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Become a Forester: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a forester. Research the education and licensure requirements, training information, and experience required for starting a career in forestry. View article »

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  • 0:00 Should I Become a Forester?
  • 1:29 Earn an Undergraduate Degree
  • 2:20 Obtain Experience
  • 2:37 Apply for a Forestry License
  • 3:03 Complete Continuing Education
  • 3:23 Get Certified

Find the perfect school

Video Transcript

Should I Become a Forester?

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Fields Forestry or closely related field
Licensure and Certification Some states require foresters to be licensed; the Society of American Foresters offers a voluntary Certified Forester credential
Experience 2 years in the industry; entry-level positions may be available
Key Skills Analytical and critical-thinking skills, ability to communicate well
Salary $60,650 (2015 mean)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CareerBuilder.com job postings (August 2012), Society of American Foresters.

Foresters manage and monitor wooded areas for public agencies or private companies. Their duties include conservation of forests for commercial and recreational uses as well as assessment and restoration of forests damaged by wildfire, insects, or logging. Foresters conduct inventories of forest resources and manage harvesting, reclamation, and planting to maintain the forest. They also monitor compliance with government regulations and fire management requirements.

Most foresters work outdoors as well as in an office; however, their outside work subjects them to all sorts of weather, as well as hazards like insect bites, wild animals, and physical exertion. They must also be physically fit, since their job can involve strenuous hikes. Foresters usually work regular business hours unless they're called upon to respond to a forest fire or other outdoor emergency. Foresters generally need a bachelor's degree in forestry, and some states require licensure. Additionally, they must have analytical and critical-thinking skills and an ability to communicate well. As of May 2015, foresters earned a mean annual wage of $60,650, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Let's find out what you should do to become a forester.

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Step 1: Earn an Undergraduate Degree

Foresters usually have a bachelor's degree in forestry or forest management, and employers often prefer to hire applicants who've graduated from programs accredited by the Society of American Foresters or a similar organization. These four-year degree programs include courses in topics like forest biology, dendrology, resource management, and forest inventory. Conservation economics, ecology, fire prevention, and wilderness management might also be covered.

Success Tip:

Get an internship. If possible, forestry students should participate in a relevant internship while in school. In some cases, employers may accept internships in lieu of professional experience.

Step 2: Obtain Experience

Some forestry jobs are open to unlicensed, entry-level applicants; however, other jobs require experience and licensure. The experience needed for higher-level positions and licensure is obtained through entry-level jobs.

Step 3: Apply for a Forestry License

Some states require foresters to be licensed, and voluntary registration or licensure is offered in others. Typical licensure requirements include a bachelor's degree from an accredited college, experience, and passing scores on an exam. Some states require that the applicant have no forestry-related felony convictions.

Step 4: Complete Continuing Education

In states where a forestry license is required, foresters are responsible for keeping up with continuing education requirements throughout their careers. Generally, foresters must complete a set number of credit hours of training per year or licensing period.

Step 5: Get Certified

Although it isn't required for all positions, earning certification from the Society of American Foresters can be helpful for career advancement. Applicants with a bachelor's degree and five years of experience can obtain this credential by passing an exam.

To recap, to become a forester, you'll need to earn a bachelor's degree in forestry or a closely-related field. Some states require licensure for foresters, and voluntary certification could enhance job prospects.


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