What Education Do I Need for a Career in Forestry?

Forestry is a diverse industry that offers careers in land and timber management and resource conservation. Most forestry jobs can be obtained with an associate's or a bachelor's degree. This article explores the education that is necessary for different types of careers in forestry. Schools offering Environmental & Social Sustainability degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Beginning Your Career in Forestry

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, forestry workers don't need a college degree. However, an associate's degree can provide valuable training and a competitive edge in the field. Forestry technician jobs typically require an associate's degree accredited by the Society of American Foresters, and a bachelor's degree from an accredited school is the entry-level requirement for becoming a forester. Continue reading for information on associate's and bachelor's degree programs.

Important Facts About These Occupations

Programs Possible internships and seasonal employment opportunities
Prerequisites For masters and doctoral programs: GRE scores, faculty sponsorship and possible research funding
Possible Careers Timber manager, forest planner, forest ranger, fire specialist
Similar Occupations Agricultural worker, Agricultural and Food Scientist, Environmental Science and Protection Technician, Zoologist, Logging worker

Associate's Degree

There are many 2-year degrees in forestry, like the Associate of Applied Science in Forest Technology and the Associate of Science in Forestry and Wildlife Management. Courses may include forest ecology, dendrology, forest diseases, silviculture, urban forestry and wildlife management. Such programs include field training in inventorying forests and animal populations, using GPS and GIS, measuring forest health and determining property lines.

Bachelor's Degree

Bachelor's degree programs take a broader approach, offering students a stronger background in ecology, the life sciences and the physical sciences along with forestry-specific coursework. The forestry curriculum is similar to that of an associate's degree program, but it may include more management courses, like recreation management, ecosystem management and resource management. Field training is also required. Bachelor's degree programs may even offer specialization areas, like forest management or forest restoration. Programs often offer internship opportunities as well.

Advancing Your Career in Forestry

A graduate degree is not necessary to advance in your forestry career, though master's and doctoral degree programs can better prepare you for work in research, management and teaching. Graduate degree programs may offer specialization options for individuals moving into a particular niche of forestry.

Master's Degree

The Master of Science in Forestry is a research-based degree that typically precedes doctoral studies. The Master of Forestry and the Master of Natural Resources are terminal, professional degrees. Coursework may include tropical forest ecology, aquatic ecology, biogeochemistry and environmental law. Students usually have established forestry careers, and graduates are often employed in forest management or policy positions.

Doctoral Degree

Some schools offer a PhD in Forestry. Students concentrate their work in faculty research areas, such as forest ecology, environmental and resource law and policy, silviculture, environmental management and agroforestry. Sometimes, joint doctoral degree programs are also offered, combined with fields like tropical environmental biology program or anthropology.

Career Outlook and Earnings

Overall, the 2016-2026 employment outlook for forestry careers is not impressive, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. Slower than average of 4% growth rate in the number of jobs available for forest and conservation technicians, and as fast as the average increase of 6% is predicted for conservation scientists and forester careers. More job opportunities will be available in federal forests, and foresters who are familiar with wildlife prevention, suppression and restoration may also qualify for more jobs.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also lists 2018 salary information. The median annual salary for forest and conservation workers was $27,460; for forest and conservation technicians the median annual salary was $37,180 and for foresters it was $61,410.

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:

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