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Forester Job Description, Career as a Forester, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

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.

A forester studies mushrooms in a forest. (© Dan Lamont/Corbis.)

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

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
(800) 878-8878

American Forests
P.O. Box 2000
Washington, DC 20013
(202) 727-1944

Society of American Foresters
5400 Grosvenor Ln.
Bethesda, MD 20814-2198
(301) 897-8720

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.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesAgribusiness, Environment, and Natural Resources