As a natural resource manager or related professional, you will be responsible for the oversight and implementation of conservation and sustainability projects for both public and private land, such as parks, nature preserves, historic areas, building construction projects and mining operations.
A natural resource manager will typically work on hands-on projects in the restoration and maintenance of resources and natural areas. This work requires a good understanding of animal and plant ecosystems. Also, you will probably provide and present natural resource education programs for community organizations; this requires a solid grasp of conservation and natural resources subjects as well as strong people and communication skills.
These conservation professionals also will often work for or with state and federal agencies that are charged with monitoring and enforcing compliance with local resource use regulations.
What Is Natural Resource Management?
Natural resource management is a field of study that looks at the social, physical, biological and economic aspects of managing natural resources. Natural resources management involves putting these resources to their best use for use by humans, while also preserving the integrity of natural systems. Natural resource management involves the oversight of workers, performing data analysis, devising environmental plans and policies per state and federal regulations, and negotiating resource and land use contracts with government agencies and landowners.
These professionals also may do the following:
- Determine the best ways to collect data for natural resource projects, surveys and investigations
- Collect and compile natural resource data from air, soil, water and food samples
- Perform analysis if samples and surveys to assess and identify threats to natural resources
- Develop new plans to control, prevent and fix natural resource and environmental problems
There is more need today for natural resource managers and conservation scientists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics or BLS reports that there will be 6% growth in this field from 2016 until 2026, which is about as fast as average.
It is anticipated that there will be more hiring in local and state government natural resource management organizations, especially in the western US. In recent years, the need to prevent and suppress wildfires has become a major concern for government agencies who are charged with managing our natural resources. State, federal and local governments are more likely to hire natural resource managers as there is more need to protect natural resources from damages caused by natural and manmade causes.
In the related field of environmental scientists and specialists, it is anticipated that there will be an 11% increase in jobs by 2026, which is faster than average. There is more public interest in the many hazards that are facing our natural resources and environment today. Many of these jobs are going to be in the state and local governments, as well as industries that offer environmental consulting services to companies that need to be in compliance with laws and regulations.
It is anticipated that businesses will continue to work with environmental scientists and specialists to help them to reduce the impact of their work on the environment.
Natural resource managers and conservation managers held approximately 22,300 jobs in 2016. The greatest number of these workers are employed by the following industries:
- Federal government: 32%
- State government: 22%
- Local government: 20%
- Social advocacy groups: 12%
- Professional, scientific and technical services: 5%
Some of the positions that you may work in that are related to natural resource manager are:
- Natural science manager
- Environmental science and protection technicians
- Forest and conservation worker
- Conservation scientist
The BLS states that the median wage for conservation scientists and natural resource managers was $61,800 in 2016. The top 10% earned a wage of $95,500.
Median wages in this field are as follows in these industries:
- Federal government: $73,300
- Professional, scientific and technical services: $66,100
- Social advocacy groups: $61,400
- State government: $54,000
- Local government: $49,700
In the jobs of environmental scientists and specialists, the median salary is $68,900 and the top 10% earn $120,000 per year. The federal government is the best organization to work for in terms of salary, with $100,700 being the median wage.
With your degree in natural resources management, you will have the knowledge to work for many employers in natural resources, ecology, and conservation science. The majority of natural resource managers today are employed by various departments in the state, local and federal governments. Some of the common agencies that people with this degree and skillset work for are the USDA, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service.
There also are nonprofit organizations that manage agricultural land and food production and related groups that employ natural resource managers.
Natural resources majors at the bachelor’s level will usually study a diverse curriculum that includes science and management of resources, as well as the social, economic and political influences that affect environmental policy and resource use. Typical coursework may include managing natural resources; forest biology; mammal conservation; wildlife ecology; rangeland management; wetlands management; environmental sociology; and urban forestry.
Students and professionals who earn a their master’s degree in natural resources will learn how to contribute to vital natural resource policy and management decisions that are being increasingly made based upon legal, political and economic factors. This degree is often appropriate for those who are experienced in natural resource management who are at the mid-career level and want to have a broader understanding of the subject at the administrative, planning and management level.
There are many online bachelor’s and online master’s programs in natural resource management that you can choose if you need to continue to work while you are in college. Southern New Hampshire University offers a bachelor’s in geoscience degree online with a concentration in natural resources management. This online degree can be earned in three years, and provides you with a solid foundation in the physical and natural sciences.
Typical requirements for entering a master’s program in natural resources are:
- GRE or GMAT scores
- 75+ GPA
- Two or three professional or academic references
- Personal statement and/or writing samples
- Updated resume
- Prerequisite courses in ecology, natural sciences, biology and conservation
The required curriculum for the aforementioned SNHU degree includes the following classes:
- Principles of Geology
- Spatial Awareness
- Earth System Science
- Principles of Geology Lab
- Atmospheric Science
- Global Climate Change
- Environmental Issues
- Energy and Society
- Fundamentals of Chemistry
- Waste: Sources, Reduction and Remediation
In the field of natural resource management, there are several areas in which you can concentrate:
- Earth and physical sciences: Involves the physical and chemical properties of ecosystems.
- Biotic resources: Studies biological principles and ecosystem management.
- Fish and wildlife conservation: Focus on the conservation of rare fish and wildlife.
- Social sciences: Observes how humans affect their environment or related ecosystems.
- Pollution control: Looks at how water, air and land pollution can be reduced.
- Environmental communication: Focuses on the use of the mass media, PR and journalism to stress natural resource and environmental issues.
- Economics of natural resources: Involves policy making, administration and management of natural resources.
Students and professionals with a passion for natural resources can get financial help for their degree program with the following grants and scholarships:
- American Postdoctoral Research Leave Fellowship
- Morris K. Udall Scholarship Program
- American Association of Japanese University Women Scholarship
- Herbert and Nell Richards Scholarship Award
- Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship Program
- USGIF Scholarship Program
- West Virginia/SAE Engineering Scholarship
- Bryan W. Gibbs Scholarship
- Western Union Foundation Global Scholarship Program
There are many worthwhile environmental certifications that you can earn through the National Registry of Environmental Professionals (NREP). These include:
- Certified Environmental Auditor (CEA)
- Certified Environmental Scientist (CES)
- Certified Environmental and Safety Compliance Officer (CESCO)
- Certified Environmental Systems Manager (CESM)
- Certified Natural Resources Professional (CNRP)
- Certified Waste Management Professional (CWMP)
If you are sure you want a career in natural resources, we recommend that you consider membership in one of these professional organizations. Joining an association is a good opportunity to enhance your professional skills and also to give you the chance to network and benefit your career:
- International Association for Society and Natural Resources
- Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals
- Natural Resource Defense Council
- Natural Resources Protective Association
- Renewable Natural Resources Foundation
The natural resources management career is a strong choice for those who want to make a difference in how our precious natural resources are managed and maintained for future generations. Earning a degree in natural resources can help you to get a job in a field that is growing, and in state and nonprofit organizations where there is a high level of job stability.
- Southern New Hampshire University. Natural Resources and Conservation Bachelor’s Degree. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.snhu.edu/online-degrees/bachelors/bs-in-geosciences/natural-resources-and-conservation
- Conservation Scientists. (2015, Dec. 18). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/conservation-scientists.htm#tab-5
- What Is Natural Resource Management? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://learn.org/articles/What_is_Natural_Resource_Management.html