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Environmental Conservation Careers: Options and Requirements

Degree programs in environmental conservation typically cover forestry, biology, and environmental science. Find out about degree requirements, career options, and job growth for environmental conservation graduates.

Environmental conservation professionals work to uphold regulations, raise awareness, provide advocacy and increasingly provide innovative problem solving in a chosen aspect of the environment. There are many professions in this field. Degree requirements vary, depending on the occupation chosen.

Essential Information

Environmental conservation professionals often work as foresters, scientists, technicians, or educators. They are concerned about environmental preservation, water quality and air quality. They also focus on teaching the general population about conservation and environmental concerns.

Career Foresters Conservation Scientists Forest and Conservation Technicians Professor of Environmental Studies
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree Associate degree Graduate degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 8% 7% -6% 9%
Average Salary (2015)* $60,650 $63,800 $38,260 $88,570

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Conservation Scientist and Forester

Conservation scientists and foresters function as managers, working to monitor and maintain the quality of the land while at the same time fulfilling their employers' obligations to federal and state regulations regarding the environment. These professionals generally work in offices, though they may be called on to head into the field for research purposes or to oversee projects.

Education Requirements

Conservation scientists and foresters are generally expected to have at least a bachelor's degree in forestry or a closely related concentration. The Society of American Foresters (SAF) accredits specific programs that are preferred by employers, according to the BLS. The SAF also provides opportunities for industry certification for foresters (safnet.org).

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

Positions for foresters and conservation scientists could grow at a rate that is below the average for all industries in the years 2014-2024, according to the BLS. The mean annual salary for conservation scientists was reported as $63,800 in 2015, while foresters earned an average of $60,650.

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Forest and Conservation Technician

These technicians usually work under the supervision of foresters and conservation scientists. They perform duties required in the maintenance of forests, including surveying and marking trees for removal. They also perform data sampling, suppress fires and patrol to ascertain that environmental regulations are being followed.

Education Requirements

Forest and conservation technicians generally hold an associate degree in forestry or a closely related discipline. The programs recognized by the Society of American Foresters are considered the standard within the field.

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

According to the BLS, forest and conservation technicians earned an average salary of $38,260 in 2015. Over the 2014-2024 decade, this occupation is projected to experience a decline of 6%.

Environmental Studies Professor

Environmental studies professors work in colleges and universities. They are responsible for teaching classes on the topic of environmental studies, including cross-disciplinary courses touching on a range of political, economic and biological topics. Additionally, most postsecondary professors engage in original research. At universities, they may also be responsible for the training of researchers in graduate programs.

Education Requirements

Like most postsecondary teachers, environmental studies professors are required to have graduate degrees in the area they teach. Some 2-year schools only require professors to hold a master's degree before they can obtain a position, but most colleges and universities require incoming professors to hold a doctorate.

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), professors of the environmental sciences earned a mean annual salary of $88,570 in 2015. Job growth for environmental science postsecondary teachers is expected to rise 9% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov).

There are many options for individuals seeking careers in environmental conservation, ranging from college professor to forestry technician. All call for postsecondary study, but degree requirements depend on the chosen occupation. Salaries vary as well, along with job growth expectations.


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