Fish and Game Warden Career Profile

A fish and game warden treating an oil-drenched bird
••• David McNew/Staff/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Fish and game wardens protect wildlife, enforce fishing, hunting, and boating laws and patrol lakes, rivers, beaches, wetlands, coastlines, deserts and the backcountry. Because fish and game wardens are commissioned peace officers, they can cite people for a wide assortment of crimes which occur in the regions they supervise as well as conduct investigations, collect evidence and search homes and vehicles. In certain jurisdictions, fish and game wardens are called wildlife officers, conservation officers or gamekeepers.

Fish and Game Warden Job Duties

The primary duty of a fish and game warden is to enforce the fish and wildlife codes as well as boating, hunting, and fishing laws. Fish and game wardens have broad duties within the law enforcement spectrum, such as ensuring that licensing requirements are met by hunters, fishermen, and trappers and seizing fishing equipment, firearms, vehicles, watercraft, and other equipment and property used in the commission of fish and game crimes. Fish and game wardens perform a variety of law enforcement tasks, including:

  • Investigating wildlife crimes
  • Managing wildlife populations
  • Tracking and investigating poachers
  • Conducting search and rescue operations
  • Presenting educational programs to the public
  • Assisting with conservation programs
  • Investigating reports of damage to crops or property by wildlife
  • Providing assistance to other law enforcement agencies
  • Ensuring public safety concerning wildlife concerns in populated areas (such as mountain lions, bears, coyotes, cougars and other types of wildlife)
  • Compiling biological data
  • Aiding in the prosecution of court cases and testifying at trial


The educational qualifications of fish and game wardens vary by state. Most states require that fish and game wardens have at least two years of college study; many states require a four-year college degree. In some states, a two-year degree combined with wildlife or law enforcement experience can waive the 4-year college degree requirement.


Most states require applicants to be at least 21 years old although several states permit game wardens to be 18 years of age. Fish and game wardens must possess a valid driver's license, be in good physical condition, be a United States citizen at the time of appointment, and not have any felonies. Applicants may be required to pass physical fitness, vision and hearing tests. Fish and game wardens may also be required to pass a state peace officer licensing exam.

Training Academy

Many states require fish and game wardens to attend a training academy for 3 to 12 months. The training academy may include courses in:

  • Fish, wildlife, and natural resource management
  • Physical training
  • First aid
  • Water rescue 
  • Boat operations
  • Defensive tactics
  • Use of firearms
  • Driver training
  • Civil defense training
  • ​​Homeland security
  • Law enforcement curriculum and tactics
  • Administrative policies and procedures

Work Environment

Fish and game wardens work extensively outdoors in natural settings such as state and national parks, lakes, streams, deserts and mountain areas. Fish and game wardens also work in inclement and hazardous weather conditions, during natural disasters and under other dangerous conditions. At times, fish and game wardens are required to work in highly stressful situations that may be hazardous to their health and safety. They may be required to work with people who are injured, violent, emotionally upset or otherwise pose a danger or work in treacherous territories such as heavily wooded areas, steep coastlines or swamps, and bog areas.

Fish and game wardens wear a uniform and may carry firearms and other defensive equipment.

Fish and Game Warden Salary

The mean annual wage for a fish and game warden is $56,030, and the mean hourly wage is $26.94, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Occupational Employment Statistics (May 2008). However, annual wages can range from $30,400 to $81,710.

According to the BLS, the states that pay the highest fish and game warden salaries are Maryland ($67,990), New York ($62,330), Washington ($61,360), Nevada ($54,790) and Idaho ($52,980). These salaries reflect the annual mean wage. States with the highest concentration of fish and game wardens are South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Maine and West Virginia.