Common programs in this field include bachelor's and master's degrees in forest science and conservation. Individuals studying forest science and conservation in 4-year bachelor's programs gain a foundational understanding of the various ecosystems particular to different types of forests.
Master's programs are available with thesis or non-thesis options and are designed to provide graduate students with opportunities to pursue individual research in forestry, conservation or a related environmental science. Online programs and courses are available.
Applicants to bachelor's degree programs must have high school diplomas, strong grade point averages, and previous courses in sciences and the environment. Applicants to master's degree programs need a bachelor's degree in physical sciences, GRE test scores, and a background in biology, geography, and environmental or forest science.
Bachelor of Science in Forest Science and Conservation
Students in forest conservation bachelor's programs study biological influences, such as trees, soils, wildlife and ecology. They also study policies and regulations that are in place to protect and conserve forests. Some courses focus particularly on ecosystem management and the social views and policies that affect the field. Baccalaureate programs in forest science and conservation are designed to provide students with a broad overview of the field and include many introductory courses in ecosystems and public policy; some examples include:
- Forest ecosystem science and management
- Introduction to forest conservation
- Conservation biology
- Forest measurements
- Social aspects of conservation
- Conservation policies
Master of Science in Forest Science and Conservation
Many of the same 4-year universities that offer bachelor's programs in forest conservation also offer graduate programs in the field. Students in master's programs work with individual scientists and professors to detail their own plans of study in the field and eventually create a finished paper or project. Courses in a master's program in forest science and conservation often vary greatly depending on a student's chosen concentration or interest in the field. Common core courses might include the following:
- Forest restoration principles
- Statistics and spatial reasoning
- Forest productivity
- GIS and natural resource inventory
- Conservation behavior
Popular Career Options
A graduate degree in forest science and conservation can lead to entry-level positions in several professional areas, including government service, urban forestry and research. Specific titles might include:
- Ecology research technician
- Wildlife biologist
- Plant health inspector
- Tree health survey specialist
- GIS forest specialist
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
State and federal government agencies were the primary employers of foresters and conservation scientists in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In that year, roughly 36,500 individuals were employed in the field in the United States. Employment opportunities for foresters and conservation scientists are expected to grow by 7% in the decade spanning 2014-2024, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Organizations offering certification for conservation scientists and foresters include the Society for Range Management and the Society of American Foresters. Candidates must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree, as well as professional experience. Certification is voluntary, but it might offer employees an opportunity to move into positions of management in their respective fields.
For students who are passionate about conserving natural resources, both bachelor's and master's degree programs in forest science and conservation provide relevant training in forestry conservation. Bachelor's degree programs offer an overview of the essential natural and social science aspects of the field, while master's degree programs include more advanced, forest-focused classes.