Urban Forestry

Urban forestry is concerned with the planning and upkeep of city and suburban trees and other vegetation. To learn more about the field of urban forestry, including career options, earnings and educational requirements, read on.

Is Urban Forestry Right for Me?

Career Overview

Urban forestry focuses on the planning and management of tree populations in developed areas, such as commercial and residential districts, parks and greenbelts. Urban foresters plan and care for vegetation to improve urban environments and increase overall quality of life for city and suburban dwellers. Urban foresters usually work with municipal and utility workers, city planners, community activists and environmental policymakers to ensure trees and wooded areas remain protected components of the urban infrastructure. Their work can entail conducting site assessments, managing pest infestations and developing long-term sustainable plans.

Career Options

Many urban foresters are employed with local, state or federal government agencies. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service employs the majority of foresters in the federal government. Additional job opportunities exist with consulting firms, nonprofit organizations, conservation organizations and private industry. Related job titles you could hold include recreation planner, forestry manager and conservation officer. Urban foresters working in a college or university setting often split their time between teaching forestry courses and conducting research on various environmental issues, such as the effects of urban pollution on vegetation, storm water runoff and wildfires that infringe on developed areas.

Employment and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that the number of jobs for foresters would increase 6% nationwide between 2012 and 2022. As of May 2012, foresters in general earned a median annual salary of $55,950. In the same year, approximately 29% were employed by their state governments, with 13% and 11% employed by federal or local governments, respectively (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Work in Urban Forestry?

Educational Options

Forestry degree offerings range from the associate's to doctoral levels. Associate's degrees are generally offered in technical forestry to prepare graduates for jobs as forestry technicians; however, a bachelor's degree in forestry is required for most urban forestry jobs. Closely related degrees in biology, natural resource management or environmental sciences can also prepare you for a career in urban forestry. If you wish to move into research or teaching, you'll need a master's or doctoral degree. Various undergraduate and graduate certificates in forestry are also available.

Forestry Curriculum

Most schools offer urban forestry as a specialization within forestry degree programs. The Society of American Foresters (SAF) sets educational standards and accredits the curricula of forestry degree programs at both the undergraduate and master's degree levels throughout the country. Program emphasis is on forest ecology and biology, forest resources, forest management and public policy.

A specialty in urban forestry often includes topics in landscape drafting, land surveying, silviculture and urban forest management, along with supplemental courses from other departments, such as planning and design, horticulture and business management. In addition to standard classes, most programs incorporate fieldwork experience and work-study programs for practical job training.

Licensing and Registration Requirements

According to the SAF in November 2011, 15 states have licensing or registration requirements for foresters. Individuals can pursue voluntary forestry certification through the Forest Stewardship Council or the SAF. National certification through the SAF may supplement state licensure requirements. To become certified through the SAF, you need at least a bachelor's degree from an approved program, five years of professional experience and a passing score on a qualifying exam. You must be recertified every three years to maintain the credential (www.safnet.org).

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