Master's Degree Programs in Forestry in California

The state of California has just three universities that offer master's degrees specifically in forestry or with concentrations in forest sciences. Read on to see what these universities have to offer.

University of California - Berkeley

The Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at UC Berkeley offers the only Master of Forestry (MF) degree program in California. This program offers credits towards the education requirements for the state's Registered Professional Forester program and lasts about two years. It is broken into four components: core coursework, a professional paper, an internship, and an oral examination.

California Polytechnic State University

Cal Poly's 45-credit Master of Science (MS) in Forestry Sciences program also provides students credit toward becoming a Registered Professional Forester through its forest resource sciences emphasis, which includes curriculum on watershed management, fire science, forest management, forest health, and ecological biometrics. The program also offers an emphasis in environmental management.

Humboldt State University

The MS in Natural Resources program offered by Humboldt State University allows students to specialize in forestry watershed and wildland sciences, which has a curriculum heavy in forest operations analysis, forest growth and dynamics, fire science, rangeland ecology soil science, and watershed processes. In order to graduate, students must conduct field research, write a thesis, give an oral presentation of the work, and sit in a closed formal defense.

School NameProgram OfferedAverage Graduate Tuition* (2019-2020)
University of California - Berkeley Master of Forestry $11,442 in state, $26,544 out of state
California Polytechnic State University Master of Science in Forestry Sciences$7,176 in state, $16,680 out of state
Humboldt State University Master of Science in Natural Resources $7,176 in state, $16,680 out of state

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics

Curriculum for a Master's Degree in Forestry in California

The courses required for obtaining a master's degree in forestry are all similar throughout these three programs, but they may have slightly differing titles. Examples of core coursework a student can expect in a forestry graduate program are delineated below.


Siviculture courses investigate the establishment, growth, and maintenance of forest systems and the impact of the ecological management of these biospheres. Responsible harvesting practices are often taught and emphasized. The impacts of harvesting practices on stand structure and responsible forest stewardship are key principles in siviculture courses.

Forest Management

Courses in forest management discuss sustainable resource management of forest systems, both tropical and temperate. Students are trained in decision-making strategies for the ethical use of forest resources and learn to create dynamic forestry models. Studies could include the economic and financial values involved in forestry decisions, and students can learn to weigh environmental impacts.

Field Research

Among the few core classes the make up a forestry curriculum is a field study or field research course, which students use to gain hands-on experience in the field. Graduate students can learn to apply research methods in the field to real-world problem sets. They might also participate in field work as part of individual courses and use the results of their experience to meet a program's thesis or project requirements.

Research Methods

Research methods courses set students up to do scientific studies, including their own thesis research and, if they choose, dissertations. The courses often involve learning how to tailor samples, collection data, and ethical research practices. Students may also study how to design research studies, including qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches to research, as well as learn how to safeguard data and to conduct data analysis to gain usable insight from the data collected.

Admission Requirements for a Master's Degree in Forestry in California

Potential candidates must possess a bachelor's degree from an accredited university and a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 (some universities look at a student's latest credit hours in undergrad coursework, e.g. the last 60 hours or so). GRE scores will also be expected, and some schools list the target range for these. Students' undergraduate transcripts will be inspected for evidence they would succeed in graduate-level coursework in forestry, and if the prerequisites are lacking, students may be admitted conditionally on the predication they will take on additional coursework to get up to speed.

Students in California who wish to pursue a master's degree in forestry have only three options specifically concentrated in this discipline: UC Berkeley, Cal Poly, and Humboldt University. Each of these school's programs includes graduate-level coursework in forest management, research, and design as well as work in the field.