Ecosystem Management Education and Career Information

Sep 19, 2019

Degrees in ecosystem management typically cover the protection and sustainable use of natural resources. Find out about the requirements of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for ecosystem management graduates.

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If you are interested in a career in ecosystem management, you may want to consider pursuing a bachelor's degree in environmental science, natural resource management or a related topic. This educational background would prepare you for a position as a conservation scientist or forester. Ecosystem managers work to protect and sustain natural resources.

Essential Information

Ecosystem managers, also called conservation scientists, develop strategies for the protection and sustainable use of natural resources. Most entry-level positions in this field require a bachelor's degree, though equivalent experience may be substituted in some federal government jobs. For positions in university-level education, a doctoral degree is typically required. This career is perfect for people looking to help conservation at the government level, creating and implementing policies that are beneficial to the natural world as well as humans.

Careers Conservation Scientists Foresters
Required Education Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements N/A Some states require licensing or registration
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 4% 1%
Median Salary (2018)* $61,310 $61,410

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Careers in ecosystem management involve developing plans to protect natural resources and use them in sustainable ways. Foresters may supervise conservation workers or plan and monitor forest growth, while helping ensure that human activity has the least possible effect on the ecosystem. Conservation science is a broader field with many of the same activities. Like foresters, conservation scientists aim to help these organizations have the least possible harmful effect on the natural environment.

Ecosystem Management Education

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that most entry-level conservation science positions require a 4-year degree, although some federal government jobs are available to applicants with equivalent experience and education. University faculty positions in ecosystem management typically require a doctoral degree. The BLS advises students planning ecosystem management careers to select degree programs in areas like environmental science, natural resource management or related fields. Students with narrower areas of interest may also major in forestry or rangeland management.

Forestry and Rangeland Management

According to the Society of American Foresters, there were more than 40 colleges and universities nationwide that offered accredited 4-year degree programs in forestry as of January 2011. The Society for Range Management reports that there are over 20 rangeland management degree programs in the U.S., ten of which had met its accreditation standards as of May 2011.


Specific requirements vary based on the chosen major; however, programs may include courses on wildlife management, conservation science and plant ecology. Most programs also offer courses in environmental law and policy. As students decide on topics of interest, their studies may become more specialized. For example, forestry students may take advanced courses in timber harvesting and project planning.

Ecosystem Management Career Information

Data provided by the BLS in 2015 indicates that almost 70% of conservation scientists and about 63% of foresters work in the public sector. The BLS also reports that those conservation scientists who are not employed in government typically work for social advocacy organizations or private consulting firms. In addition to the government, the timber industry is also a major forestry employer.


Some states require forestry employees to be licensed, credentialed or registered. Requirements typically include completing a bachelor's degree in the field, accruing work experience and passing a qualifying examination.

Government Employment for Ecosystem Managers

The BLS states that soil conservation specialists are likely to work for the Natural Resource Conservation Service, while the U.S. Forest Service employs many of the foresters who work in government positions. The Forest Service also employs many range managers, as does the Bureau of Land Management.

Regional Distribution of Ecosystem Management Jobs

BLS reports show that range managers typically work in the West, while a disproportionate number of forestry jobs are located in the West and the Southeast. California, Washington and Oregon employed the most foresters as of May 2015, and the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metropolitan area had the most conservation scientists of all metro areas.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS predicted employment for conservation scientists and foresters would increase by 1% from 2018 until 2028. Conservation scientists earned a median of $61,310, while foresters had $61,410 in median earnings, as of the May 2018 BLS salary report.

Ecosystem managers, or conservation scientists, work to preserve, manage and sustainably use natural resources. Foresters may supervise conservation workers, forest growth or usage. A bachelor's degree, or a combination of education and experience, are required for these positions. In some cases licensure is required for forestry workers.

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