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Forest Services Career Options and Training Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to work in the forest service. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

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Working in forest services will by definition involve spending a lot of time outdoors, so you're best suited to this type of work if you love trees, plants, and wildlife. A wide variety of forest service careers exist: administrative, technical, or professional to name a few. Most of these careers require a bachelor's degree or a more advanced degree should you desire to conduct research.

Essential Information

Careers with the U.S. Forest Service, part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), are generally divided into three categories: professional, technical and administrative.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in forestry-related field
Other Requirements Advanced degrees for research positions
Projected Job Growth 4% from 2014-2024 for forest and conservation workers*
Median Salary (2015) $35,430 annually for forest and conservation technicians*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Options

Salaries for forest service workers vary by specialty. For example, foresters and those working in conservation science earned a median of $61,110 per year in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The same source noted that forest and conservation technicians earned a median of $35,430 that year. The federal executive branch hired the most forest and conversation technicians at that time, while state governments were the most prominent employer of foresters. The BLS predicts lower-than-average job growth of 4% for forest and conservation technicians from 2014 to 2024, and average growth of 7% for foresters and conservation scientists over the same time period.

Professional

Professional employees of the U.S. Forest Service usually work in scientific or engineering fields, such as hydrology or civil engineering. Their duties can range from developing ways to manage forests and keep them healthy to planning recreational activities. They also might formulate fire prevention plans, evaluate soil quality, rehabilitate injured wildlife or research methods of conserving water. Examples of professional careers with the U.S. Forest Service include:

  • Botanist
  • Entomologist
  • Fish biologist
  • Forester
  • Landscape architect
  • Range management specialist
  • Soil scientist
  • Wildlife biologist

Technical

Workers in technical positions, which make up the bulk of jobs with the forest service, usually work under the supervision of, and provide support to, employees in the professional category. Their job duties might include working to control disease and pest infiltration, administering permits, maintaining roads and trails, enforcing the law on forest service lands or collecting fire safety data for environmental impact studies. Following are some specific titles associated with technical employees of the U.S. Forest Service:

  • Biological science technician
  • Engineering technician
  • Fire dispatcher
  • Forestry technician
  • Law enforcement officer
  • Snow ranger

Administrative

Administrative workers with the U.S. Forest Service are involved in both operations and community outreach, helping to ensure smooth functioning of the agency. Roles range from criminal investigators, who might work to determine the causes of forest fires, to accountants, who take care of budgets and payrolls. Other administrative positions include the following:

  • Contract specialist
  • Education and training specialist
  • Educator
  • Human resources specialist
  • Public affairs specialist
  • Realty specialist

Training Requirements

Professional

To be considered for professional positions with the U.S. Forest Service, applicants typically need a bachelor's degree in engineering, land management, forestry, biology or a related field. For example, foresters typically need to complete a 4-year degree program in forestry that covers such topics as renewable resource management and forest biology. Research positions with the forest service usually require an advanced degree.

Technical

Technical positions generally do not require a college degree. Instead, these workers typically gain experience in the field, working under the supervision of a professional forest service employee.

Administrative

Education and training requirements for administrative positions usually are specific to the area of service. For example, a prospective accountant would need a degree in accounting or a related field, while an educator would need a degree in elementary or secondary education, coupled with teaching experience.

If you're a nature lover, there may be a perfect job for you in forest services whether your strengths lie in science, math, education, engineering, public relations or even real estate! A bachelor's degree in your chosen field is the best place to start, unless you're looking for a technical job where hands-on training is the norm.

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