In forest engineering studies, you'll learn about trees, soil and water, and how to utilize these resources in the most efficient, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly manner. Find out about degree programs and employment options in this field.
Forest engineering is the application of engineering principles to the maintenance of trees, soil, water and other natural resources within the forest ecosystem. Forest engineers study current conditions and develop plans to restore and protect existing natural resources and the environment. They work with government officials and private timber companies to oversee harvesting operations, survey prospective timber operation sites and develop adequate, environmentally-sound transportation routes to and from the forests.
With a degree in forest engineering, you'll have a variety of potential job titles, such as forest technician, land-use planner, forest health specialist or silviculture surveyor, as well as professor, biologist or researcher. You may work in woodlands, manufacturing, sales, research or education. You'll generally need at least a bachelor's degree, and some positions may require a graduate degree. Other necessary skills include an aptitude for math and science, problem solving talents and a desire to protect the forest environment.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for conservation scientists and foresters are projected to increase by a slower-than-average 3% between 2012 and 2022. Agricultural engineers, including forest engineers, should experience job growth of 5% in that same period of time, which is also slower than average. Based on BLS figures from May 2012, foresters earned a median yearly salary of $55,950. Agricultural engineers received $74,000 in median wages.
There are many forestry degree programs. However, if you wish to work as a forest engineer, you'll typically need at least a bachelor's degree. A bachelor's program in forest engineering can provide you with a solid foundation in general engineering practices while integrating environmental systems design, waste management, surveying, forest ecology, timber harvesting and humanities courses into the curriculum. You can gain communication and management skills, as well as learn cost analysis. Typically, you'll address the issues of ecology and sustainability.
At the graduate level, you may find programs such as the Master of Forestry, Master of Science (M.S.) in Forest Engineering and other engineering graduate degree programs related to wood science and forest products. In a forest engineering graduate degree program, you may expect to take classes in forest engineering problem solving and technology, as well as forest surveying and harvesting management. You can also learn about engineering applications and international forestry. If your ultimate goal is to become a forest engineering professor, then you'll typically need to obtain a doctorate degree.
As an undergraduate student, you'll generally be eligible to take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam in your final semester. The FE exam is designed for students who are nearing completion of their undergraduate engineering degree and is usually the first step toward the Professional Engineer (PE) license, which requires work experience and an additional test. The license may be required depending on the type of job in which you're interested. Licensing requirements vary by state.