How to Become A Conservation Officer

Conservation officers have a dangerous and physically demanding job. The main focus of conservation officers is on the enforcement of natural resource, recreational safety, and environmental protection laws. Like other professions, conservation officers also have a career ladder leading to specialist and supervisory positions. Since conservation officers are also law enforcement officers, they must be aware of natural resource, constitutional, and general criminal laws.

How to be a Conservation Officer

If you plan on becoming a conservation officer, you will need to follow the steps mentioned below.

  • Get a high school diploma or GED

A high school degree or GED is the minimum educational requirement for conservation officers. However, in many locations, a college degree may be preferred. Besides, college classes can serve as an advantage to applicants when they are looking for a job. College courses that are helpful for conservation officers include natural resource sciences, sociology, criminal justice, and communications.

  • Submit an application to Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for a conservation officer position, in the state you reside

In most cases, conservation officers need to complete a Civil Service Commission Exam.  After clearing the exam, the applicants have to wait for DNR to post a vacancy. They need to submit all the required documents such as a resume, location preference sheet, job-fit questionnaire, application form, and proof of passing the Civil Service Exam.

  • Go through a background investigation

After the application process, a background check will also be conducted. During an employment background check, employers generally check an applicant’s credit history, criminal record, work history and driving record. The factors included in the background check may vary from one state to another. After the background investigation, a final interview of the applicant is conducted for selection.

  • Complete the applicable training courses for the state in which you reside

After your selection for the conservation officer position, you will need to complete a number of training courses. Generally, conservation officers need to acquire training in writing, communications, public relations, organization, driving, firearms, forensics, and self defense. Daily training is also important for the success of a conservation officer and is normally based on physical fitness, stress reaction, and ethics. The official training for conservation officers takes around twenty weeks to complete.

  • Undergo a probationary period

Conservation officers also go through a certain probationary period. The purpose of probation is to double check the aptitude as well as the skills of a candidate. After successfully completing the probationary period, officers are assigned a certain work area. In some cases, they are even responsible for an entire county.

Job Description

Conservation officers are instrumental in maintaining our natural areas. They make efforts to protect endangered species and prevent other species from becoming endangered as well. Conservation officers work closely with a number of law enforcement officers and interact with diverse people such as nature lovers, campers, hikers, and hunters. They may also train others about conservation and hunter safety. Besides, they enforce laws related to environment and conservation. Conservation laws are generally based on hunting, firearms safety, and protection of endangered species.

Major responsibilities of conservation officers include:

  • Patrolling the assigned conservation areas and forests
  • Giving education on conservation issues
  • Providing training courses on hunter safety
  • Enforcing conservation laws
  • Checking licenses for hunting and similar activities
  • Implementing hunting limits
  • Carrying out general law enforcement activities
  • Preparing reports
  • Testifying in courtrooms
  • Making arrests

Working Conditions

The working conditions for conservation officers can be divided into the following three categories.

  • Work Environment

Conservation officers have to work both indoors and outdoors. Their nature of work generally depends on the employer, as well as the duties for that particular day. They may face extreme weather conditions and rough terrain in outdoor work. Travel is also required in a conservation officer’s job, generally by car or boat, but it may involve unconventional means such as canoe, helicopters, horseback, and snowmobile.

  • Physical Requirements

Physical risk is also involved in a career as a conservation officer.  Conservation officers face physical risks while capturing and handling animals and enforcing regulation. They may also require light duty lifting (up to 20 pounds) during their job. Heavy lifting may also be needed in certain situations.

  • Hours of Work

Conservation officers have variations in their work hours. Work hours may also include evenings, weekends, and holidays. In certain situations, overtime may be needed in order to respond to violations and events such as serious conflicts between humans and wildlife.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Conservation Officer?

Conservation officers are usually employed as Fish and Game Wardens. In order to become a conservation officer/fish and game warden, one has to go through a number of steps such as:

  • acquiring relevant education
  • applying for the post of a conservative officer
  • passing several physical and psychological health exams i.e., drug tests, physical fitness exams and take a polygraph test
  • going through extensive background checks
  • being trained and qualified to carry a handgun
  • getting interviewed by the relevant authorities
  • being hired as a conservative officer
  • going through a training period after getting hired

What Are the Requirements for Becoming a Conservation Officer?

The educational requirements for becoming a conservational officer vary across states in the US therefore; people who are interested in becoming a conservational officer must consult the requirements of the state they live in. The minimum education requirement is a high school diploma or a GED. However, most states require people to have at least a college or a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Sciences, Criminal Justice or Biology to be eligible for the job.

The job description of a conservation officer is very demanding. The employers require candidates to be physically fit and entirely well versed in federal and state laws. In addition to that, they are expected to be capable of conducting public presentations and performing duties of a sworn law enforcement officer.

How Much Can I Make after Becoming a Conservation Officer?

The 2018 data on Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website states that there were 6,040 conservation officer/fish and game wardens employed in the United States earning an average annual mean income of $59,260 per year.

Skill and Experience Requirements

Conservation officers normally require the following skills to be successful in their field:

  • Knowledge and experience in natural resources management
  • Knowledge of legislation related to natural resources management
  • Above average interpersonal and communication skills
  • Investigative, analytical, and information collecting skills
  • Ability to work without a lot of supervision
  • Proficiency in computers and technology
  • May require swimming
  • Volunteer experience in the community
  • Work experience in a position of responsibility
  • Experience of frequent interaction with public
  • Ability to understand and speak a second language
  • Valid driver’s license with a record of safe vehicle operation
  • First Aid and/or CPR certification


There are a number of employers in different sectors of industry that require the specific skill set and knowledge of conservation officers. Conservation officers can look for jobs in the following sectors.

  • Conservation
  • Forestry and Logging
  • Public Administration
  • Manufacturing
  • Professional, Scientific and Technical Services

Following are the different types of employers that hire conservation officers:

  • Conservation groups
  • Consulting companies
  • Regulatory Bodies
  • Companies that produce products from natural resources
  • Utility companies
  • All levels of government departments and agencies
  • Oil, gas and mining companies
  • Educational institutions
  • Self-employment as consultants

Frequently Asked Question(s)

Q:Please tell me how to become a conservation officer?

A:To become a conservation officer you need to hold a bachelor's degree in areas relating to life sciences. These programs can be Fisheries Sciences and Fishing Management, Natural Resources Policy, Wildlife Science and wildlife Management. Other than the qualification, some personal characteristics are also needed; these require critical thinking, active listening, and persuasion and negotiation skills.

Q:Which industries employ a conservation officer?

A:The most common industries offering jobs to conservation officers are; forestry and logging, manufacturing, public administration and conservation. Most jobs in these industries arise from departments and agencies like the oil, gas and mining companies, regulatory bodies, utility companies and consulting companies. Conservation officers can also choose the route of self employment by working as consultants to these industries.

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