Conservation officer careers and hiring information

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Conservation officers (COs) protect public safety and the state's natural resources. As licensed peace officers, COs enforce laws and regulations under the jurisdiction of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which relate to fish and wildlife, state parks, trails, forests, waters and wetlands. They also perform public relations and educational duties throughout the state.

Why do we need conservation officers?

COs provide public safety, natural resource and recreation-protection response in a wide variety of areas, including fish, wildlife, recreation, commercial, water and wetlands, environmental crime, and state parks and trails.

What do COs do?

Law enforcement: COs enforce all authorized laws and regulations; enforce all authorized recreational, environmental and emerging issues laws and regulations; identify needs, develop methods and implement plans to detect violations; investigate complaints; process criminal violations and arrest violators; seize and preserve evidence; and conduct audits of natural resource licensed commercial operations.

Safety education training: COs support hunter and recreational vehicle safety training courses, recruit and maintain a volunteer instructor pool, provide required training aids and ensure classes are scheduled.

Public relations: COs communicate DNR goals to the public by personal contact or actively seeking media and speaking opportunities.

Cooperative relationships: COs maintain working relationships with other DNR units and all law enforcement and other related agencies.

Administration and reporting: COs work out of their homes and prepare and submit reports on their work.

What are the working conditions?

COs work variable hours to meet the seasonal needs in their assigned patrol areas and often work from a 4x4 patrol vehicle, a snowmobile, ATV, or from various watercraft. They are expected to work nights, weekends, holidays and game and fish season openers. Being a CO is a physically demanding job that sometimes requires lifting heavy objects and working in all types of weather conditions on a daily basis.

I'm in high school. How should I prepare for a career as a CO?

If you would like to be a Minnesota CO, you need a two- or four-year college degree. To prepare for college, take challenging coursework in high school and begin exploring natural resource law enforcement career options.

A background in and passion for natural resources are important to be a successful CO. To prepare for a career, spend time engaged in outdoor-related activities including hunting, fishing, camping, hiking or bird watching. There are endless opportunities available in Minnesota.

Become familiar with the various tools officers use to fulfill their duties, including snowmobiles, ATVs and various watercraft. Familiarize yourself with not only the operation of this equipment, but the rules and regulations associated with the operation.

It is also helpful to get hands-on experience so you know what the job is really like before you pursue a degree in the area. High school students can contact local COs about participating in a "ride-along" with an officer to see first-hand what the work is like. They can also volunteer to serve as a volunteer ATV, snowmobile or firearms safety instructors.

Do I need a background in law enforcement?

Not necessarily. There are two hiring options to becoming a Minnesota CO.

The traditional hiring process is for those individuals who have completed an associate's or bachelor's degree in criminal justice, or related field and who are MN POST licensed, eligible to be licensed, or will be eligible to be licensed prior to date of conditional offer.

If you don't meet the parameters for the traditional hiring process, you may engage in the CO PREP program. You will need an associate's or bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university in any discipline.

In addition to coursework, you can gain valuable experience by applying for an internship at the Minnesota DNR or another natural resource organization or becoming a volunteer safety instructor.

What is the hiring and training process for becoming a CO?

The hiring and training process has several steps, including a written examination, which candidates must pass to be admitted to other portions of the exam/selection process. Following the written exam, there's an oral interview, background investigation, pre-work screening (functional capacity exam), psychological assessment and medical evaluation. Successful candidates are hired and placed in academic and field training during which time they are trained on the specific job tasks of a conservation officer for a period of approximately six months. Hiring periods generally open during the first part of the calendar year.

All notifications will be handled electronically; you must have an updated email address on your resume, or you may not be contacted by the DNR.

Read the list of criteria for possible rejection as a state conservation officer applicant, and see this document for frequently asked questions and other information.

What is the hiring timeline for becoming a CO?

The specific dates of the hiring process vary from year to year. The documents below outline the timelines for the Enforcement Division's most recent hiring process.

  • Traditional timeline (For CO Academy in 2024; applicants with law enforcement experience or law enforcement schooling)
  • CO Prep timeline (For CO Academy in 2024; applicants without law enforcement experience or law enforcement schooling)
  • Traditional timeline (For CO Academy in 2025; applicants with law enforcement experience or law enforcement schooling)
  • CO Prep timeline (For CO Academy in 2025; applicants without law enforcement experience or law enforcement schooling)
What other opportunities are available as a CO?

It is common for people to spend their entire careers working as conservation officers. As part of the job, there are a variety of special opportunities available:

  • Wildland arson investigation
  • Commercial investigations
  • Defensive tactics instruction
  • Firearms instruction
  • Background investigations

There also are advancement opportunities within the Enforcement Division:

  • K9 officer
  • Pilot
  • Special investigations investigator
  • Regional training officer
  • Water resource enforcement officer
  • Supervisory and management positions
Who do I contact for more information?

Questions concerning peace officer license requirements should be directed to the State of Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) at 651-643-3060 or visit the POST website (link is external) . For a list of educational institutions in Minnesota where you can pursue a Peace Officer Certificate see the Minnesota State Colleges & Universities Web site (link is external) .

All other inquiries should be directed to Capt. Jeff Johanson ([email protected]).


The current salary range is $37.89 to $50.76 hourly / $79,114 to $105,987 annually. Conservation officers are also eligible for seasonal overtime earnings.

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