Forest Ecology Master's Degree

Master's degree programs in forest ecology may go by several names, but help equip students with the skills necessary for future careers. Explore some of these possible career options, as well as common courses for these programs. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

How to Earn a Master's in Forest Ecology

Forest ecology is usually offered as an area of study within a master's degree program in forest ecology and management, forest ecosystems, or forest sciences and these degree programs may culminate in a Master of Forestry (MF) degree or more commonly a Master of Science (MS) degree. Some of these programs can be completed in as little as 12 months, but most take 1.5 to 2.5 years to complete, and applicants may need to meet specific GRE and/or GPA requirements and hold an undergraduate degree. Some programs may offer a thesis, report, or coursework option and usually include some of the common courses discussed in more detail below.


Students in these master's degree programs can usually take a course that discusses some form of public policy and how these policies apply to land management. These courses may cover public administration concepts and look at the history of laws and policies that affect land management. Students in these courses could learn how to consider economic, political, legal, and other factors in their management strategies.

Forest Economics

Students are likely to take a course that discusses economic principles and how they are applied to forestry management techniques. These courses may also explore the economics behind restoration processes and/or fire management of these forests. Students might cover topics in financial analysis, including topics in risk, pricing, taxation, land valuation, and more.

Restoration Ecology

Forest ecology students may be required to take a course that explores how to restore an ecosystem that has been disturbed in some way. These courses may discuss the fundamental ecological restoration processes of wetlands, forests, grasslands, and other areas. Specific topics for these courses may include site assessment, how to analyze restoration success, and hydrologic functions in restoration.

Community Ecology

Students are also likely to take a course that discusses some aspect of community ecology. Some of these courses may focus on a group of organisms, such as plant community ecology, while other courses may look at forests as a whole. Some of these courses may also be paired with a lab for hands-on learning and the development of field skills. Students in community ecology courses may cover topics in diversity, succession, quantitative tools for analysis, and data interpretation.


It is also common for master's students in forest ecology to take one or more courses that explore various aspects of management. These courses may explore topics in forest management, wildlife habitat management, urban forest management, and more. In general, these courses aim to equip students with the necessary decision-making and analysis skills to develop resource management plans on a large scale. Some of these courses may include a lab section and may discuss how different management techniques affect various resources within a forest.

Career Options for a Master's in Forest Ecology


Hydrologists need to have at least a bachelor's degree, but a master's degree often leads to career advancement in the field. Some forest ecology programs may offer research and/or coursework opportunities in hydrology, as water can play a major role in ecosystems. Hydrologists are scientists who study various bodies of water and determine how the quantity and quality of this water affects the environment around it.

Environmental Scientists and Specialists

Environmental scientists and specialists also need at least a bachelor's degree, but a master's degree is needed for advancement. These professionals work to protect both the environment and human health by collecting and analyzing environmental data to check for signs of pollution or other problems and then working to develop ways to correct any issues. Those with a master's in forest ecology might be interested in this position since environmental scientists need to have a background in the natural sciences to understand how ecosystems work and identify possible threats to the environment.

Conservation Scientists and Foresters

Conservation scientists and foresters must have at least a bachelor's degree, but master's degree programs in forestry and ecosystem management are becoming more popular for the career. Conservation scientists and foresters are responsible for managing natural resources, such as forests, and ensuring the quality of these areas. This may require these professionals to develop management plans, supervise forestry and conservation activities, and monitor restoration which are skills that a forest ecology degree holder should possess.

Job TitleMedian Salary (2018)*Job Growth (2018-2028)*
Environmental Scientists and Specialists$71,1308%
Conservation Scientists and Foresters$61,340 3%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

A master's degree in forest ecology covers topics in ecology, forestry, and management. Graduates of these degree programs can work in a variety of scientific careers that work to maintain and improve ecosystems.

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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