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CO hiring FAQs
What are the requirements to become a conservation officer?
- Be able to lawfully possess a firearm in Michigan.
- Be at least 21 years of age before graduating the Conservation Officer Recruit School Academy (or upon hiring date if pre-certified).
- Be a United States citizen.
- Be a State of Michigan resident before completing probationary training.
- Possess a valid driver's license.
- Possess a satisfactory driving record.
- Submit to a thorough background investigation measuring the applicant's suitability for law enforcement work.
- Have proof of passing the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards physical fitness test.
What do COs do?
COs protect Michigan’s natural resources, the environment, and the health and safety of the public through effective law enforcement and education.
They patrol and enforce laws and regulations specific to the jurisdiction of the Michigan DNR, including:
- Fish and wildlife.
- State parks.
- State forests.
- Recreational activities such as off-road vehicle riding, snowmobiling, and boating.
COs work on land and on the water, patrolling remote areas where people hunt, fish, and recreate. They work varied shifts, often outdoors in inclement weather. COs regularly speak at community events and in classrooms to educate people about ethical use of our natural resources and recreational safety.
Duties vary based on the season and include:
- Observing and checking hunters and anglers.
- Snowmobile, off-road vehicle, and watercraft enforcement.
- Teaching hunter education and recreational safety courses.
- Enforcing laws that protect the environment.
- Writing criminal case briefs and giving court testimony.
Because they enforce hunting regulations, COs often deal with those possessing firearms. As licensed law enforcement officers, COs conduct traffic stops and make physical arrests of criminals who may be intoxicated and/or disorderly.
COs are first responders to general criminal situations, natural disasters, and emergencies, such as search and rescue efforts and active shooter situations.
They also take part in multi-agency operations, patrols and training exercises with the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan State Police, county sheriff departments, city police departments, and tribal agencies.
Learn more by watching the CO skills and training videos.
Do I need a college degree to become a CO?
COs are hired from diverse education backgrounds and life experiences.
A college degree is not required, however a background in the following topics may help prepare applicants:
- Natural resources
- Animal science
- Wildlife biology/management
- Criminal justice
- Fisheries and wildlife
I have law enforcement experience. Do I need to complete the Conservation Officer Recruit School Academy?
How can I prepare for the entry-level law enforcement exam?
How should I physically prepare?
Anyone who is considering applying to become a CO should begin physically preparing for the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards physical fitness test as soon as possible by reviewing the pre-enrollment physical fitness test information.
The DNR recommends incorporating a variety of physical training into your exercise routine, including:
- Strength training.
- Core exercises.
- Flexibility and stretching.
- Cardio and interval training.
- Running (long distance and sprints).
- This type of physical training should not be started a week or two before the test. There is no such thing as preparing too soon.
- A healthy diet and staying hydrated is important to achieve proper physical fitness.
- Mentally prepare for the testing environment when nerves are often elevated.
- If you meet the expectations, train beyond the requirements.
When is the next hiring period?
Job announcements and active postings will be shared on Michigan.gov/ConservationOfficers and the DNR’s social media channels.
New conservation officers are hired based on the need to fill vacant positions. Vacancies become available due to promotions, transfers, retirements, and departures.
There is not a set schedule when the DNR hires new conservation officers.
I’ve never been hunting or fishing. Can I still become a CO?
The DNR hires conservation officers from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Recruits learn everything they need to know during their training. You do not need to have previous experience in any particular area to become a conservation officer.
How are COs different from other law enforcement?
COs are fully sworn law enforcement officers licensed through the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards. They receive the same general law enforcement training as all MCOLES-licensed officers, such as Michigan State Police and local law enforcement officers.
COs receive additional training specific to the laws, rules, and regulations under the jurisdiction of the Michigan DNR.
What county will I work, are there residency requirements?
COs are assigned a county to patrol and are required to live within that county.
- Assignments are prioritized by recreational activity and population of an area.
- Applicants desired work locations are considered when making assignments.
I’m not old enough to apply. How can I prepare?
Anyone who is interested in becoming a conservation officer, regardless of age is encouraged to:
- Contact a recruiter.
- Request a conservation officer ride-along (must be at least age 18). Serious candidates are encouraged to do ride-alongs in different areas of the state and during different seasons.
- Complete all of the DNR’s recreational safety education programs (hunter education, off-road vehicle, marine and snowmobile).
- Physically prepare for the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards physical fitness test.
- Read the fishing and hunting regulations and recreational handbooks every year.
- Read the academy blog and watch videos about the skills and training conservation officers complete.
- The DNR has a variety of seasonal and temporary jobs available, which is a great way to learn more about the DNR and gain valuable experience before applying to become a conservation officer.
- Become a DNR volunteer recreational safety instructor or volunteer in your community.
Am I too old to apply?
The State of Michigan is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes people of all ages to apply. Successful candidates can meet all the requirements to become a conservation officer.
Can I do a ride along?
I received a DUI/MIP, can I still apply?
Individuals who previously received a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Minor in Possession (MIP) can still apply; each situation will be considered carefully as part of the background investigation process.
Individuals who have been convicted with a past felony will not be considered.
How much money do COs make?
The beginning payrate for conservation officers in training is $24.36-$31.90 per hour (based on prior experience).
Conservation officers are offered overtime opportunities and pay after they complete their probationary period.
All State of Michigan employees receive annual pay increases.
Are there military benefits?
Military members/veterans who have received a DD214 may qualify for State service credit towards annual leave and longevity.
The DNR Law Enforcement Division is a 2022 silver level Veteran-Friendly employer.
What are the essential CO job functions?
- Perform as a conservation officer without discriminating against any person because of race, color, national origin, religion, disability, age, marital status, sex, height or weight.
- Perform a variety of essential job functions under stressful and non-stressful conditions while maintaining psychological stability, credibility and integrity. Maintain a high level of credibility, integrity and believability at all times to maintain that trust which citizens expect and deserve.
- Communicate effectively over law enforcement radio channels while initiating and responding to radio communications, often under adverse conditions such as siren usage and high-speed vehicle operations which may include gravel or lightly traveled two-track roadways. Listen, comprehend and respond to radio transmissions and other forms of communication.
- Communicate verbally and effectively by listening to people and by giving information, directions and commands.
- Exercise independent judgment within legal guidelines, to determine when there is reasonable suspicion to detain, when probable cause exists to search and arrest, and when force may be used and to what degree.
- Gather information in criminal investigations by interviewing and obtaining the statements of victims, witnesses, suspects, and confidential informants.
- Perform law-enforcement patrol functions while working rotating shifts and unanticipated overtime with periodic short notice.
- Prepare incident reports, pursuit reports and other law enforcement-related documents using appropriate grammar. These documents may include sketches, symbols and mathematical computations.
- Read and comprehend rules, regulations, policies, procedures and criminal law for purposes of ensuring appropriate officer behavior, response and actions while performing enforcement activities involving the public.
- Complete necessary processing tasks including fingerprinting, photographs and necessary reports.
- Possess sufficient physical and mental stamina to stay alert, focused and functional after extended hours on duty, rotating shifts and repeated rapid changes from sedentary activity to strenuous physical activity.
- Read and comprehend legal and non-legal documents, which includes preparing, processing and issuing appearance tickets, bond receipts, information, criminal summons, depositions, warrants and other job-related documents.
- Give travel directions, tourist information and other directions to the general public. Read and understand various land maps and nautical charts.
- Obtain and broadcast accurate descriptions of suspects and/or vehicles.
- Endure verbal abuse from suspects, arrestees and others encountered in antagonistic situations while maintaining a professional demeanor.
- Climb over obstacles and through openings. Jump down from and up to elevated surfaces, over obstacles, ditches, streams and other outdoor environmental obstacles. Crawl in confined areas to investigate, pursue, apprehend, search and/or rescue. Perform all of the above during daylight and darkness, inside and outside, on frozen, wet and/or otherwise treacherous surface situations and in inclement weather.
- From a sedentary status, enter and exit vehicles quickly to perform rescue operations, pursue a suspect or answer an emergency call. Vehicles include varied patrol vehicles, boats, snowmobiles and ORVs.
- Manage interpersonal conflicts to maintain order and safety.
- Perform tasks that require lifting, carrying or dragging people, heavy objects or animals while performing arrest, rescue or general patrol functions.
- Run and pursue fleeing suspects on foot both day and night in unfamiliar terrain and in inclement weather.
- Use bodily force or other appropriate lawful means to gain entrance through barriers to search, seize, investigate and/or rescue.
- Carry out foot-patrol functions to include running and walking, using various types of footwear (including hip boots, waders, snowshoes) over varying terrain (including ice, snow and water) and in inclement weather. Walk long distances.
- Effect an arrest, forcibly if necessary, using handcuffs and other restraints.
- Load, unload, aim and fire handguns, shotguns and other agency-authorized firearms from a variety of body positions in situations that justify the use of deadly force while maintaining emotional control under extreme stress. Perform these functions in daylight and darkness, from varying surfaces and in inclement weather. Disassemble, clean, inspect and reassemble weapons. Maintain weapons and related equipment in a proper, functional and safe manner.
- Operate an emergency vehicle during both the day and night, in emergency and pursuit situations, while exercising due care and caution. This may include exceeding posted speed limits, making exceptions to of traffic-control devices and driving in congested traffic and unsafe road conditions. Other factors may include environmental conditions such as fog, smoke, rain, ice, snow, daylight, darkness, seasonal non-maintained roadways, and off-road driving. Maintain control of a vehicle while operating the radio, emergency lights, siren and spotlights. Safely operate a vehicle in reverse gear. Be able to change patrol vehicle tire as necessary to maintain emergency response availability. Perform related equipment maintenance.
- Perform searches of persons that involve touching and feeling to detect potential weapons and contraband.
- Subdue resisting subjects using hands and feet while employing survival tactics, maneuvers or approved non-lethal weapons.
- Perform other essential tasks as identified by the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) job task analysis as it applies to general law enforcement and the conservation officer position.
- Isolate and preserve crime and accident scenes.
- Collect and safeguard evidence.
- Perform all job functions in a manner that will not bring harm or pose a threat to the public.
- Conduct searches of buildings and large outdoor areas, which may involve walking and/or standing for long periods of time. Possess the ability to distinguish color and perceive shapes in daylight, darkness and in inclement weather situations. Conduct related activities involving the sense of touch to detect objects and/or the sense of smell to detect the presence of smoke or fire or other materials such as burnt gunpowder, illegal drugs, alcohol or other substances.
- Conduct visual and audio surveillance for extended periods of time in daylight and darkness as well as in inclement weather.
- Load, unload and safely handle shotguns, rifles, handguns and other weapons used by others in a lawful or unlawful manner. Perform above functions in vehicles, in varying degrees of light, in inclement weather and while maintaining emotional control under conditions of potential extreme force and stress.
- Operate canoes, kayaks and various vessel types on lakes and streams (including the Great Lakes) in a safe and prudent manner during all weather conditions. Load, unload and maintain these vessels properly and safely.
- Operate snowmobiles, ORVs, bicycles and other recreational vehicles used for patrol purposes in a safe and prudent manner in varying terrain and weather conditions. Load, unload and maintain all vehicles in a proper and safe manner.
- Provide first aid as needed, including CPR, rescue breathing and the Heimlich maneuver. Make use of appropriate personal protective equipment and devices.
- Maintain all appropriate activity, radio, complaint, equipment and other administrative logs and records required.
- Read license plates and registration numbers. See and recognize registration and inspection stickers from distances.
- Properly wear the department-issued uniform, including the ballistic vest, Sam Browne belt and various footwear. All other associated equipment, including helmets, life jackets, gloves and eyewear, is used when necessary.
- The duties and responsibilities stated here are not intended to be all-inclusive, and the employer reserves the right to assign related additional duties and responsibilities as necessary.