Forestry Jobs: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for obtaining forestry jobs. Get the facts about salary, types of jobs available and education to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Environmental & Social Sustainability degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Forestry Job?

Forestry work involves the management and protection of forests and other natural areas, such as wildlife habitats, wetlands and parks. Forestry jobs may include foresters, forest technicians and loggers. Those working in forestry may participate in controlled burns, tree removal, herbicide application and more. Workers in this field typically help monitor regeneration efforts and other environmental health indicators. Forestry work often involves collaboration with landowners, farmers and the government to protect the environment and improve land usage.

Forest technicians assist those working to conserve natural resources, like the forest. Under foresters, forest technicians often compose data related to the conditions present in the forest. They also could train forest workers in fire prevention and suppression as well as forest propagation.

Loggers are responsible for cutting and logging trees. There are many jobs within this field including fallers, buckers, tree climbers, choke setters, rigging slingers and chasers, log sorters and chippers, equipment operators and log graders and scalers. A logging crew may consist of one or more of each of these positions. The chart below presents an overview of what you need to know about entering the forestry field.

ForestersForest TechniciansLoggers
Degree or Training Required Bachelor's degree Associate's degree High school diploma plus on-the-job training or training program
Education Field of Study Forestry, natural resource management Biology, forest resource measurement N/A
Key Responsibilities Monitor the health of forests; plant and manage trees Gather data on forest conditions; enforce environmental regulations Harvest timber; grade logs
Licensure Required by some states None None
Job Growth (2014-2024) 8%* -6%* -4%*
Average Salary (2015) $60,650* $38,260* $36,210*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Could I Earn in a Forestry Job?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the national average for 2015 salaries for foresters was $60,650 (www.bls.gov). Your location and employer makes a difference in your wages, with the BLS data reporting that local, state and federal government agencies paid between $54,850-$64,260 that year and veneer, plywood and engineered wood manufacturers compensated an average of $77,230. According to the BLS, most states paid foresters close to the national average in 2015, though the higher-paying areas included Louisiana, offering approximately $79,400, as well as California, paying foresters over $76,930.

Forest technicians earned an average of $38,260 in 2015, per the BLS, with the highest paying states including Massachusetts, New York and Georgia. Meanwhile, the average annual salary for logging workers in 2015 was $36,210.

What Are Some Forestry Jobs I Could Do?

If you want to become a forester, you'll be responsible for monitoring forests and keeping them healthy. Your duties could include reforestation and tree nursery management for private companies or government agencies. You might also direct efforts to contain forest fires and manage a team of forestry technicians. You'd accumulate information on forest size and conditions, determining where new trees will be planted and assessing practical logging or maintenance practices.

You could also work in the logging industry as a procurement forester, negotiating the purchase of timber for wood manufacturers and sawmills. You'd estimate the value of timber and purchase it from forest owners. As a logger, you'd create and clear access roads, cut trees with chainsaws, remove limbs and transport the logs to shipyards and sawmills. You could also work as a log grader or scaler, inspecting the quality of logs, measuring them and assigning value based on your findings.

What Education Will I Need?

You'll usually need a bachelor's degree in forestry or natural resource management to work as a forester, according to the BLS. If you're seeking a career in research or academic arenas, you might need a master's or doctoral degree. The Society of American Foresters (SAF) sets the standards and values for forestry education, and enrolling in an SAF-accredited program provides you with education that demonstrates accepted scientific, biological and practical forestry, environmental and conservation principles.

Bachelor's degree programs in forestry consist of courses in forestry measurements, forest and range plants, forestry field studies and forest vegetation. You'll learn practical conservation methods and take natural science courses in biology and botany. Natural resource management programs focus on economics, leadership and administration, as well as natural resource policy. Core courses might also include computer science and mathematics.

A doctoral research degree in forestry teaches you forest management, zoological social sciences, and ecosystem conservation. A natural resources Ph.D. program emphasizes areas in forest resources, rangeland management, ecology and conservation social sciences. You'll participate in significant laboratory work and field research.

How Do I Obtain Licensing?

Licensing requirements for foresters vary among the states, but a few require you to obtain a license or register with the state. Check the laws for your state to determine if your forestry job requires licensure. Generally, registration and licensing prerequisites include a bachelor's degree in forestry, considerable work experience, and successful completion of a written test.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Forest and conservation workers are similar positions that require a high school diploma or equivalent. These workers are supervised by foresters or forest technicians as they maintain forests and natural resources. Environmental science and protection technicians are also related, but require an associate's degree. These technicians protect the environment and look at things like how pollution impacts human health. Zoologists and wildlife biologists are related careers that require a bachelor's degree. These professionals study various wildlife populations, human impact on environments and animal behavior.

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