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Foresters Career Overview

Manage forested lands for economic, recreational, and conservation purposes. May inventory the type, amount, and location of standing timber, appraise the timber's worth, negotiate the purchase, and draw up contracts for procurement. May determine how to conserve wildlife habitats, creek beds, water quality, and soil stability, and how best to comply with environmental regulations. May devise plans for planting and growing new trees, monitor trees for healthy growth, and determine the best time for harvesting. Develop forest management plans for public and privately-owned forested lands.

Salary for Foresters

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U.S. $42,980
Annual figures are on top. Hourly figures are below in parentheses.
N/A = Information not available

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Career Outlook for Foresters

Employment is expected to grow about as fast as average. In addition to job openings from growth, many openings are expected as today's conservation scientists and foresters retire.

Employment change. Employment of conservation scientists and foresters is expected to grow by 12 percent during the 2008–18 decade, about as fast as the average for all occupations. A majority of conservation scientists and foresters are employed by Federal, State, and local governments, and a large percentage of new jobs will be found in these areas. In recent years, the prevention and mitigation of wildfires has become the primary concern for government agencies managing forests and rangelands. The development of previously unused lands, in addition to changing weather conditions, has contributed to increasingly devastating and costly fires. Increases in funding and new programs will create new opportunities for foresters and range managers. Workers will be needed to manage lands in order to minimize the risk of fires and mitigate their impact should they occur. Restoring lands affected by fires also will be a major task, particularly in the southwestern and western States, where such fires are most common.

Beyond wildfire management, several other factors will influence demand on the part of governments for conservation scientists and foresters. New city-planning and urban revitalization initiatives will increase the need for workers with expertise in urban forestry. Demand for soil and water scientists, whose main function is providing technical expertise to farmers and ranchers, will increase as the safety and sustainability of the food supply becomes more of a concern.

In addition, increased investments in conservation programs will contribute to job growth for conservation scientists and foresters. The use of forests to sequester carbon emissions will create a need for foresters with expertise in this area. The desire to develop renewable forms of energy will increase the need for wood and other biomass products; consequently, more workers will be needed to manage those resources. Many of these jobs will be in the private-sector consulting industry, although government workers will be needed as well to manage these activities on Federal and State lands.

Growth in other private-sector jobs is expected to vary among different types of employers and specific occupations. Companies involved in natural-resource exploration and land development need to manage the use of soil and water systems while complying with environmental regulations. Growth in these companies will create new opportunities for consultant range managers and soil and water scientists. Procurement foresters will see the fewest new jobs, as a result of overall slow growth in the timber and logging industry. Recent large-scale sales of forestlands by industry has resulted in a loss of jobs within the traditional forest industry while creating limited opportunities with timber investment management organizations and real estate investment trusts. Self-employed foresters, who advise private landowners on a contract basis, will see modest growth.

Job prospects. The Federal Government and some State governments expect a large number of their workers to retire over the next decade. As a result, there is likely to be a large number of job openings for foresters and conservation scientists in government. In general, workers with a 4-year degree from an accredited university program, along with good technical and communication skills, should have the best opportunities for entry-level work.

Employment Overview

Conservation scientists and foresters held about 29,800 jobs in 2008. Conservation scientist jobs are heavily concentrated in government, where 74 percent are employed. At the Federal level, soil conservationists are employed primarily in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Service. Most range managers work in the USDA's Forest Service, the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management, or the Natural Resource Conservation Service. A small number are self-employed and others work for nonprofit organizations or in consulting firms.

About 60 percent of all foresters work for Federal, State and local governments. Federal Government foresters are concentrated in the USDA's Forest Service. A few foresters are self-employed, generally working as consultants or procurement foresters. Others work for sawmills, wood products manufacturers, logging companies, and the forestry industry.

Although conservation scientists and foresters work in every State, employment of foresters is concentrated in the western and southeastern States, where many national and private forests and parks, and most of the lumber and pulpwood-producing forests, are located. Range managers work almost entirely in the western States, where most of the rangeland is located. Soil conservationists, are employed in almost every county in the country. Some foresters and conservation scientists hold positions in colleges and universities.

Job Zone Description

Job Zone 4 - Preparation needed

Overall Experience
A minimum of two to four years of work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is needed for these occupations. For example, an accountant needs four years of college and several years of accounting work to be considered qualified.

Most of these occupations require a four-year bachelor's degree, but some do not.

Job Training
Employees in these occupations usually need several years of work-related experience, on-the-job training, and/or vocational training.

Accountants, chefs and head cooks, computer programmers, historians, and police detectives.

These occupations often involve coordinating, supervising, managing, and/or training others.

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Additional Resources for Foresters Job Seekers

For information about forestry careers and schools offering education in forestry, visit the Society of American Foresters' Web site or send a self-addressed, stamped business envelope to:

  • Society of American Foresters, 5400 Grosvenor Ln., Bethesda, MD 20814-2198. Internet:

Information about careers in forestry—particularly conservation forestry and land management—can be found through the Forest Guild:

Information about a career as a range manager, as well as a list of schools offering training, is available from:

Information on getting a job as a conservation scientist or forester with the Federal Government is available from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) through USAJOBS, the Federal Government's official employment information system. This resource for locating and applying for job opportunities can be accessed through the Internet at or through an interactive voice response telephone system at (703) 724-1850 or TDD (978) 461-8404. These numbers are not toll free, and charges may result. For advice on how to find and apply for jobs, see the Occupational Outlook Quarterly article "How to get a job in the Federal Government," online at

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