The prospective candidate should know that this job requires working on most weekends, some holidays, working unscheduled varying hours of the day and night and in all weather conditions. It requires someone comfortable working alone with little chance of any immediate back up while confronting, citing or arresting violators, serving and executing search and arrest warrants with subjects who are most likely armed and possibly hostile towards law enforcement. It also requires someone who is comfortable working in remote locations while operating vehicles and watercraft in hazardous conditions. The prospective candidate should know that this job will involve handling injured and dangerous wildlife and at times requires euthanizing animals with firearms. The job, at times, will involve handling decomposing animals. A game warden has daily interaction with the public and must resolve conflict. Although focused on wildlife and resource related crimes, at times a game warden responds to assist on other emergency calls including serious motor vehicle crashes, domestic violence, disturbances, search and rescue operations and recovery of deceased persons.
Every hiring process begins with the application phase. This generally kicks off in April and is open for about one month. The application phase is the first competition of the overall process and historically only about one third of the applicants move onto the next phase. You should put any and all relevant information regarding training, experience and skills you have in your application packet. Remember – everyone will have a degree so that will not set you apart from the pack, your training, skills and experience will. If you are on track to receive your bachelor’s degree that year you can apply.
The testing phase is a three-day process. Day one is a series of four tests. The first test is the Montana Physical Abilities Test (MPAT) and is a pass or fail event. The second test is a 70 question T/F, multiple choice and fill in the blank test covering Montana hunting, fishing, trapping and boating regulations and laws; general species and natural resources; the department and its various programs; and general outdoor related questions. There is an essay test that requires you to handwrite out an answer to a scenario and there is an oral presentation that requires you to give an impromptu 5-minute presentation on a particular topic to a panel. At the end of the day the best performing candidates are moved on to the next day which is interviews.
Interviews are your classic formal interview panel. Candidates are assigned an interview time. They are provided the questions a short time before the interview begins and then go before a panel to answer the questions. Typically, there are about 8 questions and they include behavioral type questions as well as scenarios and last about 45 minutes. The best performing candidates are provided a conditional offer of employment and asked to come back the next day for the fit for duty assessment. (The conditional offer is based on the candidate’s ability to successfully pass the fit for duty and the background investigation)
Fit for duty day includes a physical, a drug screen and a psychological evaluation. Those being found fit for duty are moved into backgrounds.
In this phase the candidates are subjected to a very thorough background investigation. This includes criminal history checks, driving history checks, reference checks, speaking with past supervisors and co-workers, residency checks, and verification of all information provided in the original application. The Chief of Enforcement reviews the completed background investigation and makes the decision to clear the candidate for hire or not. Those cleared for hire will move into the hiring phase.
Those candidates that are cleared for hire will be offered an initial duty station and if accepted a start date is agreed upon. See FAQ section below for more information on initial duty station assignments. Sometimes we find more qualified applicants than current vacancies. In those instances, candidates are ranked coming out of interviews and those who cannot be immediately hired are given the option to be put on the eligibility list. That list is valid for one year and those candidates can be picked up any time during that year as vacancies come up.
A degree in any field qualifies however preferred degrees are Biology, Criminal Justice, Wildlife Management or Parks and Recreation Management.
Yes. If you are on track to get your bachelor’s degree in the same calendar year as the opening of the hiring process (see Hiring Process section above) you can apply.
An initial duty station is basically your first “patrol district.” Each warden is assigned a defined geographic area of the state as their patrol district. These districts average 1800 square miles and typically only one warden covers that area. Some districts with higher populations will have more than one Game Warden as call volume is considerably higher.
Decisions on which initial duty stations are assigned to new hires involves taking into account various factors. The first and main determining factor is, what districts are currently vacant? We can only choose a district for you from the current list of open ones. From that list we try to fit the new hire into a district that we feel they will be successful and one that they would enjoy the most based on their preferences. Some other factors that weigh into the decision are any special skill sets you may possess and past work experience.
Not likely. There are a limited number of patrol districts. Each patrol district has a game warden assigned to it. A few patrol districts have more than one warden. Those are the more populated areas like Missoula, Great Falls and Billings. The department has a limited number of Game Warden positions. So, we can’t hire someone as a Game Warden and station them where we already have a Game Warden because this would leave some other patrol district vacant. The chances of the district where you currently live being vacant at the time you may be hired is slim. If you are serious about being a Montana Game Warden, you must be serious about living anywhere in the state at least initially.
No. Upon hire we require wardens to stay at their initial duty station (see Initial Duty Stations FAQ) for 30 months. After that time frame they can start putting in requests for other vacant districts. For example, you are hired and get stationed in Libby, but you are from Billings and want to get back that way some day. After a few years one of the wardens in Billings retires. You would be able to submit a request or what we call a “bid” on that now vacant district. If multiple wardens bid on the same district there would be a competitive process established to see who is transferred.
Because we do require that wardens live within the boundaries of their patrol district there are other reasons why you may move. Sometimes it is a promotion that requires a move. Example you are working in Glasgow, but you want to put in for a sergeant position that just opened up in Great Falls. If you got the sergeant position you would have to move to Great Falls. The department does not move folks simply to move them. It is ultimately up to the warden if they want to stay where they are or put in and possibly move to a vacant district. Some wardens spend their entire career in one district while others may move several times.
We do not do lateral transfers. However, having prior experience in law enforcement either as a game warden, police officer, sheriff or similar will assist in making your application more competitive during the application phase. (see Hiring Process section above) Also, that experience should assist you during testing and interviews.
No, we do not have any exemptions or waivers for combinations of experience and education or for combinations of military and education.
Yes. Veteran preference points do apply at all scoring events during the process.
Yes. A Game Warden in Montana is a sworn peace officer and they have the same lawful authority as any other peace officer such as a sheriff’s deputy or city policeman. They can issue citations, arrest someone and apply for and execute search warrants. To that end they are required to attend and successfully complete the 12-week basic law enforcement academy. In addition to that training Game Wardens go through a 12-week field training program.
That is one of the nice things about the job, every day is completely different. As a Game Warden you may be dealing with a bear in town in the morning, checking anglers on the river that afternoon and teaching a hunter education class that night. A warden may hike to several mountain lakes to patrol and spend several days/nights in the field. They might take the OHV on some trails or put the boat out on the reservoir. Game Wardens are not always working outside though. There is paperwork to be done and sometimes wardens may be inside the office for a few days working on a complex and lengthy investigation or preparing a report for a county attorney.
Game Wardens still get to go enjoy all the things most people like about Montana. That includes hunting, fishing and other forms of recreation. Yes, it is required that Game Wardens work during the hunting season, but there is still time to get out there and do some hunting. Are you able to take a whole week off during the general season and go on a backcountry hunting trip? Probably not. But Game Wardens do find time, often in the middle of the week when it is less busy, to get into the field and pursue game. Contrary to popular belief though, we don’t always know where all the elk are hiding.
Although most folks drawn to this line of work have a lifetime of experience hunting and fishing, you do not have to be that person. If you have a desire to protect the natural resources of Montana, you understand the realities of the job (see Realities of the Job section above), and you are willing to learn then you should apply. We have hired wardens that had limited experiences outdoors. The job allowed them to expand their understanding of hunting and or fishing and they are now participating in those activities regularly.
The best source for this information, as it does change over time, is FWP Human Resources. They can be reached at 406-542-5521.