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Foresters often have to make tough decisions to come up with plans that balance economic goals with environmental impact all while meeting government regulations. The U.S. Department of Labor reported that the average salary of foresters was $56,130 in 2014. Forestry and conservation technicians earned $37,460 that same year.
Foresters usually are required to hold a bachelor’s degree in forestry or in a closely related field, for example environmental science, or agricultural science. Graduate coursework is generally not required, but there are foresters who are holding a master’s degree or even a Ph.D. Student holding a degree from a program accredited by the SAF (the Society of American Foresters) are often preferred, and there are accredited programs in all states. Check also our career quiz to discover if this profession may be right for you.
There are quite a few colleges and universities that provide academic degrees in forestry or related fields, and bachelor’s degree programs are developed to prepare foresters for a professional career or a graduate degree. The programs not only train practical skills, they also educate the students on theory, environmental, and regulation-related subject areas. Bachelor’s and advanced degree coursework in forestry (or a related field) comes with instruction in biology, ecology, forest resource measurement and management, geographic information systems (GIS) technology, and more computer programs.
Foresters generally manage publicly and privately owned forested areas of lands for recreational, economic, or conservation purposes. They manage usually the overall land quality of range lands, parks, forests, or other areas of natural resources. Often they are appraising the worth of present timber, negotiating purchases, they draw up procurement contracts, or they may inventory the amount, type, and locations of standing timber.
They generally determine how wildlife habitats, water quality, creek beds, or soil stability can be conserved best, and how this all may comply with various local, state, and federal environmental regulations. Foresters will be monitoring trees to stimulate healthy growth, devise a number of plans for planting new trees, and decide on the best harvesting schedules.
Foresters typically monitor forest regeneration, decide on, and prepare, sites that are used for new tree planting, while using bulldozers, controlled burning, or herbicides to clear the designated parcels of land. These professionals are supervising all activities of conservation and forest workers and the employed technicians, they manage forest fire suppression when needed, and decide on the best ways to remove timber in relation to causing as little environmental damage as possible.
Foresters may work for private land owners, for local, state, or federal governments, or for social advocacy institutions. Because of the many national parks in the western and southwestern United States, foresters there usually are employed by the federal government, while in the eastern United States, foresters usually are working for private land owners.
Social advocacy agencies and organizations are typically very concerned with issues such as long-term impacts of for example carbon emission on forests on a worldwide scale and often work with specialized lawmakers to ensure sustainable use of our forests and lands and other related issues. Foresters usually perform their duties in their offices or in laboratories, but a lot of their work is done outdoors, and there are times that they have to do fieldwork in very remote locations which may be challenging because of weather conditions or some other natural hazards risks.
Foresters may be using several tools to be able to perform their duties well. They are using so-called ‘clinometers’ to measure tree heights, diameter tapes so they can measure the circumference, and bark gauges and increment borers to measure the growth of trees. This allows them to compute timber volume and to estimate growth rates.
Additionally, foresters may use remote sensing equipment for aerial photography, and airplanes and satellite imagery as well as GIS (geographic information system) technology. They use GIS for the mapping of large forests and to discover trends of land and forest use. They also extensively use GPS (global positioning systems) and hand-held computers for studying these maps.
We can distinguish between ‘Procurement Foresters’ who are buying timber and negotiate sales, ‘Restoration Foresters’ who are studying issues that relate to forests and natural resources global climate change, forest protection from diseases, pests, and wildfires, ‘Urban Foresters’ who are living and working in major cities to manage trees in urban setting, and ‘Conservation Education Foresters’ who are training students and teachers on issues related to forest lands.
The employment outlook of foresters is predicted to develop only modestly over the coming decade, but the increased demand for wood pellets and American timber are helping to boost the job prospects for foresters. Most employment growth comes from the activities in state and federally owned forest lands, specifically in the western US.
Job outlooks in private forests are also stable as the demand for pellets and timber will grow. Preventing and suppressing the rising number of wildfires has been a main concern during recent years for government agencies that are responsible for managing forests, and changing weather conditions have severely contributed to more costly and devastating fires, so foresters are in demand. The average annual salary for foresters was around $54,990 in 2014.