How Do I Become a Conservation Officer?

If you have a passion for both law enforcement and the natural environment, you may be wondering how to become a conservation officer. These law enforcement officers work to protect wildlife and environmental resources. At times, these professionals are also known by other job titles, including game warden and park ranger. Because they are part of law enforcement teams and must meet the same professional standards as police officers of other kinds, the term ‘conservation officer’ is generally preferred.

Conservation officers enforce laws that relate to the environment, including environmental protection measures and rules that govern outside recreational activities, such as boating, hunting and snow sports. Like other types of police officers, conservation officers have patrol duties, in which they attempt to prevent law-breaking and look for evidence of violations of environmental laws, including pollution and illicit hunting practices. They typically patrol natural environments including hiking trails and parks, often on foot or with the use of boats, aircraft, motor vehicles, or even skis or horses. They may be called upon to assist with search-and-rescue missions or otherwise help people who are injured. A conservation officer may serve as an educational resource in the community and influence procedures regarding hunting, pollution, and other environmental topics. They are also responsible for completing case-related paperwork and testimony in criminal cases.

Because they are both police officers and wildlife workers, a conservation officer can benefit from educational study in a couple of different fields. Many officers begin their educational preparation by studying biology, environmental science, wildlife management, ecology or another discipline of science that is relevant to the natural environment. Other wildlife officers pursue criminal justice and may even begin their careers as standard law enforcement officers before moving into conservation. Some programs of study, like wildlife law management, even combine aspects of these two fields. Typically, aspiring conservation officers must earn a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college, though some agencies will consider candidates with associate’s degrees. During their education, students may have an opportunity to begin undertaking a trainee program to gain practical experience in the field.

As police officers, conservation officers must also fulfill the requirements of all law enforcement officers within the state, county, city, or district for which they work. This may include physical fitness requirements and learning the proper use of firearms. Ideally, a conservation officer will enjoy interacting with nature, as he or she can expect to spend a good deal of time outdoors.

Conservation officers earn a median annual salary of $56,000, according to job search site Salaries vary based on experience and location, and can range from $30,000 for new trainees to more than $70,000 for seasoned officers, reported. For many aspiring conservation officers, the opportunity to make a difference in the environment and work outdoors is its own reward. If you have a calling to protect the environment, knowing how to become a conservation officer could be the start of a meaningful new career.

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