Education and Training: College
Salary: Average—$48,230 per year
Employment Outlook: Poor
Definition and Nature of the Work
Foresters manage, develop, and protect forest lands and resources. Foresters work for the U.S. Forest Service and for state and local forest management agencies. They also work for private companies in the logging, timber, paper, and wood pulp industries. Some teach in colleges and graduate schools of forestry. Others conduct research for the Forest Service and other organizations. A few are self-employed as consultants. Towns and counties employ foresters to manage forests in their communities.
Most foresters perform duties related to the protection and improvement of forest lands. They supervise fire and insect control activities. They design reforestation projects for lands damaged by fire, pests, and industrial uses. They supervise the planting of ground cover to prevent soil erosion. Foresters determine what trees should be harvested. They also direct the removal of diseased or damaged trees or those that block the growth of surrounding trees.
Foresters manage lands designated for recreation or commercial use. Lands designated for commercial purposes may be used for logging. Local governments or private companies may preserve watershed lands as a source of water supply. Other commercial uses include improving forests to protect surrounding areas from flood or soil erosion. Land designated for recreational use is used for public outdoor recreation or as a wildlife refuge. Some public lands are designated for multiple-use management. Parts of these lands may be used for recreation, and other parts are leased to commercial companies.
Forest rangers work for state agencies or the Forest Service and are foresters who supervise the use of public lands. They supervise the leasing of lands, the development of facilities, and the sale of timber crops. Forest rangers generally supervise a team of assistant rangers, forestry technicians, and other workers, such as fire lookouts and smoke jumpers. Smoke jumpers parachute into forest fires to help fight the blaze.
Service foresters work for state government agencies and help farmers and other forest owners manage their land. These foresters also work with the owners and operators of lumber mills and wood processing plants to help them improve and modernize methods. Foresters who work for private companies or groups of companies are mainly interested in improving the production of timber crops. Large companies often buy timber and other wood products from small farms. These companies employ foresters to visit tree farms and help growers improve the size and quality of their product.
Education and Training Requirements
Students interested in a career as a forester need a bachelor's degree in forestry. Many colleges require students to participate in an internship or supervised work experience. Teaching and research positions require a master's or doctoral degree. However, jobs in research go to those who have an advanced degree in sciences related to forestry, such as botany or horticulture.
Getting the Job
The U.S. Forest Service makes appointments in accordance with civil service requirements. Apply directly to take the test. For a job with state or local agencies, apply directly. At the state and local levels, a passing score on the civil service test is necessary. Placement offices in colleges can provide job assistance. Apply directly to companies in the forest products industry.
Beginning forest rangers in the Forest Service generally start as assistant rangers or junior foresters. With experience they can become U.S. district forest rangers in charge of very large tracts of public land.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Beginning foresters usually work outdoors most of the time. They generally advance to administrative positions. This is true in both government work and private industry.
Available positions in forestry are expected to grow more slowly than average through the year 2014. State and local governments as well as research and testing services that focus on environmental protection should provide the greatest opportunities for foresters. The federal government will provide fewer opportunities due to budgetary constraints and a shift of emphasis from timber programs to wildlife and recreation.
Working conditions for foresters vary depending on the kind of work they do. Forest rangers may live where they work, far from towns and cities. They are on call twenty-four hours a day. Foresters may travel deep into the wilderness and be away from home for several days at a time. Beginning foresters spend most of their time outdoors in all kinds of weather. Service foresters travel a great deal. Most foresters work forty hours a week, and the hours are generally irregular.
Where to Go for More Information
American Forest and Paper Association
1111 Nineteenth St., Ste. 800
Washington, DC 20036
P.O. Box 2000
Washington, DC 20013
Society of American Foresters
5400 Grosvenor Ln.
Bethesda, MD 20814-2198
Earnings and Benefits
Salaries vary depending on education and place of employment. Foresters earn an average of $48,230 per year. Among foresters working for the federal government, the starting salary for those with a bachelor's degree is between $24,677 and $30,567. Those with a master's degree earn a starting salary between $37,390 and $45,239. Foresters with a doctoral degree earn a starting salary of about $54,221. Benefits include paid vacations and holidays, health insurance, and pension plans. Foresters employed by federal, state, and local government agencies may receive additional benefits.
Foresters practice and promote the art, science, technology, and profession of forestry. The field of forestry encompasses a diverse group of people working in many different areas. Foresters can be found in the woods, lumber mills, laboratories, classrooms, offices, urban areas, and even Congress.
The role of a forester can vary greatly, from technicians who focus mainly on forest inventory and management to urban foresters who focus on tree care in the urban setting. Other forestry jobs include consultants, who provide services to private landowners on how best to manage their lands to meet their objectives; rangers, who manage federal park and forest lands to meet specified goals; and professors, who teach the art, science, and technology of forestry. Foresters may also be nurserymen who produce tree seedlings; firefighters who work to extinguish uncontrolled forest fires; or lobbyists who provide vital forest-related information to policymakers, congressmen, and the public.
To become a professional forester, one must obtain a college degree from a school offering professional forestry education. Degrees include a two-year associate's degree, which qualifies the graduate to work as a forest technician, or a four-year bachelor's degree, after which the graduate typically starts in an entry-level position with the opportunity to advance to managerial positions. Graduates earning a master's or doctoral degree tend to focus on highly specialized areas of forestry, working as researchers, geneticists, and professors.
Foresters work in very diverse areas under varied conditions. From the old-growth forests in the northwest to the pine plantations in the southeast, foresters work hard to ensure that the land is managed properly. Foresters are also found in other parts of the world, such as Australia, Africa, Germany, Canada, and many other places.
From friendship to travel, the benefits of becoming a forester are numerous. The responsibility of quality land management rests in the hands of foresters, who take pride in the fact that they have the ability and scientific knowledge to improve forest health and productivity. Having fun is another great benefit of becoming a forester. Of all the rewards, though, one of the greatest may be found in teaching others about this great field. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Department of Labor, forester salaries ranged from $19,500 to $62,000 in 1997.
The job of a forester can encompass many different kinds of work. However, all foresters share one thing: the responsibility of managing a natural, renewable resource. Foresters take this job seriously and respect what the land has to offer, for it is the lifeblood of the profession. Without foresters and the science of forestry, forests would not be as healthy and productive as they are today. When you become a forester, you make a difference for generations to come.
see also Coniferous Forests; Deciduous Forests; Rain Forests; Trees; Wood Products.
Sunburst Shell Crockett
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U. S. Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 1998-99 Edition. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1998.
In common parlance any person who has something to do with raising and managing forest timber resources is in some sense a forester. Foresters go back in history to individuals responsible for managing the harvest of trees on the property of castles and estates and for the management and disposition of the valuable timber asset. Their intuition, practical experience, and natural history knowledge contributed greatly to decision making.
In the twenty-first century, the field has changed, and for the most part a professional forester has a college education and academic credentials, ranging from an associate degree in forest technology to a graduate degree from a school of forestry with specialization in a particular subject area. In addition to the traditional implements of forestry such as shovels, axes, meter sticks, and cruising prisms (which allow the rapid estimation of the number of board feet of timber in a wood lot), foresters now depend on global positioning systems, computer models, and sophisticated research tools in their work. These are used to evaluate such properties of the forest as the quality of wood, the site conditions of the habitat, and fire susceptibility during dry seasons.
Many tasks carried out by foresters involve applications of silviculture , chemistry, plant physiology, and biotechnology. Some professional areas, such as forest and paper engineering and scientific resource management, require quantitative skills, while others, such as forest biochemistry, natural products chemistry, and forest ecology, depend on an extensive basic science background. The work environment can be a private practice as a consulting forester, or with industries, government, or academic institutions. While much of the work time is spent outdoors in forests, office and laboratory work is often involved as well. As is the case with virtually all professions, strong writing, verbal, and management skills all place an individual in a favorable position for advancement.
see also Forest, Boreal; Forest, Temperate; Forest, Tropical
Wille, Christopher M., and Mark Rowh. Opportunities in Forestry Careers. Chicago: NTC/Contemporary Publishing Group, 1998.
for·est·er / ˈfôrəstər; ˈfär-/ • n. 1. a person in charge of a forest or skilled in planting, managing, or caring for trees. 2. chiefly archaic a person or animal living in a forest. ∎ Austral. the eastern gray kangaroo. See gray kangaroo. 3. a small black day-flying moth with two white or yellow spots on each wing. • Family Agaristidae: several genera and species, including the eight-spotted forester (Alypia octomaculata), common throughout the northeastern U.S.