Fisheries specialist

DNR employees

If you love being outdoors and spending time on lakes and rivers, and have a passion for fishing and conservation, a position in our Fish and Wildlife Division might be right for you.

Fisheries positions manage the habitat and fish populations in Minnesota's lakes and rivers to sustain healthy ecosystems and provide quality angling opportunities.

Why do we need fisheries specialists?

Fishing is critical to the many anglers in Minnesota, and to the state's economy. Fish populations need monitoring to help us make wise management decisions. Habitat projects and fish stocking can restore or enhance fish populations.

What do fisheries specialists do?

Fisheries specialists perform a diversity of work functions, but some of their primary job duties are:

  • Designing and implementing habitat improvement projects.
  • Performing lake and stream surveys that help the DNR decide if management strategies are needed to protect fish populations.
  • Managing hatchery operations to produce and distribute fish to enhance angling opportunities. 
  • Educating and informing the public.
  • Maintaining boats, motors, nets or hatchery equipment.
  • Setting conditions for permits to control aquatic plants so that lakeshore landowners can recreate while not causing harm to aquatic habitat.

What are the working conditions?

During the spring, summer, and fall seasons, being a fisheries specialist is a physically demanding job that sometimes requires lifting heavy objects, operating tools and equipment, working in boats, walking in water, and working in all types of weather conditions on a daily basis. In the winter, work shifts are mainly indoors with tasks such as writing reports, maintaining equipment, and analyzing data.

How should I prepare while I am in high school?

If you would like to do professional-level fisheries work, you will need a college degree. To prepare for college, take challenging coursework in high school and begin exploring the requirements of schools offering natural resource degrees. 

Natural resource careers — such as fisheries specialists — require interdisciplinary skills and a background in:

  • Math: Fisheries specialists require data analysis skills. Gain important math skills in high school such as algebra, geometry, pre-calculus and statistics.
  • Sciences:  Having a good understanding of physical, chemical, and biological sciences in high school will provide you with the background to explore more specialized subjects such as fisheries management. In addition to biology, chemistry, and physics, earth sciences and environmental science classes are also useful.
  • Language arts: Communication and language are key to success in any career, including natural resources. In high school, take courses in English, intensive writing and public speaking.

It is also helpful to get hands-on experience so that you know what the job is really like before you pursue a degree in the area. High school students can contact local fisheries offices about doing a volunteer job shadow to see firsthand what the work is like. They can also volunteer with nonprofits doing habitat projects, such as Trout Unlimited.

What do I need to do in college?

To be a fisheries specialist, you'll need a bachelor's degree in biology, fisheries, fish and wildlife, or a closely-related area.

The DNR expects that fisheries specialists will:

  • Understand aquatic ecology.
  • Have knowledge of fisheries management and aquatic ecology on freshwater lakes, rivers and streams including:
    • Fish sampling techniques and equipment.
    • Fish population dynamics.
    • Statistics and geographic information systems.

The Minnesota DNR currently requires the following coursework:

  • Fisheries and aquatic sciences courses: A minimum of four courses, for a total of 12 semester or 18 quarter hours. Of the four courses, at least two must be directly related to fisheries science, and at least one must cover principles of fisheries science and management.
  • Other biological sciences courses that, when added to the preceding courses, total 30 semester hours or 45 quarter hours.
  • Physical sciences courses: Fifteen semester or 23 quarter hours.
  • Mathematics and statistics courses: Six semester or nine quarter hours, including one college algebra and one statistics course or two statistics courses.
  • Communications courses: Nine semester or 13 quarter hours (three semester or five quarter hours can be taken in communications intensive courses if officially designated as such by the university or college).

Certification by the American Fisheries Society as an Associate Fisheries Professional or a Certified Fisheries Professional might substitute for the educational requirement.

In addition to coursework, you can gain valuable experience by applying for an internship at the Minnesota DNR or another natural resource organization, volunteering with researchers on aquatic habitat projects, and joining the American Fisheries Society. 

Career advancement

At the Minnesota DNR, fisheries specialist positions are entry-level jobs that can lead to more intermediate or senior-level positions. Examples include positions in research, hatchery managers, and supervisors of staff in a geographic region. The titles of some of these positions are below:

DNR fisheries classifications

When you are applying for a position you will see both a classification or pay grade and a more descriptive working title. Here are some examples of what you will want to look for.

  • NR (natural resources) specialist fisheries
  • NR specialist intermediate fisheries
  • NR specialist intermediate fish research
  • NR specialist senior fisheries
  • NR specialist senior fish research
  • NR supervisor fish hatchery
  • NR area supervisor fisheries

Example working titles

  • Fisheries specialist
  • Hatchery specialist
  • IBI specialist
  • Large lake specialist
  • Fisheries research specialist
  • Aquatic plant management specialist
  • Assistant area fisheries supervisor
  • Assistant hatchery supervisor
  • Area fisheries supervisor
  • Fish hatchery supervisor

Positions in other industries

With similar education and background, there are other industries you can work in such as federal agencies, American Indian tribes, aquaponics, aquaculture, watershed districts, federal agencies, universities, and natural resource agencies in other states. 

To Learn More

Email our Human Resources Department or reach out to one of the DNR's area offices.


The salary for a fisheries specialist will vary depending on qualifications and experience, but the range for a starting position is:

  • $21.61 to $31.35 hourly
  • $45,122 to $65,459 annually

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