Forestry Degree

Why a Forestry Degree?

Foresters protect and preserve forests while making them available for human use. Doing this in a balanced way is challenging. Growing populations are putting pressure on forests, and climate change is making trees more vulnerable to fires and migrating pests. The field is evolving to respond to these challenges. Carbon management is an emerging specialization that uses the way trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to fight climate change. Urban forestry is another fairly new area that deals with planning and managing forests and green spaces in metropolitan areas. With so many changes and challenges in the field, it's an exciting time to be a forester!

Associate's Degrees

While some technical forestry positions don't require a college degree, many others do require a two-year degree from a technical college recognized by the Society of American Foresters. These highly focused programs typically provide highly focused introductory coursework in forest management, ecology, biology, and soil science. The degrees can stand on their own, or be transferred to four-year colleges.

What are the education costs associated with earning an associate's degree in forestry?

Two-year degrees generally require completion of about 60 credits. Since community colleges typically charge in-district students about $110 in tuition and fees per credit hour, the average forestry degree will cost about $6,600.

What are the entry requirements for associate's degree programs in forestry?

Applicants to two-year programs in this field must have a high school diploma or GED.

What coursework is required for a forestry associate's degree?

Two-year programs offer foundational courses in biology, chemistry, and the physical sciences. Students must also complete general education requirements in the social sciences and humanities.

What are my employment options with an associate's degree in forestry?

Many two-year forestry degrees are designed to meet state requirements for certain forestry positions, such as a forestry technician, recreation technician, utility forester, or nature interpreter.

School Spotlight

Columbia College - California

Located on hundreds of acres of woodland, Columbia College in Sonora, California offers an Associate of Science in Forestry. Columbia is part of the Yosemite Community College District, which partners with the USDA Forest Service to provide training at the High Sierra Institute at historic Baker Station in the Sierra Nevada. Coursework includes soil science, dendrology (plant identification), forest surveying, GIS and remote sensing, and forest management techniques. One course in the human dimensions of forest management, such as law, policy, and conservation is also required. The department cooperates with the Geographic Information Systems and Water Resources Management programs to integrate those areas into the curriculum. Students develop a solid background in wildlife and watershed issues, forestry, mapping, and other necessary skills. They also gain valuable hands-on experience working in Yosemite National Park, the Stanislaus National Forest, Calaveras Big Trees State Park, and other nearby locations.

North Idaho College

North Idaho College's Associate of Science degree with an area of emphasis in Forestry/Wildlife/Range Management is intended for transfer to a four-year institution. Located in Coeur d'Alene, the program includes foundational courses in the physical, biological, and social sciences, as well as math. Students then progress to take courses in forestry and forest ecology, and choose electives in wildlife biology, range management, geology, and related areas. The program provides a solid background in the management of forests, rangelands, and related natural resources that advanced study at four-year institutions can build upon.

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Forestry Undergraduate Programs

Professional forestry positions generally require a bachelor's degree. Forestry programs begin with foundational courses in biology, chemistry, and geology. Students then progress to coursework in forestry, ecology, natural resources management, hydrology, geography, and environmental science. They also take classes in the social sciences and arts. Since foresters must understand the interplay between forests and society and be able to communicate their findings, these classes are also important. It's best to seek out a baccalaureate degree that's accredited by the Society of American Foresters (SAF), which will demonstrate that you've received adequate training for professional forestry work.

What are the education costs associated with earning a bachelor's degree in forestry?

The cost of your degree will depend heavily on the school you choose. In-state students pay an average of $9,139 per year in tuition and fees at public colleges and universities, while out-of-state students pay nearly $23,000. A bachelor's degree in forestry from a private college costs approximately $31,231 per year. Some schools may charge higher fees to support scientific labs and firefighting equipment. These figures do not include the cost of room and board.

What are the entry requirements for undergraduate programs in forestry?

Applicants must have completed a high school diploma or GED. ACT or SAT scores are also usually required. Taking college preparatory courses and as many math and science courses as possible during high school is also advantageous.

What coursework is required for a bachelor's degree in forestry?

Forestry programs begin with foundational courses on biology, chemistry, and geology. Students then progress to coursework on forestry, ecology, natural resources management, hydrology, geography, and environmental science. Some schools offer courses on rangeland management, water issues, and wildlife biology. Lab and field work is usually required. Participants also take classes in the social sciences and arts. Since foresters must understand the interplay between forests and society and be able to communicate their findings, these classes are also important.

What are my employment options with an undergraduate degree in forestry?

Bachelor's degrees are often designed to meet state requirements for certain forestry jobs, such as forester or silviculturist. College graduates are also qualified for jobs with the U.S. Forest Service at the GS-5 or GS-7 grade level.

School Spotlight

University of California, Berkeley

University of California, Berkeley's well-established forestry program grants a Bachelor of Science in Forestry and Natural Resources.

There are two specializations within the degree program: Professional Forestry and Natural Sciences. The SAF-accredited Professional Forestry specialization is intended to help gradu-ates qualify for licensing as a professional forester in California.

The Natural Sciences specialization focuses specifically on ecology and the physical envi-ronment. The Human Dimensions of Natural Resources concentration provides students with greater flexibility to explore subjects in ecology, physical environment, monitoring and measurement, and management and policy.

Coursework covers wildlife biology, water policy, fire science, ecosystem restoration, environmental justice, remote sensing and GIS, and rural sociology.

All students must participation in a fieldwork program. Berkeley offers a Forestry Field camp, or eight-week summer field program in the northern Sierra Nevada, and a fall semester course on the Polynesian island of Moorea, Biology & Geomorphology of Tropical Islands.

Virginia Tech

Virginia Polytechnic Institute offers a Bachelor of Science in Forestry with three tracks. The Forest Resource Management Option provides the solid background in biological and social sciences necessary for forest management and decision-making. The Forest Operations and Business Option emphasizes forest management from the perspective of commercial timber sale. Graduates work in both public and private forests.

The Urban Forestry Option emphasizes forest resource management in cities and towns. Students following this interdisciplinary track choose from classes in horticulture, landscape architecture, and planning to customize their program of study to fit their goals. Graduates find work in municipal forestry, commercial tree care, utility vegetation management, urban environmental consulting, public agencies, and nonprofits.

All program participants learn about managing protected areas, economic policy, urbanization, genomics, and soil science. They also discover cutting-edge technology through the college's Center for Geospatial Information Technology and Center for Environmental Applications of Remote Sensing. Students gain hands-on experience by working together to sell timber products and compete in forest sports through the Virginia Tech Forestry Club.

Graduate Certificate in Forestry

There are only a handful of graduate certificates in forestry in the United States. The majority are online programs accommodate working professionals where they live and work.

Online School Spotlight

Oregon State University

Oregon State University launched the country's first online graduate program in Urban Forestry in 2015. While the Graduate Certificate is new, Oregon State is well-respected for its forestry programs and quality of online education.

Urban forestry is an emerging field that emphasizes the integration of forests with society through parks and trees in public spaces. Recent focus on more livable cities has made this integration a growing trend. Trees and green space provide valuable benefits in urban areas, such as stormwater control and shading.

Required courses include Urban Forestry Leadership, Urban Forest Planning, Policy and Management, and Green Infrastructure. Students can also choose from electives in Arboriculture, Ecological Restoration, and Geographic Information Systems. An urban forestry capstone project is also required. Students receive personalized mentorship from OSU faculty or local experts in the field while completing the project. Students who wish to pursue further study can apply the certificate towards OSU's full Master of Natural Resources (MNR) degree.

Michigan State University

Michigan State University offers an online Graduate Certificate in Forest Carbon Science, Policy and Management that specializes in forests' role in the carbon cycle, and their use in climate change mitigation. The four-course program focuses on how forest management decisions affect the forest carbon balance, the principles of forest carbon markets, the social context of managing forests for carbon sequestration, and the tools for measuring, monitoring, and accounting for forest carbon - including satellite imagery, remote sensing, and integrated carbon sequestration models.

Students complete courses in Forest Biogeochemistry and Global Climate Change, Human Dimensions of Forest Carbon Management, Forest Carbon Policy, Economics, and Finance, and Measurement and Monitoring of Forest Carbon. The Certificate program gives working foresters, natural resource managers, and environmental scientists an edge in competing for employment in carbon mitigation projects of corporations, governments, and non-governmental organizations.

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Master's Degrees in Forestry

Graduate programs in forestry focus on policy issues and managerial techniques. They also include advanced scientific coursework. These programs are geared towards experienced foresters and natural resource managers who want to advance into higher-level careers.

What are the education costs associated with earning a forestry master's degree?

The average cost of a master's degree in forestry can be at least $11,000 per year at a public college ($916 per credit hour) and $25,000 per year ($2,083 per credit hour) at a private institution. A five-year combined bachelor's and master's program is an excellent way to earning a master's while paying only one year's worth of additional tuition.

What are the entry requirements for graduate programs in forestry?

Applicants must have a bachelor's degree, typically in a natural science. They must also submit GRE or GMAT scores.

What coursework is required for a forestry master's degree?

Graduate programs in forestry cover advanced scientific coursework in tree physiology and taxonomy, forest dynamics, ecology, soil science, hydrology, statistics, natural science research methods, and environmental law. They also focus on administrative topics such as policy, management, and finance. They are typically professional degrees that require a capstone course or project, rather than a thesis.

What are my employment options with a master's degree in forestry?

Graduates fill management and policy positions in forestry, wildlife biology, range management, and environmental consulting. They are employed by government agencies, private companies, and nonprofit environmental organizations.

School Spotlight

Yale University - Connecticut

Yale University's Master of Forestry has an interdisciplinary curriculum that combines the biological and social sciences.

The program develops an understanding the social, political, and scientific aspects of forest resource management. The curriculum is comprised of three educational stages. The Basic Knowledge stage focuses on scientific issues. The Frameworks and Skills for Integrating Knowledge stage focuses on quantitative methods in science and economics. The third stage includes both Synthesis and Analysis of Knowledge and the Capstone. Students take interdisciplinary courses relating to forest management and policy.

Within the sciences, students take courses in several topical areas, including Tree Physiology, Morphology and Taxonomy; Forest Ecology; Wildlife Ecology; Forest Health; Soil Science; and Hydrology. They also take courses in Social and Political Ecology, anthropology, policy, and law. The courses are highly interactive and feature group projects. Students can use electives to specialize in a variety of areas including watershed health, tropical forests, urban forestry, and agroforestry, among others.

Michigan Technological University

Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan has an internationally-recognized forestry program. The school has been designated a Regional Center for Global Climate Change by the US Department of Energy. Michigan Tech offers a Master of Science in Forestry for career changers who want to become foresters. The coursework-only MF is a professional degree designed to prepare students for a career in forestry, rather than a traditional Master of Science (MS) degree.

Areas of study include forest ecology, forest soils, silviculture, tree improvement, forest wildlife biology, economics, forest inventory, geographic information systems, growth and yield, wood science, and forest biology. The University partners with the Peace Corps to incorporate Peace Corps service into its curriculum, and owns a 4,600-acre Research Forest and center that supports student and faculty research. The degree program can be completed in three semesters. Michigan Tech undergraduates can earn the additional MF degree with in one additional year through the Accelerated Master's Program.

Doctoral Programs in Forestry

Doctoral programs teach students to conduct original scientific research, in preparation for careers in research and academia. Courses typically focus on research methodology, statistics, quantitative methods, dissertation, and effective teaching techniques. Ph.D. programs also offer further study in the science of forestry, forest management, and the human dimensions of natural resource management, such as policy and law.

What are the education costs associated with earning a doctorate in forestry?

The cost of a doctorate in forestry will depend on which school you choose. Most Ph.D. programs require 60 credits, which can amount to $55,000 at a public college to $125,000 at a private university.

What are the entry requirements for Ph.D. programs in forestry?

Applicants must have at least a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution, preferably in a natural science such as biology, chemistry, or ecology. They must have earned a minimum GPA, and must submit GRE or GMAT scores. Some doctoral programs only accept students who have completed a master's degree and thesis.

What coursework is required for a doctorate in forestry?

Doctoral-level coursework includes advanced topics in biology, ecosystem science, wildlife biology, forest dynamics, soil science, and forest management. Candidates learn research methods, statistics, and experimental design, and use these skills to develop expert knowledge in a specific area of forestry. Required teaching experience is also common.

What are my employment options with a doctoral degree in forestry?

Successful candidates will be qualified for science, research, and policy positions at federal and state agencies, as well as faculty positions at colleges and universities.

School Spotlight

Northern Arizona University

Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Forestry with three specializations - ecosystem science, forest management sciences and economics, and forest social science. Candidates learn all aspects of their chosen specialization, including the professional literature and issues surrounding research in that area. The program emphasizes generating ideas for original research, research design and methodology, scientific writing skills, and teaching skills.

Located near forestland, the campus hosts a research unit of the U.S. Forest Service, as well as the Colorado Plateau Research Station, which is a unit of the U.S. Geological Survey. The University has residency requirements regarding time spent on the Flagstaff campus engaged in full-time study.

Licensure and Certification

Foresters and forest technicians may need to be licensed or registered in some states. Voluntary professional certification is available through the Society of American Foresters.

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Opportunities in forestry are expected to grow at a rate of 7% through 2030. Most of this growth will occur within federal and state forest lands in the West. Most foresters work for the USDA Forest Service and state forest agencies. Others are employed in the private sector, where they work for forestry and environmental consulting companies, lumber companies, and forestry firms. Some work for environmental nonprofits, or become faculty members at colleges and universities. Many foresters are also qualified to work as wildlife biologists and range managers.

2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures and job growth projections for Conservation Scientists and Foresters reflect national data not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed September 2021.

Skills You'll Learn Studying Forestry

  • Critical Thinking - Foresters must be able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of various approaches to problems.
  • Decision Making - Professionals in this field must use good judgement to make appropriate decisions regarding the alternatives they've identified.
  • Reading Comprehension - Foresters need to understand and write program reports and policy documents.
  • Speaking - Foresters learn how to communicate information effectively to colleagues, managers, groups, and students.