Wildlife Officer: Education Requirements and Career Information
Learn how to become a wildlife officer. Research the education, training and other requirements you will need to start a career as a wildlife officer.
Education Requirements for Wildlife Officers
Wildlife officers are law enforcement officials, granted full police powers, whose positions revolve around enforcing laws regarding wildlife. Most positions for wildlife officers require the completion of a bachelor's degree program. Bachelor's degrees in applicable natural sciences, such as biology or criminal justice, may be preferred or required. Experience in fish and wildlife management or other law enforcement roles may be substituted in some cases. Many states require applicants to have at least two years of postsecondary education.
Training and Other Requirements
In addition to traditional schooling in a college or university setting, wildlife officers must often complete state-run training courses that last 3-12 months. These courses are intensive, and may be followed by additional field training. As with other law enforcement roles, wildlife officers must be 21 years of age and U.S. citizens. Applicants will be subject to rigorous background checks and drug tests, and may be required to take polygraph tests. Applicants should also have integrity and a strong work ethic.
Also known as fish and game wardens, wildlife officers patrol in order to prevent poaching and other infringements of laws regarding natural resources. They may also be called on to investigate accidents and take part in search and rescue operations. Other duties might include teaching wildlife programs to youth groups and schools, cooperating with other law enforcement agencies and regulating specific state or local laws related to boating, hunting or other outdoor activities.
Salary Information and Employment Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, wildlife officers earned an average annual salary of $49,400 in 2012. Job growth was expected at a rate of one percent between 2012 and 2022, which was slightly less than that of other law enforcement officers as a whole and also less than the national average for all careers. Wildlife officers are generally employed by state and local jurisdictions, with most officers employed at the state level (www.bls.gov).
Important skills required for wildlife officers include firearm handling and maintenance as well as experience with modes of transportation necessary for the position, such as small watercraft and all terrain vehicles. Additional skills include effective communication; the duties of wildlife officers bring them in contact with the public on a regular basis, both with suspects who must be investigated and with communities as part of outreach and training efforts.
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