Fish and Wildlife Warden Career: Concerns about Life as a Wildlife Officer

What does a Wildlife Officer do?

Wildlife Officers patrol across California in back country, lakes, rivers, beaches, wetlands, desert as well as metropolitan areas. The Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is one of the most diverse agencies as Wardens patrol every part of the State; not just parks or highways.

Special assignments may include special undercover operations, patrol using jet skis, jet boats, airplanes, horseback, canoes, all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles, etc.

Is being a Wildlife Officer dangerous?

As with any other law enforcement career, being a Wildlife Officer can be dangerous. Wardens patrol alone, often in remote locations with minimal backup. Wardens receive specialized training in the Fish and Wildlife Academy which prepares them for these activities. Training alone is not enough and must be combined with common sense and good people skills to achieve rapport with the community and accomplish the job safely.

How difficult is the physical training portion of the Academy?

During the Academy, running is the primary form of aerobic workout. Set a goal for yourself in preparation for this portion of the Academy. Start out slowly and build up to running three miles in 20-27 minutes. That averages out to roughly a nine to ten minute mile. To prepare for upper body strength challenges, follow an exercise program involving push-ups, pull-ups, and free weights for the chest and shoulder area. These preparations will enhance your performance at the Academy and help build your confidence in your ability to be a Game Warden.

Someday I would like to start a family. How does that fit in with my career as a Wildlife Officer?

The CDFW attempts to be supportive of family life and the concerns of new parents. The CDFW allows a six-week maternity leave plan for the female parent. Benefit options include Non-Industrial Disability Insurance (NDI). Employees in the annual leave program can receive NDI payments at 50 percent of their gross salary or supplement it with leave credits to obtain up to 100 percent income replacement.

State law also allows either parent up to a one-year leave of absence without losing your present position. The CDFW also offers great insurance benefits that will assist with the high cost of medical bills that can be incurred by having a child.

I have small children and attending the Academy for 31 weeks would be very difficult.

Parents who make the decision to attend the Academy while they have children at home do so for the long term security and benefits the CDFW provides for all families. There is no denying the fact that for parents of young children, attending the Academy presents some difficult challenges. Even single parents have done this with careful planning. The support of family and close friends can always be a strong asset when tackling this sort of endeavor. Keep in mind, the rewards after you graduate are well worth the initial struggle.

During the six-month Academy training period, you will be given most weekends off, and there are several three-day and four-day weekends spread throughout the training period. This will enable you to have some quality time with your family. Additionally, you are not restricted to an academy facility at night and may rent an apartment nearby where you can be with your family at night.

Where will I be working after graduating from the Academy?

Placements within the state are based on needs of the Department although the Department tries to accommodate Cadet requests as much as possible. Cadets are given a list of open assignments and list their choices according to personal preference. We will make every effort to advise you of your assignment before entering the Academy.

Realistically, the Department's vacancies are usually in metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area. Nearly all wardens begin their careers in one of those locations. After three years as a Warden, you may apply to transfer to openings anywhere in the State.

Why should I choose the CDFW instead of a Police or Sheriff's Department?

There are many good reasons for choosing the CDFW. The CDFW is unlike many Departments where new officers must spend the first several years of their careers working in a jail environment or in an administrative job. As soon as you have successfully completed the CDFW Academy, you will be doing what you were trained to do . . . patrolling the fields and streams or ocean and enforcing the law! You also have the ability to transfer anywhere in the state. What this means is as your personal or family needs change, you can transfer to any of the almost 300 different positions statewide.

Also, Wardens have their offices in their homes and a great deal of flexibility in their schedules. Because Wardens work out of their homes, they work independently and do not need to report to a precinct every day for assignments. Wardens are given a patrol area and become the experts on how best to protect the resources in their district.

Who can I contact for more information on becoming a Wildlife Officer?

Hiring and Recruitment Officer
(916) 651-9982