Copyright

Become a Conservation Officer: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a conservation officer. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in the field of wildlife conservation.

View 5 Popular Schools »

Do I Want to Be a Conservation Officer?

Conservation officers, also known as game wardens, wildlife managers and peace officers, are law enforcement agents who uphold laws and regulations relating to wildlife and the natural environment. They may work for state or federal governments, as well as natural resource organizations. These officers enforce laws related to hunting and fishing and provide public safety for state parks, trail systems and other protected areas.

Conservation officers do a lot of work in the field, patrolling assigned areas by foot, all-terrain vehicle, boat or other means with minimal supervision. Conservation officers must typically meet physical fitness and background check requirements, because this is law enforcement work outdoors, and it can be physically strenuous. Conservation officers carry out their duties in all kinds of weather and patrol a wide variety of terrain. Skillful handling of firearms is essential, because conservation officers may interact with armed hunters and other park and trail visitors, some of whom may be aggressive at times. Shifts can include night, weekend and holiday work; some agencies expect their officers to participate in overnight travel, too.

Job Requirements

In some states, aspiring conservation officers may complete a postsecondary program in a field like wildlife conservation. More often, they complete a state-developed conservation officer training program. Positions are commonly found within state government, and each state usually has its own training standards. Some states require prospective conservation officers to complete both college and statewide training programs. The following table contains the core requirements for becoming a conservation officer.

Common Requirements
Degree Level Associate's or bachelor's degree; state conservation officer training* ** ***
Degree Field Wildlife management, natural resource sciences, criminal justice, police sciences* ** ***
Licenses Valid driver's license*** ****; valid hunting license (some states)***; valid peace officer license (some states)***** ******
Experience Entry-level after successful completion of training program** ***
Key Skills Physical strength and stamina, willingness to spend time in various natural conditions, problem solving skills, decision-making abilities, ability to work with others* ** *** ****
Computer Skills Software programs for creating and filing reports, such as data base, spreadsheet and word processing software; industry tools may include mapping software*
Additional Requirements Ability to drive all terrain vehicles; ability to use a handgun and/or rifle; knowledge of DNA and blood collection techniques*; at least 21 years of age (some states)***

Sources: *O*NET Online, **State of Michigan, Department of Natural Resources, ***Pennsylvania Game Commission, Wildlife Conservation Officer Careers, ****New York State, Department of Environmental Conservation, *****Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, ******Missouri Department of Conservation

Step 1: Obtain Postsecondary Education

Earning a college degree can provide a useful background and strengthen one's application to a state conservation officer training program. In fact, some states do require some college work, and the majority of all conservation officers hold a bachelor's degree. Examples of relevant training include associate's or bachelor's degree programs in wildlife management or environmental conservation. Courses may cover topics like forest ecology, biology, forest recreation and water resources. In some states, like Idaho, bachelor's degree holders may find entry-level positions as conservation officers, though government positions in most states typically require additional training.

Success Tips:

  • Enroll in a peace officer training program. Students seeking an alternative educational path may complete a peace officer training program through a community or vocational college. This program may be offered as a stand-alone certificate program as a part of 2-year associate's degree program. Courses cover patrol procedures, basic law enforcement, sociology and defensive tactics.
  • Ensure physical fitness. As law enforcement agents, conservation officers must pass physical fitness tests. These tests ensure that enforcement agents have the agility and fitness levels to make appropriate responses in the field and are often required before entering a formal training program. Tests generally include running, swimming and other physical exercises.

Step 2: Complete a State Training Program

Many states require conservation officers to undergo a 6-12 month training program. Though prior college work isn't always required, it can be beneficial. Acceptance into a program generally constitutes an offer of employment after a candidate successfully meets all eligibility requirements and completes the training. These programs vary by state, but usually train recruits on environmental law compliance and wildlife management. Specific instruction may include informing the public on wildlife regulations and issues as well as enforcing laws and regulations regarding hunting permits and licenses. Recruits also receive additional training on firearms, boating and special investigations.

Success Tip:

  • Make sure you are able to pass physical fitness tests. Someone who opts to complete a training program operated by the state is still required to meet appropriate fitness standards. It's important to stay in shape throughout the training program and official employment. Additionally, throughout the training period, trainees may also be called upon at random to demonstrate fitness levels.
Show me popular schools

Related to Become a Conservation Officer: Education and Career Roadmap

  • Related
  • Recently Updated
  • Popular
Warrant Officer: Salary Info, Duties and Requirements

A warrant officer is a United States Military official ranked W-1 to W-5 who serves as an expert in a specialized technical...

Chief Tax Officer: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

A corporation's chief tax officer oversees all tax reporting and ensures compliance with government regulations. This financial...

Conservation Scientist: Job Description, Responsibilities and Salary

Conservation scientists play a large role in how humans interact with the land around them. Government agencies, private...

Sales and Services Officer: Job Description and Requirements

A sales and services officer is a customer-facing professional in the banking industry. A licensed professional, he or she...

Development Officer: Job Description and Education Requirements

Popular Schools

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Colorado (1 campus)

    Classroom-Based Programs

    • Bachelor
        • BFA in Interior Design - Green Design

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    What is your highest level of education completed?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be 18 years of age or older
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Distance Learning Programs

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    What is your highest level of education?

Other Schools:

  • School locations:
    • California (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Stanford University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Physical Sciences
      • Chemistry Sciences
      • Natural Resources Conservation
      • Physical and Environmental Science
      • Physics
  • School locations:
    • Massachusetts (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Harvard University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Physical Sciences
      • Chemistry Sciences
      • Forestry and Wildlands Management
      • Natural Resources Conservation
        • Environmental Studies
      • Natural Resources Management
      • Physical and Environmental Science
      • Physics
  • School locations:
    • Pennsylvania (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Pennsylvania include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Physical Sciences
      • Chemistry Sciences
      • Natural Resources Conservation
        • Environmental Sciences
        • Environmental Studies
      • Natural Resources Management
      • Physical and Environmental Science
      • Physics
  • School locations:
    • Rhode Island (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Brown University include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Physical Sciences
      • Chemistry Sciences
      • Natural Resources Conservation
        • Environmental Sciences
        • Environmental Studies
      • Physical and Environmental Science
      • Physics
  • School locations:
    • North Carolina (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Duke University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Physical Sciences
      • Chemistry Sciences
      • Forestry and Wildlands Management
      • Natural Resources Conservation
      • Natural Resources Management
      • Physical and Environmental Science
      • Physics

Popular Schools

Avg. Wages For Related Jobs

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics