Forestry managers are responsible for effective forest management and to oversee related activities with forests including timber production, recreation and conservation. Forestry managers and conservationists maintain and manage various forest-related issues, including biodiversity, environmental protection, public access and commercial interests.
The major work and challenge of forestry professionals today is to balance economic, recreational and environmental purposes in a responsible fashion. Forestry managers want to ensure that the forests they manage will continue to grow and thrive for decades to come, while also being used responsibly for economic and commercial purposes.
What Is Forestry Management?
The field of forestry management and conservation management typically involves the following activities:
- Oversee conservation and forestry activities to make sure that there is compliance with federal, state and local regulations regarding the protection of forests and other natural habitats
- Negotiate terms and conditions for the harvesting of forests
- Set up plans for effective management of forest lands and related natural resources so that forests can be maintained and grown effectively
- Monitor the ways in which lands are cleared of forests to ensure that the land is usable in the future
- Work with government stakeholders, landowners, farmers and others to ensure that land is improved for forest uses
- Supervise the activities of conservation and forest workers
- Select sites for new trees to be planted by using techniques such as controlled burning, heavy equipment and herbicides
- Participate in the suppression of forest fires
- Determine the best ways to take down timber with as little environmental damage as possible
Forest management professionals have many different duties, and their exact responsibilities depend upon whom they work for. Many forest management workers focus on devising plans to regrow lands that were once forested and to manage how those lands are regrown. Others may work more on making plans to keep existing forests free of disease, wildfires and harmful insects.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that employment growth for forestry management professionals will increase by 6% from 2016-2026. This is about as fast as average when compared to other industries.
The majority of the employment growth will be in local and state-owned forests, especially in the western US. In recent times, preventing and suppressing forest fires has become a huge concern for government agencies. Government agencies are going to hire more forest management professionals in the coming decade as more people are moving to areas with a large number of forests. Also, the development of lands that were not used before and altered weather conditions are causing more expensive and damaging fires.
There also will be an increase in need for American timber and wood pellets that will increase the growth by forest management professionals and conservation scientists.
As of 2016, there were approximately 12,300 forestry management positions in the US, and 22,300 conservation scientists. The largest number of these workers were employed in these industries:
- Federal government: 32%
- State government: 25%
- Forestry and logging: 13%
- Local government: 20%
- Support for forestry and agriculture: 17%
Especially in the western and southwestern US, foresters and conservation scientists tend to work for the US government, due to the high number of national parks in those areas. In the eastern US, it is more common for both to work for private landowners. Many social advocacy organizations may employ forest management professionals to work with legislators to better manage sustainable lands.
Some of the other related positions in forestry management are:
- Environmental science technicians
- Forest and conservation workers
The median wage for conservation scientists in 2016 was $61,800, and the median wage for foresters was $58,700 in the same year. The median salary for forest management professionals varied based upon these different industries:
- Federal government: $63,600
- Local government: $55,800
- State government: $53,100
As more green and environmental issues are becoming more important each year, there is more demand for these types of workers in some cities than others. Some of the cities with the best opportunities for green workers, including forest management professionals, are:
- San Francisco
- New York City
- Washington DC
- Los Angeles
With a degree in forestry management or conservation science, you will be able to work in a variety of environment-related positions. The vast majority of forestry workers are employed by local, state and federal government. For example, there are thousands of forestry management professionals and conservation scientists who work for the US Forest Service.
In three or four years, you can get your bachelor’s degree in several areas that are related to forestry management. Some of the most common degree programs are forestry management, ecology, conservation, environmental science and environmental management. Many universities today offer a bachelor of science in several of those specialties. This degree will give you the basic skills to work as an entry level forest manager or natural resource specialist. You will often study subjects such as ecosystems, forest biometrics, forest management, geology, natural resource policy, soil science and recreational land management.
A master’s degree in forestry management or a related field can take up to three years to finish. It will require the student typically to focus on a specific area, such as green building, forestry, conservation, environmental science, or soil science. Many universities today offer a master of science in fields that are related to forestry. Common courses required are forestry management, forest operations, forest procurement, environmental policy and law, and wildlife biology.
Most forestry-related degrees are heavily hands on, so there are not many online degrees available. There are some online degrees available in related fields, including natural resources and earth science.
Each university has its own specific requirements to consider students for admission. For a master’s degree in forestry management, you may need to have the following requirements:
- 3 letters of recommendation
- GRE or GMAT scores
- 75 or higher GPA
- Resume with relevant work experience
- Background courses in environmental science, chemistry and biology
- Undergraduate transcripts
For a bachelor’s degree in forestry, Auburn University has the following courses required for the actual forestry major:
- Forest Measurements
- Introduction to Wood Science and Forest Products
- Forest Soils
- Forest Tree Physiology
- Forest Economics
- Forest Health
- Forest Regeneration
- Natural Resource Policy
- Forest Health Laboratory
Some universities offer specializations in the forestry major. For example, the University of Berkeley in California offers the following specializations in forestry:
- Professional Forestry: This is a specialty that is accredited by the Society of American Foresters, and offers four years of education to become licensed as a professional forester. This is the specialization to consider if you want to have a career in forestry and forestry management.
- Natural Sciences: This is for the student to focus more upon ecology and the physical environment.
- Human Dimensions of Natural Resources: This speciality is for students to have more experience with ecology, the physical environment, measurement and monitoring and policy/management.
Those who are interested in a forestry management career may consider looking for a scholarship or grant to help them with their bachelor’s or master’s degree costs:
- University of Berkeley Forestry Scholarships: $2000 to $5000 for bachelor’s program.
- ICAFS Graduate Scholarship: Forestry scholarship in Idaho for master’s students; $1000.
- Leo Bourassa Scholarship: Virginia bachelor’s or master’s degree student in forestry; $3000.
- Montana Life Members Scholarship: Annual scholarship for a Montana resident studying forestry or a related field; $1000.
- National Eagle Scout Association STEM Scholarship: Awarded to students who are studying science, technology, engineering or mathematics; $50,000.
- National Military Fish & Wildlife Association Scholarship: Varies.
One of the most popular certifications to earn in the field of conservation is the Conservation Certification offered by the Wildlife Habitat Council. This certification is appropriate for forestry management professionals who want to ensure that they are intimately familiar with meaningful wildlife habitat management and conservation education pertaining to forestry and related subjects.
Consider belonging to some of these related associations below if you want to enjoy a career in forestry, conservation or natural resources:
- National Council of Forestry Association Executives
- Forest Resources Association
- Forest Landowners Association
- National Parks Conservation Association
- The Student Conservation Association
- Coastal Conservation Association
- Association for Conservation Information
By earning a degree in forestry management, you will have the skills and knowledge to help to preserve some of the world’s most precious natural resources, our forests. You also will be able to obtain positions with the state and federal governments that allow you to make a difference in major conservation efforts, and to earn a good living while doing so.
- Conservation Scientists. (2015, Dec. 18). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/conservation-scientists.htm#tab-2
- Best Cities for Green Jobs. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.isustainableearth.com/green-jobs/best-cities-for-green-jobs
- Auburn University. School of Forestry and Wildlife Science. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://bulletin.auburn.edu/undergraduate/schoolofforestryandwildlifesciences/preforestry_major/
- University of Berkeley. Forestry and Natural Resources. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://nature.berkeley.edu/advising/majors/forestry-and-natural-resources