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How to Become a Forest Conservation Technician

Research the requirements to become a forest conservation technician. Learn about the job description and duties and go over the step-by-step process to start a career in forest conservation.

Should I Become a Forest Conservation Technician?

Forest conservation technicians help protect a forest's natural resources by monitoring the activities of workers, forecasting potential fire hazards and tracking wildlife. In order to control what occurs in natural areas, they communicate with the public, scientists and seasonal workers about conservation. Technicians also inspect soil, test water quality and examine plants and trees for any insect damage or diseases. They usually work under the supervision of conservation scientists or foresters. Work can be physically demanding, often requiring long hikes on difficult terrain and in all types of weather conditions.

Career Requirements

Degree Level An associate's degree is sufficient for entry-level work
Degree Field Forestry, forestry technology or related majors
Key Skills Strong oral and written communication; understanding of conservation laws; physical stamina; basic computer knowledge, including desktop publishing and computer-aided design software; familiarity with forest inventory, mapping, scientific and database software; ability to use forestry equipment, passenger vehicles, aircrafts, watercrafts, forklifts; experience with survey equipment, global positioning systems, field data recorders; ability to read and draw maps.
Salary $35,260 (Annual median salary for Forest and Conservation Technicians in May 2014)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Careerinfonet.org

Step 1: Start Preparing in High School

Although not necessarily required, there are opportunities to jumpstart a career in forest conservation as early as high school. Certain high school classes can prepare prospective forest conservation technicians for fieldwork and for an associate's degree program. In fact, many admissions requirements dictate specific high school coursework. Courses relevant to this career include math, science, English and physical education. High school students could also choose electives such as plant science, horticulture and forestry to get ready for this career.

Step 2: Earn an Associate's Degree

An associate's degree in forestry or forest technology can provide the knowledge forest conservation technicians need to compile and process data related to wildlife management and natural resources. These 2-year programs are available at community colleges and should be accredited by the Society of American Foresters (SAF). They may address arboriculture, forest ecosystems, watershed ecology, computer applications for forestry and wood identification.

Step 3: Use Fieldwork to Gain Technical Experience

Many forestry associate's degree programs include a field study, internship or cooperative experience so that students can test their knowledge of the field. Students may learn techniques to inspect soil for erosion, ways to identify plants, conservation methods and timber sales planning. Schools typically have their own forest to host the field studies and provide equipment, such as cranes, chainsaws and hand tools.

In addition to fieldwork, students can learn conservation methods and build interpersonal skills through a school's student clubs. A forestry club can provide news and information about forestry and lead to volunteer experiences.

Step 4: Obtain On-the-Job Training

After graduation, forest conservation technicians may gain experience through summer internships at national or regional forests. Since forest conservation technicians are supervised by foresters - they can walk graduates through the day-to-day tasks while being employed. Training varies, but may last a year. Fundamental duties can include using databases to track logs taken from mills, inspecting and color-coding trees, preparing timber and supervising fire management activities.

Step 5: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Completing a bachelor's program in a relevant field like forestry or environmental science can open doors to more advanced careers, like those of conservation scientists and foresters. Both of these occupations typically come with higher pay and increased responsibility compared to forest conservation technicians.

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