What degree do I need to be a Game Warden?

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Game Wardens protect wildlife, fish, game, and even native flora. Game Wardens patrol back roads, setting up remote control decoys to catch illegal hunting and baiting practices by hunters willing to go too far and break the law. They patrol rivers, lakes, hiking trails ensuring people are conducting themselves in a safe manner and not operating motorized vehicles or boats under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Warden also check hunter’s licenses on opening season day to be sure they are not hunting illegally.

Other duties include:

  • Arrest or ticketing of illegal hunters or law breakers
  • Investigation of boating accidents
  • Writing reports
  • Conducting forensic investigations
  • Assisting and conducting search and rescue operations
  • Working in conjunction with local law enforcement

As a Game Warden, you wear a uniform and carry a firearm-the same as any other law enforcement officer. In most states a Game Warden has all of the same arresting authority a regular law enforcement officer does, plus additional duties to uphold the conservation and enforcement of wildlife and environmental laws. In many states, a Game Warden may conduct certain types of searches with or without a search warrant.


Since most states have given game wardens the same authority as police officers and state troopers, a degree in criminal justice is recommended. Though, biology and wildlife management are other excellent degree choices. There are a variety of colleges and universities offering bachelor’s degrees in Criminal Justice. This degree provides the student with an education in the criminal justice system, with emphasis on policing, courts, criminology, juvenile justice, homeland security and forensic science.

For those seeking emphasis on wildlife conservation and management, every state has a college or university offering a degree program in this field. These courses concentrate on analyzing, tracking and maintaining populations of wildlife and their habitat. Students learn how species of animals and fish interact with each other within their environment and the affect humans have on them.

The other degree avenue is a degree in wildlife biology. This program entails the study and preservation of the wildlife habitat for the purpose of conserving biodiversity. A related field is a degree program in conservation biology and as the name suggests, the emphasis is on preserving natural habitats for all species.


The prospective game warden with a bachelor’s degree will probably have a better chance of landing a job. However, a degree is not mandatory for this profession. Another consideration is that this is a low growth occupation-projected to be only 4% through 2022 by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Also, it’s not particularly high paying. According to the BLS, the median annual salary in 2013 was $48,760.

The five states with the most game wardens are: Texas, Georgia, California, New York, and Tennessee. The states with the highest concentration of game wardens are: Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Maine, and Idaho. South Dakota has the lowest annual salary as of 2013 at $38,180. Wyoming is the highest at $56,410.

Since this occupation is primarily law enforcement, some states, such as Texas, have their own game warden academy. Similar to being accepted into any law enforcement position, there is an application process inclusive of an extensive background check on each applicant. Expect a medical form to be signed by your physician, along with a physical readiness test. Candidates will be required to pass not only the physical test, but also a psychological test.


This is a physically demanding job, patrolling a vast area of wild territory and back country via all means of transportation. While on patrol, the game warden must be prepared to encounter dangerous animals, criminals, unstable people, and hazardous weather conditions.

Wardens must be competent in the operation of various modes of transportation (depending on geographical location) including: ATV, truck, small airplane, snowmobile, various watercraft, helicopter, horseback, and of course on foot. But for those who prefer to shun the city life and have the outdoors as your office, then this may be a career worth pursuing.


For Further Reading: 

Top 10 Graduate Degree Programs in Criminal Justice

What Classes Will I Take in a Criminal Justice Degree?

What Salary Can You Expect With a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice?