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Forestry Careers: Spend Your Workdays in the Great Outdoors

September 5, 2018
Posted by: David Sands

Forestry Students

Forestry might be the ideal career for you if you cringe at the thought of sitting at a desk every day. Careers in the great outdoors are filled with excitement, unique challenges and fascinating, hands-on research opportunities that aren’t available at traditional office jobs.

What Is Forestry?

Forestry is a complex profession, but when simplified to its core principles, it is the art and science of protecting, conserving and managing forests and natural resources. Close to one-third of the United States is covered in forest land. Foresters are the ones trained and dedicated to taking care of it.

What Does a Forester Do?

Professional forestry is a multidisciplinary profession that involves developing plans to manage a host of different issues, like:

  • Wilderness protection
  • Timberland improvement
  • Habitat enhancement
  • Timber sales
  • Tree nursery operations
  • Public recreation
  • Fire management


Foresters may choose to multitask across several areas of responsibility or specialize in an area like:

  • Soil science
  • Fire suppression
  • Pest management
  • Wildlife preservation

Where Do Foresters Work?

Foresters are almost always working outdoors to improve trails, assess forest health and resources and complete other related tasks. The largest employer of foresters is the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service (USFS). Over 30,000 employees work for the USFS across 154 national forests and 20 grasslands in 43 states and Puerto Rico.

Many foresters choose to work in the private sector for forest consultancies, timberland management companies, forestry firms and lumber companies. Others work for conservation organizations or teach at colleges and universities.

Foresters are spread throughout the United States, but are especially concentrated in:

  • The West Coast (California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho)
  • The Great Lakes area (Minnesota and Wisconsin)
  • The Southeast (Florida, Alabama, North Carolina and Virginia)
  • Pennsylvania
Forestry Jobs

By 2022, the number of available forestry positions is expected to grow by 3 percent, adding 900 jobs. Many of these jobs are expected to open within federal and state forest lands in the Western U.S.

Just under 50,000 workers were employed in the forestry and logging industries in 2011, according to the most recent available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

There are numerous job opportunities in the forestry field, including:

  • Conservation scientists
  • Environmental scientists
  • Soil and plant scientists
  • Wildlife biologists
  • Biological technicians
  • Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists
  • And more

On average, 97.3 percent of Applied Forest Management graduates from University of Maine at Fort Kent (UMFK) find full-time work in the forestry or logging industries.

Forestry Wages

In 2012, the median annual forester wage in the U.S. was close to $56,000. Wages varied by state and specialty and ranged from about $34,000 to nearly $64,000.

Forester Education Requirements

A degree in forestry, forest resource management or a related field is required to become a forester. UMFK is one of only two Society of American Foresters (SAF) accredited two-year forestry programs in New England.

Many forestry programs include courses in:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Silvics
  • Botany
  • Silviculture
  • Other environmental sciences

Licensing and registration may also be necessary for foresters in some states. Aspiring foresters can obtain certification through the SAF on a voluntary basis.

Begin Your Forestry Career at UMFK!

With an array of forestry programs, the University of Maine at Fort Kent has the resources, faculty and staff to help you become a professional forester. Our rolling admissions deadline means you can fill out your application whenever you’re ready to get started. Fall semester applications submitted before August 15 and spring semester applications submitted before January 10 will be given priority consideration.

Apply online now to take the first step on your path to an exciting forestry career!