Natural resource management is a career dedicated to sustainability and protection. Creative problem solving and a holistic viewpoint assist professionals in addressing critical environmental issues.
Natural resource managers protect and manage wildlife, trees, plants, soil and water. They typically complete degree programs in resource management, conservation science or similar fields. They often have broad, interdisciplinary science backgrounds and may be employed by private industries, academic institutions, government agencies and regulatory bodies.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree|
|Projected Growth (2014-2024)*||7% (conservation scientists in general)|
|Average Salary (2015)*||$63,800 (conservation scientists in general)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What is a Natural Resource Manager?
Natural resource managers oversee and implement conservation and sustainability plans for publicly and privately owned land, including parks, nature preserves, historic sites, mining operations and building construction projects. Their work also covers human activities that may benefit, influence or harm the natural environment. Many natural resource managers are employed by state or federal government agencies tasked with monitoring and enforcing compliance with resource usage regulations and laws. Natural resource managers working for parks and nature areas often provide and present educational programs for community groups, schools and visitors, which requires extensive interaction with people and strong communication skills.
Careers in natural resource management sometimes involve hands-on work in restoring and maintaining natural areas and resources, therefore requiring knowledge of plant and animal ecosystems. Natural resource managers may oversee the work of employees who stock fisheries, regulate land and resource use by the public, plant seeds for forestry programs and monitor wildlife populations. Some natural resource managers may choose to specialize in one specific conservation or natural resource activity to become a forester, wildlife manager, range manager, fisheries worker, parks manager or another type of resource manager.
Required Education for a Career in Natural Resource Management
Because natural resource management is a broad field encompassing a variety of environmental science and applied biology disciplines, a wide range of bachelor's degree programs serve as acceptable preparation for prospective natural resource managers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that conservation scientists, foresters, range managers and soil scientists can pursue degrees in their specific discipline or choose a more generalized science degree path. State government job descriptions for natural resource managers listed biology, zoology, botany and park management as other acceptable preparation programs. Individuals who wish to teach natural resource management up to the secondary level need to earn a teaching certificate, and a graduate degree is necessary for a college-level professorship.
The interdisciplinary nature of natural resource management degree programs allows students to learn about conservation, protection and management of a variety of resources. Students take courses in biology, chemistry and geology to learn about large-scale environmental systems and the impact of human activity on the environment. Master's and doctoral degree programs provide the opportunity for students to conduct focused research on a topic of their personal, academic and professional interests under the guidance of a faculty member.
Career Outlook and Salary for Natural Resource Managers
The BLS expected 7% employment growth for conservation scientists from 2014-2024, with the most growth expected in federal forest lands. Increased demand for American timber and wood pellets will contribute to the job growth, the BLS stated. Average yearly salaries for conservation scientists in general were estimated at $63,800 by the BLS in 2015.
Natural resource managers come from a diverse set of educational backgrounds with an emphasis on interrelated issues. Their work is hands-on and deals with sustainability issues. Practitioners can expect an average job growth rate and know that advanced degrees will open their options to research topics of interest.