Have you ever found yourself wondering what you are going to do with your degree in criminal justice? Becoming a conservation officer is just one career path you could choose. But what does it take to become a CO? Although the qualifications may be different in other states, Michigan requires a high school diploma or GED equivalency. A college degree is helpful for employment opportunities and advancement.
Duties and responsibilities: The duties of a CO vary from day to day. Observing and checking hunters, enforcing regulations on the use of snowmobiles, locating lost hunters, providing emergency medical assistance, and enforcing laws that protect the environment are just some of the required job responsibilities. CO’s have a demanding job and work shifts can fluctuate. Depending on where you work, you may be dealing with frequent inclement weather. As a CO, you would need to be able to respectfully deal with the public and maintain a professional image at all times. Michigan requires a CO to know the constitutional law, identify every species of Michigan fish, and know how to field-dress a white-tailed deer and load it into a patrol truck alone.
Training: Although there are a lot of requirements for a CO, a lot of the training is done on-site. In Michigan there is a basic police recruit academy. Attendees would receive training in firearms, communication, driving, writing, organization, public relations, self-defense, and forensics. CO’s also receive daily training on physical fitness, stress reactions and ethics. After the academy, there is a probationary training program where you would work at several temporary field assignments with Field Training CO’s. As you can see, CO’s are among the most highly trained law enforcement officers in the nations.
Salary and promotions: According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary varies from year to year. Possible promotion lines include a specialist in communications, commercial fish, recreational safety, or shooting range positions. There are also supervisor positions that range from First-line CO supervisor to top-level DNR management. If you are considering a position as a CO in another state, please check their DNR web site for more details.