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Master's Degree Programs in Forestry

If you want to study ecology and wildlife, or have ambitions to work in the forest service, a Master of Forestry (MF) degree program might be an educational path that you might want to consider. Read on for core curriculum information for this program.

Core Courses for a Master of Forestry Program

Coursework for a master's degree program in forestry can last one to two years and vary widely in the number of credit hours required ( 24 to 48 hours usually). Students who have previous undergraduate work in forestry may have to complete less core requirements than a student who has no schooling in forestry, which might include an introductory course in ecology or forestry at the undergraduate level or even higher-level mathematics.


Silviculture classes usually focus on the establishment and growth of woodlands and forests and how to sustainably maintain and harvest these lands. Students could study regeneration methods and vegetative maintenance as well as site preparation, planting, and pruning. Courses in this subject could also focus on treatments for different types of habitats to maintain healthy native flora and fauna, while still promoting business growth and use of resources. Students might also learn how to assess type, quality, quantity, vigor, and other attributes of forests and how to gauge whether or not some or part of the land is suitable for harvesting, and if so, which trees, where, and how.

Forest Ecology

Forest ecology courses may contain a lecture and a lab component and examine the cycles of the forest environment. How nutrients and energy are funneled through the ecosystem and how the forest regenerates are topics often discussed in forest ecology. Students could look at ecosystems through the interaction of biological organisms. Interruptions to the healthy maintenance of forest ecology could also be explored in these courses.

Forest Mensuration

Extensive fieldwork is often required in forest mensuration courses as students learn how to take measurements of the forest ecosystem. Students could learn analytical and field measurement skills that are necessary for professional forestry workers. They might also learn to take samples to complete assessments of trees, wildlife, and vegetation.

Forest Management

Courses in forest management could be taught in a lecture or seminar format, in which students will engage extensively with experts in the field of forestry and tackle current issues, such as chip mills, fiber harvesting and usage, and preservation management. Students will also go over best practices of forest management and discuss in-depth regeneration aspects and issues. Fieldwork or field trips may be taken in a variety of ecosystems including mountainous regions, coastal plains, and many other selections available locally to students, and sometimes requiring travel.


Students in soil course usually practice interpretative and analytical skills as they examine problem sets in various ecosystems with regard to the soil formulation. Terrestrial ecosystems are the focus of soils courses, and students are taught about rooting systems, the chemical and biological makeup of these ecosystems, and how plants and microorganisms exist in these environments. The soil is also examined as a medium through which water transfers and the various issues therein, such as flooding, drought, groundwater contamination, and many other issues.

Natural Resources Law and Policy

Many different types of issues are tackled in natural resources or environmental law courses, including pollution of air, land, and water, and the usage of natural resources. Courses could go over laws concerning endangered and at-risk species as well as the storage and disposal of hazardous waste. Students might examine the overarching legal structures that govern the environment and the issues surrounding it and how it plays into decision making and contribution to regulatory design. Policies may go over federal, state, and local municipalities and examine overarching, or local problem sets.


Precipitation levels, runoff, water sources, and groundwater flow are all examples of aspects which could be examined in a hydrology course. Some courses are broken into watershed and landscape hydrology and could examine the water cycle and its balance, evapotranspiration, and streamflow mechanisms. Students might learn about riparian, hyporheic and vadose zones, as well as other specialized issues such as snowmelt and biogeochemical budgets. Students could learn to take field measurements and turn the data collected into usable information to make assessments about the ecosystem and environment.

Even though the credit hours required can vary from 24 all the way up to 48 credit hours for some institutions, the curriculum covered in master's degree programs in forestry, encompass some of the same basic core coursework. Some of the courses that you could encounter in a program include silviculture, forest ecology, forest mensuration, forest management, soils, hydrology, and environmental law.