What Is Natural Resource Management?

Natural resources are materials that occur naturally, such as timber, coal, oil, water, air, fish, animals and land. Natural resource management is the responsible supervision or handling of these resources. Read on for information about specialties within this field, education options and career statistics. Schools offering Environmental & Social Sustainability degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Natural Resource Management Defined

Natural resource management is an interdisciplinary field of study that considers the physical, biological, economic and social aspects of handling natural resources. It involves putting resources to their best use for human purposes in addition to preserving natural systems. Natural resource managers' duties include overseeing workers, analyzing data, developing environmental plans and policies in accordance with state and federal laws and negotiating land and resource use contracts with landowners and governments. Within this field, there are various areas of concentration:

  • Earth or physical sciences involves the chemical and physical properties of ecosystems. This may include the study of soils and the disciplines of geoscience and GIS (Geographic Information Systems).
  • Science of biotic resources focuses on ecosystem management and biological principles. This would include the study of vegetation, wildlife and landscapes. It can include working with farmers in an effort to manage rangelands and protect wildlife, along with working with other agencies to oversee recreational land use.
  • Social sciences looks at how humans affect the environment or various ecosystems. This area of natural resources management may look to the disciplines of sociology, anthropology or emergency management.
  • Pollution control examines how air, water and land pollution can be reduced and how quality of these resources can be restored.
  • Environmental communication involves the use of mass media, public relations and journalism to highlight environmental and natural resources issues and concerns.
  • Economics of natural resources encompasses policy making, regulation, administration and management of natural resources. It involves the combination of policy and economics to protect ecosystems, with the ultimate goal of sustainability.

Important Facts About Natural Resource Management Careers

Conservation Scientist Natural Science Manager
Projected Job Growth (2016-2026) 6% 10%
Work Environment Combination of outdoors (sometimes in rugged conditions), lab, office; protective clothing & equipment may be used Mostly in office & lab settings, working with computers and talking with colleagues
Professional Certification Voluntary certification available Voluntary certification available
Similar Occupations Firefighter, wildlife biologist, agricultural, food scientist Astronomer/physicist, geoscientist, biochemist

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Degree Programs

Natural resource management can be studied at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Programs may offer tracks in fisheries, wildlife management or range management. Coursework may include plant and animal biology, chemistry, ecology, geology, forests and rangelands, watersheds, biology diversity, wildlife management, environmental policy and environmental ethics. Natural resource management programs often include practical training, like a summer fieldwork trip, seasonal volunteer work, a co-op or an internship.

Career Outlook

Entry-level conservation science jobs can be attained with a bachelor's degree. With experience, these scientists may move into management positions. Some professionals earn a master's degree to better prepare them for advanced management responsibilities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the 2018 average annual wage of conservation scientists was $65,320.

Natural science managers, which can include natural resources managers, typically need 5 years of experience. The BLS reports that these professionals earned an average annual wage of $139,680 in 2018.

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