How Do I Become a Natural Resources Professional?

Find out the types of jobs you could pursue as a natural resources professional. Read on to learn more about career options along with education requirements and job duties information. Schools offering Environmental & Social Sustainability degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Natural Resources Professional?

Natural resources professionals work in a variety of fields that are focused on conserving and protecting waterways, oceans, soil and wildlife. They are often involved in management and policy development for sustainable use and harvesting to ensure that natural resources are available for future generations. Specific job titles include conservation scientist, forester and conservation workers. Conservation scientists typically study a particular subfield within conservation studies, such as climate change or chemical pollution. Foresters oversee forest conservation efforts, like tree regeneration and fire prevention. Conservation workers typically work under foresters, implementing the conservation plans they have designed.

The following chart gives you an overview of three career options for natural resources professionals.

Conservation Scientist ForesterConservation Worker
Degree required Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree High school diploma
Field of Study Environmental Science, Natural Resource Management, Agricultural Science Forestry, Forestry Resource Management On-the-job-training
Key Responsibilities Assess state of natural resources
Develop resource management plans
Rebuild and restore resources
Manage regeneration of forests
Control tree harvest
Develop plans to protect forests from insects and disease
Plant and cultivate trees
Remove diseased trees
Control insects and weed growth
Average Salary (2015) $63,800* $60,650*$29,860*
Job Growth (2014-2024) 7 %* 8%* 4%*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Training Do I Need to Be a Forester?

As a forester, you could oversee economic, recreation, conservation and environmental activities for our national forests. In this job, you might provide expert advice and direction to help landowners maintain a healthy forest and to ensure sustainability of forest areas. You might also create plans to address problems or issues that threaten the health and sustainability of forest areas. You could design new forest areas or the regeneration of damaged land areas. Job duties may also involve directing the operations of lumber companies, choosing which trees may be harvested and overseeing planting of new trees. You could be in charge of researching environmental issues faced by forests, techniques to harvest trees with minimal damage or improvement of wildlife habitats.

Employers usually prefer a degree in forestry, and advanced training is available. A degree program might cover topics including measurement of forest resources, forest resource management, ecology of the forest, forest biology and public policy. Additionally, The Society of American Foresters offers the Certified Foresters designation (www.safnet.org). This certification proves competency and knowledge in the area of forestry. The Society for Range Management offers the Certified Professional in Rangeland Management, which provides proof of professional standards in rangeland management, planning and implementation (www.rangelands.org).

What Education Can Prepare Me to Become a Conservation Scientist?

Conservation scientists focus on improving, protecting and managing natural resources. Depending on your specialty, your job duties could involve creating ways to better use land with minimal environmental damage, or you could be asked to study soils, plants or animals. As a conservation scientist, you might manage animal species, prevent wildfires and offer technical help to landowners to conserve natural resources. You could also help landowners solve problems with erosion, water preservation and contamination issues. Your duties might include measuring trees and creating maps of land areas.

You may earn an associate, bachelor's, master's or doctorate degree in natural resources. Most employers prefer at least a bachelor's degree for many positions. Natural resource programs include courses in biology, ecology, earth science, resource economics, aquatic science, conservation, environmental policy and sustainable systems.

How Can I Pursue a Career As a Conservation Worker?

If you're interested in working in conservation but don't want to pursue an advanced natural resources or forestry degree, you might consider employment as a conservation worker. Conservation workers focus on developing, maintaining and protecting natural resources through planting new trees, controlling soil erosion and conserving forests. Conservation workers generally only need a high school diploma and learn the skills they need on-the-job.

As a conservation worker, your job duties could include removing diseased trees, applying herbicides, maintaining campgrounds and assisting with controlled burning. You may work with seedlings, sorting them and getting rid of the unhealthy ones. Another job duty may be to collect sap to be used in making maple syrup. These positions may be seasonal, which could allow you to pursue other interests or additional education.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

You might also be interested in getting a job as an occupational health and safety specialist. In this job, you would inspect workplaces and develop plans to make sure that companies operate in a way that protects the health of workers as well as the integrity of the environment as a whole. For this job, you need at least a bachelor's degree. Another option is a job as an environmental engineer, where you would apply the findings of conservation scientists and other researchers to solve environmental problems. Entry-level engineers must have at least a bachelor's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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