Doing volunteer work at a fish and wildlife facility is a good way to get some experience in this field and to determine whether you would like to pursue a career in the area. Of course, it would be ideal to volunteer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but serving with other environmental organizations can be very useful as well. College students—and even students at select high schools—can apply for formal internships with various wildlife agencies. These can usually provide college (or possibly high school) credit and may even pay a small stipend.
The conservation of fish and wildlife is a responsibility that grows more complex each year, especially with growing pollution and environmental changes. To accomplish its mission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for example, employs many of the country's best biologists, wildlife managers, engineers, realty specialists, law enforcement agents, and others who work to save endangered and threatened species; conserve migratory birds and inland fisheries; provide expert advice to other federal agencies, industry, and foreign governments; and manage more than 700 offices and field stations. These personnel work in every state and territory from the Arctic Ocean to the South Pacific, and from the Atlantic to the Caribbean.
Wildlife inspectors and special agents are two job titles that have arisen from "fish and game wardens." Wildlife inspectors monitor the legal trade and intercept illegal importations and exportations of federally protected fish and wildlife. At points of entry into the United States, wildlife inspectors examine shipping containers, live animals, wildlife products such as animal skins, and documents. Inspectors, who work closely with special agents, may seize shipments as evidence, conduct investigations, and testify in courts of law.
Special agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are trained criminal investigators who enforce federal wildlife laws throughout this country. Special agents conduct law enforcement investigations, which may include activities such as surveillance, undercover work, making arrests, and preparing cases for court. They often work with other federal, tribal, foreign, state, or local law enforcement authorities. These agents enforce traditional migratory bird regulations and investigate commercial activities involving illegal trade in protected wildlife. Some agents work at border ports to enforce federal laws protecting wildlife that enters into interstate and national commerce.
Another prominent position within the Fish and Wildlife Service is that of a refuge ranger or refuge manager. These professionals work at more than 565 national refuges across the country, protecting and conserving migratory and native species of birds, mammals, fish, endangered species, and other wildlife. Many of these refuges also offer outdoor recreational opportunities and programs to educate the public about the refuges' wildlife and their habitats.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also employs people in a wide variety of occupations, such as engineering, ecology, zoology, veterinary science, forestry, botany, chemistry, hydrology, land surveying, architecture, landscape architecture, statistics, library science, archaeology, and education. The service hires administrators and business managers, realty specialists, appraisers, assessors, contract specialists, purchasing agents, budget analysts, financial managers, computer specialists and programmers, human resources professionals, and public affairs specialists. Additionally, a variety of technical, clerical, and trades and crafts positions are available.