Forest Sciences and Biology

Combined studies in forest science and biology examine the habitat and living organisms found in a forest environment. Learn about related career options, salary information, degree requirements and common course topics.

Is Forest Science and Biology for Me?

Career Overview

By taking a major in forest sciences and biology, you receive a solid grounding in ecology and biology of a modern forest. You learn to care for, protect, and strengthen life in the forest and manage natural resources. You can pursue bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in forest sciences with a specialization in forest biology.

Once you earn your degree, you are prepared to seek employment or to go on to graduate studies in environmental sciences or forestry. Graduates of a bachelor's program may work for private companies, nongovernmental organizations, federal agencies, colleges or universities. Career options in forestry include working as a conservation scientist, forester, conservation technician, or hydrologist.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), foresters are responsible for managing conservation, financial and environmental activities pertaining to the nation's forests (www.bls.gov). Conservation scientists strive to improve and protect forest life. Forest and conservation workers take care of the forests by removing dead or sick trees, counting trees, managing facilities such as restrooms, reducing the effects of erosion and protecting plant life from pests. Hydrologists study surface and groundwater, and ecologists, who are specialized biologists, examine the link between the environment and the organisms that live there.

Employment

The BLS projects that between 2012 and 2022, employment will increase by 1% for conservation scientists, by 6% for foresters, and by 4% for forest and conservation workers; employment is predicted to decrease by 4% for forest and conservation technicians during that same 10-year period. Additionally, the BLS anticipates that, from 2012-2022, openings for hydrologists will increase by 10%. Jobs for zoologists and wildlife biologists, which includes ecologists, are expected to increase 5% from 2012-2022.

As of 2012, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for forest and conservation workers was $24,340. The agency also reported that for foresters, it was $55,950; for hydrologists, it was $75,530; for forest and conservation technicians, it was $33,920; and for conservation scientists, it was $61,100. The BLS also reported that zoologists and wildlife biologists earned median pay of $57,710 in 2012.

How Can I Work in Forest Science and Biology?

Education

To work in forest sciences and biology, you must be familiar with a variety of trees and plants. For most positions, employers prefer that you hold at least a bachelor's degree in forestry, although some positions, such as forest conservation technician, require only an associate's degree or on-the-job training. A forest sciences degree program includes courses in forestry, nature, the environment, conservation and business. The biology options of a forest sciences degree have additional courses in forest genetics, forest health, tree improvement and landscape ecology.

In a master's or doctoral degree program in forest science, forest biology, ecology or conservation biology, your coursework may address steps for maintaining the quality of forest life, tree breeding, protecting forest ecosystems and the damage caused by invasive plants. You may also explore forest nutrition, the ties between various organisms and their environment, diversity within forest life and strategies for improving tree health. You gain practical experience handling run-offs, conducting soil studies and overseeing forest restoration. You conduct research in forest-related topics and write a thesis or a dissertation. Graduates may embark on a career in academia or researching in the private sector.

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