Forestry Degree

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What is a Forestry Degree?

Forestry is the field of study and employment that deals with the maintenance and well being of forests through the use of techniques, tests, and other measures, to ensure the longevity and health of trees and other plant life.Foresters may also work in the lumber industry, providing assistance in the growth and health of trees for the purposes of lumber, working on large tracts of land in order to maintain a steady and regular supply of wood. Individuals who begin their careers in this field will initially work under the supervision of more experienced professionals, often in outdoor settings for extensive periods of time.

Best Forestry Degrees

With a number of forestry degree options to choose from, it is easy to feel overwhelmed.  We have broken down the certificate programs and degree paths in bite-size, easy to digest terms to help you make the best decision for your future.  Associated degree paths that can be supplanted or integrated with a degree in forestry can include: recreation management, parks management, wildlife biology, resource conservation, ecology restoration, climate change, fire science, GIS, wilderness studies, sustainability, and wildlife biology.  Below you will find the various forestry degree programs and a simple way to connect with accredited colleges and universities offering such programs.

Certificate Programs in Forestry

Classroom-based certificates or online certificates in forestry will typically come in two different variations: undergraduate and graduate.  The undergraduate certificates are entry-level clusters geared to provide foundational knowledge to students with little to no prior knowledge in the field of forestry.  Students earning an undergraduate certificate can expect to start in the field in entry-level jobs and work up from there.  The graduate certificates, on the other hand, are upper-level courses designed for graduate students or professionals in the field.  Graduate certificates can be used to upskill in a particular field, add new skills, prepare for career advancement, or in anticipation of a career move.

Bachelor’s Degree in Forestry

The online bachelor’s degree in forestry is a 4-year program most frequently conferred as a Bachelor of Science (BS) and occasionally a Bachelor of Arts (BA) depending on the curricular design of the program.  The bachelor’s path provides students with a cluster of liberal arts classes such as communications, English composition, and philosophy coupled with core classes to provide students with a holistic way of thinking about the world around them.  The core classes will vary from school to school coupled with the area of emphasis designated within the forestry arena.  Generally, students can expect to take classes such as: chemistry, biology, applied statistics, soils, dendrology, economics, geographic information systems, forest ecology, silviculture, watershed hydrology, harvesting, forest products manufacturing, natural resource policy, road management, and forest economics.

Master’s Degree in Forestry

Online master’s degrees in forestry, or the classroom equivalent, is a graduate-level degree conferred as a Master of Science (MS), Master in Forestry (MF), Master of Environmental Management (MEM), Master of Forest Science (MFS), or Master of Environmental Science (MESc) degree.  The program will typically last 2-3 years dependent upon course load, curricular design, and time invested to complete the thesis project.  Graduate students in most programs will have the opportunity to select a degree path that can emphasize general forestry (MF), forest resources management, forest operations (MFO), environmental management (MEM), forest science (MFS), environmental science (MES), or a master’s in business administration (MBA) joint degree.  Some accredited colleges and universities offer a 5-year program that conjoins the bachelor’s program with the master’s program (BS/MS or BS/MF) that compresses the overall length of study for qualifying students.  As yet another option, select schools offer a 1-year master’s degree for students with substantive work experience in the field of forestry science, environmental management, environmental policy, or equivalent.

Doctorate Degree in Forestry

The doctorate degree in forestry is known as a terminal degree in the field as there are no additional degrees beyond the doctoral degree.  Degrees are conferred as a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in forestry and is a 4-6 year program for most students including the completion of the board-approved dissertation project.  The PhD program is a research-latent degree that can include a variety of areas of emphasis that can include the following: biodiversity, biostatistics, community ecology, agroforestry, meteorology, environmental biophysics, ecosystems management, chemistry, environmental ethics, environmental governance, resource policy, environmental law, forest ecology, hydrology, plant physiology, industrial ecology, population ecology, pollution management, social ecology, resource economics, tropical ecology, stand development, urban development, water resource management, and environmental management.

Educational Requirements for Forestry Majors

A degree in forestry prepares individuals to work in forest settings in order to maintain ideal conditions for growth, health, and controlled clearing. Individuals who study forestry will learn about the various ecosystems in place in a given forest type, how such forests grow, and what potential dangers and factors can adversely affect a forest's development. The use of a cross section of sciences, math and business will be necessary in order to successfully complete a program in forestry. Though degrees are available at the associate level, most national level positions require a minimum of a bachelor's degree to be considered for employment.

A curriculum in forestry may include:

  • Calculus
  • Geospatial Technology
  • Dendrology
  • Forest Management
  • Wildlife Biology

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Employment Opportunities in Forestry

A career in forestry requires individuals to work outdoors regularly and for extended periods of time. This is especially true in the first few years of an individual's career where experience is gained by conducting tasks and duties under the supervision of more experienced foresters. Foresters will be required to identify the age of trees, possible increases in insect activity, dangerous molds and diseases as well as other factors when considering the health and security of a forest. Most job openings at the national level will require a minimum of a bachelor's degree or an equivalent amount of work experience to be considered for employment. State and local agencies may have little or no requirements past a high school diploma for entry level positions, though this may limit the ability for promotion in the long term.

Commercial foresters will utilize their skills to obtain lumber for various private firms. Such individuals will work with their employer, government agencies, and private lumber growth firms to determine the cost and amount of lumber that is obtainable from a given area, how much extraction is necessary, the effect of cutting down trees, and measuring other environmental factors when considering lumber deals. Commercial foresters on average will earn more than those that work with public agencies.

Job Growth and Salary Outlook for Forestry Majors

Job growth for forestry positions is expected to have little to no growth over the next ten years due to budgetary and fiscal concerns for public positions and organizations which concern themselves with forestry related work. The only expected growth is expected to come from private forests as the demand for work increases. The average salary for all forestry and conservation workers was approximately $33,000 per year.  Individuals interested in forestry may also be interested in forest resources management, forest sciences and biology, and urban forestry.

Top Forestry Resources & Associations

National Association of State Foresters is a non-profit organization that has directors of national forestry organizations across the United States as members, which in turn comprises representation for two-thirds of the countries forests, both public and private. The organization was established in 1920 and has served the interests of forestry specialists through programs and partnerships since.

Society of American Foresters is a an organization established in 1900 to advance the field of forestry through technology, awareness, and training. The organization also advances the cause of forestry through accrediting programs in forestry, creating a working body that is educated and competent, and thus able to advance the field.

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Career Summary: Forestry Major




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