Natural resource management agencies and businesses face several challenges when it comes to land conservation, forest resource management and restoration. Forestry universities and schools prepare students to work in the field of forest operations, range resources management and other fields to apply science-based methods to solve problems related to natural resources, combat diseases that threaten the nation's trees, and to develop strategies that protect valuable natural resources. Students attending a forestry university must complete both classroom and work site training. Most employers, especially the Federal government, prefer to hire graduates with a two-year or a four-year degree.
Programs at Forestry Universities
Most forestry universities offer programs at the associate, bachelor and masters degree levels. Students acquire advanced problem-solving skills, an understanding about the biophysical environment and its impact on society, and how to use quantitative and qualitative analysis to apply various theories and methods to solve some of today's natural resource problems.
Most programs cover basic and advanced concepts in land surveying, ecology, soil composition, timber management, hydrology and environmental engineering.
Associate degree programs include courses such as forest measurement and statistics, forest ecology, boundary surveying and topographic surveying. These courses are typically applied to an Associate of Applied Science in Land Surveying Technology or Forest Technology.
Bachelor's degree programs prepare students to manage and develop forest areas for different types of recreational, ecological and economic purposes. Courses in this type of program focus on natural resources management, harvesting and production technology, statistics and forest-related sciences.
Graduate degree programs at a forestry college are more research-intensive and may require attending seminars and workshops, completing training at a work site, and completing an internship component. These programs include courses in forest and natural resources policy, recreation resources management, forest hydrology, watershed management and ecotourism.
Types of Forestry Courses
The most common types of courses include:
Trees, Forests and the Environment
Forest Growth and Measurements
Ecology, Evolution and Conservation
Diversity of Life
Forestry Product Marketing
Attending a Forestry School
Forestry schools and colleges provide students with many opportunities to learn the basic principles of ecology, land surveying, forest destruction, land conversation and the logging industry. Many require students to work on hands-on projects in the field to perform basic land surveying and topographical mapping activities, solve real-world problems, use computer models and simulations to learn about natural resource management, and complete a portion of their training at a dedicated work site.
Students may need to apply for a program within a School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, or a Forestry School. Most forestry schools and universities use a multi-disciplinary approach in their academic programs and some degree programs require students to attend workshops, seminars and educational sessions for a more well-rounded educational experience.
Getting a Forestry Degree
Forestry degree programs must be accredited by the Society of American Foresters, the governing authority for forestry degree curriculum standards. This organization is the only accreditation granting body for professional degree programs at the bachelor's and master's degree levels. Programs accredited by the SAF typically include course with an emphasis on mathematics, science, computer science, technical forestry and communications.
Forest Resources Management
Forest Operations and Applied Restoration
Range Resources Management
In addition to completing general courses in the field of forestry, students may have the option to take several electives to round out their program. Desirable electives in this field include computer science, hydrology, engineering, law, wood technology, wetlands analysis, wildlife conservation and agronomy.
Sixteen States sponsor a credentialing process for foresters, and those pursuing licensing typically need to complete at least a four-year program before taking a written exam.
Career Options with a Forestry Degree
Students who successfully complete training can work as silviculturists, timber sale administrators, fire control specialists, professional foresters for the USDA Forest Service, and for private consulting firms.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 68 percent of conservation scientists and foresters work for Federal, State and local governments. As of May 2008, the median annual wages of foresters were $53,750.