vision must be ‘normal’. Candidates who have undergone corrective eye surgery to meet minimum visual standards may be required to submit additional information for review.

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 which may include:

  • Timed sit-ups
  • Push-ups to failure
  • Timed distance run
  • Timed sprint
  • Timed obstacle course
  • Tread water to failure
  • Timed lengths in a pool

Psychological Condition: The applicant must be in suitable psychological and emotional health to complete training and be eligible for hire

Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, and Desired Qualifications

  • Use and carry various firearms safely and effectively
  • Innovative, intuitive and engaging while on patrol by a variety of means.
  • 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 Virginia schools and meetings of special interest groups
  • Effectively operate and negotiate a vehicle on rough terrain
  • Professional development or college courses in natural resource management, criminology, psychology, business management or sciences
  • Ability to use word processing, spreadsheet, database and email software in a networked environment
  • Ability to use proprietary software
  • Mechanical aptitude and logical thinking.
  • 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
  • Casual or professional proficiency in additional languages is an asset

Conservation Police Officer Salaries

The US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median salary among conservation police officers in Virginia was $45,990 ($22.11/hour) as of 2016.  Officers here earned an overall average of $49,010 ($23.56/hour) that year, while those with the most experience earning within the top 10% earned an average of $64,790 ($31.15).

Conservation police officers in two of Virginia’s metropolitan areas were among the highest paid of any urban area in the country in 2016:

  • Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News– ($46,190-$57,210) 9th highest in the nation
  • Richmond – ($45,260-$65,230) 10th highest in the nation


Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

P.O. Box 90778
Henrico, VA 23228-0778
Phone: (804) 367-3443

School Programs

ProgramPrograms Offered

Averett University

420 W Main St, Danville, VA 24541
Phone: (434) 791-5600
  • Biology
  • Ecology
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Averett University-Non-Traditional Programs

420 W Main St, Danville, VA 24541
Phone: (800) 448-5233
  • Ecology
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Blue Ridge Community College

1 College Lane, Weyers Cave, VA 24486-0080
Phone: (540) 234-9261
  • Natural Resources, Conservation
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Bluefield College

3000 College Dr, Bluefield, VA 24605
Phone: (276) 326-3682
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Bridgewater College

402 E College St, Bridgewater, VA 22812-1599
Phone: (540) 828-8000
  • Biology

Central Virginia Community College

3506 Wards Rd, Lynchburg, VA 24502-2498
Phone: (434) 832-7600
  • Natural Resources, Conservation
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Christopher Newport University

1 Avenue of the Arts, Newport News, VA 23606-3072
Phone: (757) 594-7000
  • Biology

College of William and Mary

200 Richmond Road, Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
Phone: (757) 221-4000
  • Biology
  • Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography

Dabney S Lancaster Community College

1000 Dabney Drive, Clifton Forge, VA 24422-1000
Phone: (540) 863-2800
  • Natural Resources, Conservation
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Danville Community College

1008 S Main St, Danville, VA 24541-4004
Phone: (434) 797-2222
  • Natural Resources, Conservation
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Eastern Mennonite University

1200 Park Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22802-2462
Phone: (540) 432-4000
  • Biology

Eastern Virginia Medical School

700w. Olney, Norfolk, VA 23507
Phone: (757) 446-8422
  • Biology

Emory & Henry College

30461 Garnand Drive, Emory, VA 24327-0947
Phone: (276) 944-4121
  • Biology

Ferrum College

215 Ferrum Mountain Road, Ferrum, VA 24088-9000
Phone: (540) 365-2121
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

George Mason University

4400 University Dr, Fairfax, VA 22030-4444
Phone: (703) 993-1000
  • Biology
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Germanna Community College

2130 Germanna Hwy, Locust Grove, VA 22508-2102
Phone: (540) 423-9030
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Hampden-Sydney College

College Road, Hampden-Sydney, VA 23943-0128
Phone: (434) 223-6000
  • Biology

Hampton University

E Queen Street, Hampton, VA 23668-0099
Phone: (757) 727-5000
  • Biology
  • Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography
  • Law Enforcement Administration
  • Criminal Justice
  • Security and Protective Services

Hollins University

7916 Williamson Rd NW, Roanoke, VA 24020
Phone: (540) 362-6000
  • Biology

J Sargeant Reynolds Community College

1651 E Parham Road, Richmond, VA 23228-2327
Phone: (804) 371-3000
  • Law Enforcement Administration

James Madison University

800 South Main Street, Harrisonburg, VA 22807
Phone: (540) 568-6211
  • Biology

John Tyler Community College

13101 Jefferson Davis Hwy, Chester, VA 23831-5316
Phone: (804) 796-4000
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Liberty University

1971 University Blvd, Lynchburg, VA 24515
Phone: (434) 582-2000
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Longwood University

201 High St, Farmville, VA 23909
Phone: (434) 395-2000
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Lord Fairfax Community College

173 Skirmisher Lane, Middletown, VA 22645
Phone: (540) 868-7000
  • Natural Resources, Conservation
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Lynchburg College

1501 Lakeside Dr, Lynchburg, VA 24501-3113
Phone: (434) 544-8100
  • Natural Resources, Conservation
  • Biology

Mary Baldwin College

New & Frederick St, Staunton, VA 24401
Phone: (540) 887-7000
  • Biology

Marymount University

2807 N Glebe Rd, Arlington, VA 22207-4224
Phone: (703) 522-5600
  • Biology
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Mountain Empire Community College

3441 Mountain Empire Road, Big Stone Gap, VA 24219
Phone: (276) 523-2400
  • Natural Resources, Conservation
  • Law Enforcement Administration

New River Community College

5251 College Drive, Dublin, VA 24084-1127
Phone: (540) 674-3600
  • Natural Resources, Conservation
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Norfolk State University

700 Park Avenue, Norfolk, VA 23504-8000
Phone: (757) 823-8600
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Northern Virginia Community College

4001 Wakefield Chapel Rd, Annandale, VA 22003-3796
Phone: (703) 323-3000
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Old Dominion University

5115 Hampton Blvd, Norfolk, VA 23529
Phone: (757) 683-3000
  • Biology
  • Ecology

Patrick Henry Community College

645 Patriot Avenue, Martinsville, VA 24112
Phone: (276) 656-0311
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Paul D Camp Community College

100 N College Dr, Franklin, VA 23851
Phone: (757) 569-6700
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Piedmont Virginia Community College

501 College Drive, Charlottesville, VA 22902-7589
Phone: (434) 977-3900
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Radford University

801 East Main Street, Radford, VA 24142
Phone: (540) 831-5000
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Randolph College

2500 Rivermont Ave, Lynchburg, VA 24503-1555
Phone: (434) 947-8000
  • Biology

Randolph-Macon College

204 Henry St, Ashland, VA 23005-5505
Phone: (804) 752-7200
  • Biology

Rappahannock Community College

12745 College Drive, Glenns, VA 23149-2616
Phone: (804) 758-6700
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Regent University

1000 Regent University Dr, Virginia Beach, VA 23464
Phone: (757) 352-4127
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Roanoke College

221 College Lane, Salem, VA 24153-3794
Phone: (540) 375-2500
  • Natural Resources Management and Policy
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Shenandoah University

1460 University Dr, Winchester, VA 22601-5195
Phone: (540) 665-4500
  • Biology
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Southern Virginia University

One University Hill Drive, Buena Vista, VA 24416
Phone: (540) 261-8400
  • Biology

Southside Virginia Community College

109 Campus Dr, Alberta, VA 23821
Phone: (888) 220-7822
  • Natural Resources, Conservation
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Southwest Virginia Community College

369 College Road US Rt. 19, 6 Miles S. Claypool Hill, Richlands, VA 24641-1101
Phone: (276) 964-2555
  • Natural Resources, Conservation
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Sweet Briar College

134 Chapel Drive, Sweet Briar, VA 24595-9998
Phone: (434) 381-6100
  • Biology

Thomas Nelson Community College

99 Thomas Nelson Drive, Hampton, VA 23666
Phone: (757) 825-2700
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Tidewater Community College

121 College Place, Norfolk, VA 23510
Phone: (757) 822-1122
  • Law Enforcement Administration

University of Mary Washington

1301 College Ave, Fredericksburg, VA 22401-5300
Phone: (540) 654-1000
  • Biology

University of Richmond

28 Westhampton Way, University of Richmond, VA 23173
Phone: (804) 289-8000
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

University of Virginia-Main Campus

1827 University Avenue, Charlottesville, VA 22903-2628
Phone: (434) 924-0311
  • Biology

Virginia Commonwealth University

910 W Franklin St, Richmond, VA 23284-2512
Phone: (804) 828-0100
  • Biology
  • Law Enforcement Administration
  • Security and Protective Services

Virginia Highlands Community College

100 VHCC Drive, Abingdon, VA 24212-0828
Phone: (276) 739-2400
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Virginia Military Institute

VMI Parade, Lexington, VA 24450-0304
Phone: (540) 464-7207
  • Biology

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

210 Burruss Hall, 800 Drillfield Dr., Blacksburg, VA 24061-0131
Phone: (540) 231-6000
  • Natural Resources Management and Policy
  • Fishing and Fisheries Sciences and Management
  • Forestry
  • Biology

Virginia State University

1 Hayden Drive, Petersburg, VA 23806
Phone: (804) 524-5000
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Virginia Union University

1500 N Lombardy St, Richmond, VA 23220
Phone: (804) 257-5600
  • Biology

Virginia Wesleyan College

1584 Wesleyan Dr, Norfolk, VA 23502-5599
Phone: (757) 455-3200
  • Biology
  • Criminal Justice

Virginia Western Community College

3093 Colonial Ave, Roanoke, VA 24015
Phone: (540) 857-7311
  • Natural Resources, Conservation
  • Law Enforcement Administration

Washington and Lee University

204 West Washington Street, Lexington, VA 24450-2116
Phone: (540) 458-8400
  • Biology

Wytheville Community College

1000 E Main Street, Wytheville, VA 24382-3308
Phone: (276) 223-4700
  • Natural Resources, Conservation
  • Law Enforcement Administration