California Occupational Guides

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Summary Guide for

   Fish and Game Wardens in California

May also be called: Conservation Officers; Game Wardens; Park Rangers; Park Wardens; Rangers; Refuge Officers; Wildlife Control Agents; Wildlife Enforcement Officers; and Wildlife Officers

What Would I Do?

Fish and Game Wardens, known as refuge officers in the federal government, work for state and federal agencies. They enforce fishing, hunting, boating, conservation, and environmental laws. While patrolling assigned areas, Wardens warn, cite, or arrest individuals suspected of violations.

Wardens investigate wildlife crimes and seize and collect evidence. They interview witnesses, write reports, and testify in court. They investigate hunting accidents. Wardens participate in search and rescue operations and assist other law enforcement agencies as needed. They may also conduct surveillance or undercover operations.

As sworn peace officers, Wardens may be required to enforce other state or federal laws in order to preserve and protect public health, safety, and wildlife.

Wardens patrol by car, on foot, or on horseback. They may also use all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles, airplanes, helicopters, boats, jet skis, snowmobiles, snowshoes, or scuba-diving equipment.

Green Economy: Fish and Game Wardens are expected to play a role in the emerging green economy by working in activities related to environmental protection.

Wardens work outdoors in all seasons and weather conditions. They typically work 40 hours a week but may be required to work overtime as well as nights, weekends, and holidays. They patrol a variety of areas, including backcountry, beaches, deserts, lakes, rivers, wetlands, oceans, and urban areas. Wardens typically patrol alone, often in remote locations with minimal backup; therefore, the work can be dangerous. Wardens may encounter armed and dangerous felons, as well as wild animals. They may be exposed to poisonous plants or hazardous materials. However, Wardens receive specialized training in the academy that prepares them for these events. Although Wardens work primarily in the field, they may do some of their work in offices. Wardens who work in remote areas may have offices in their homes. They wear uniforms, use protective equipment, and carry weapons.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Fish and Game Warden may appeal to those who enjoy activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions, as well as working outdoors and with wildlife.

Aspiring Fish and Game Wardens should be able to work independently but also enjoy public interaction. They should also possess decision-making, leadership, and organizational skills. Effective oral and written communication skills are critical.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Wages vary by agency but typically range from approximately $33,800 to $67,700. Newly hired Wardens receive a salary while attending the academy.

Fish and Game Wardens typically receive health and life insurance, vacation, sick leave, holiday pay, and retirement benefits. Most departments also provide uniform and equipment allowances. Some Wardens may also receive education incentive pay.

What is the Job Outlook?

Due to governmental budget limitations, job growth is not expected in the near future. Most job openings will be created by the need to replace Fish and Game Wardens who retire, promote to supervisory positions, or leave the field for other reasons.

How Do I Qualify?

Job requirements vary by agency. State of California Department of Fish and Wildlife Warden applicants must be at least 18 years of age and have a high school diploma or the equivalent. In addition, they are required to have at least two years (60 semester units) of college with a concentration in police science or law enforcement, biological science, natural resources conservation, ecology, or a related field. However, most applicants have a bachelor's degree or higher.

Federal refuge officer applicants must be between 21 and 37 years of age at the time of application and possess a four-year college degree. A high school diploma plus one year of specialized work experience at the General Schedule (GS)-4 level may be substituted for the college degree. Refuge officers also have a maximum retirement age of 57.

Applicants to any agency must be U.S. citizens at the time of appointment. They must also have a valid driver license, have no felony convictions, and be in excellent physical condition. Applicants should also be knowledgeable of federal and state environmental laws and regulations.

Applicants who meet the minimum requirements must pass a written examination and an oral interview. They must pass a physical ability and drug test, as well as a polygraph test and a fingerprint check. In addition, applicants will have a medical examination, vision screening, and psychological evaluation. Applicants must also pass a thorough background investigation.

Entry-level California Department of Fish and Wildlife Wardens begin their careers as cadets by attending an eight-month Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST)-certified academy in Butte County. Applicants who have already attained peace officer status attend an eight-week academy.

Federal refuge officers attend an 18-week training academy in Georgia and an additional 2-week academy in West Virginia. Applicants who have already attained peace officer status attend the same 20-week academy as new recruits.

Upon graduation from the academy, Wardens spend 10 weeks with field training officers (FTO). While in the FTO program, new Wardens refine their skills learned in the academy by working in a variety of field situations under the watchful eye of the FTO. At the end of the FTO cycle, Wardens report to their assigned areas.

Finding a Job

General information and employment applications may be obtained through federal and state personnel and agency websites. Job fairs, college career centers, or newspapers may also advertise job openings. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

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