Forestry is designed for a student who wishes to major in forestry or one of its two divergent areas of study—Forestry or Wildlife and Fisheries Science. A student will receive an Associate of Arts degree upon completion of this two-year program of study.
A bachelor’s degree in forestry, biology, natural resource management, environmental sciences, or a related discipline is the minimum educational requirement for careers in forestry.
Curricula focus on four areas: forest ecology and biology, measurement of forest resources, management of forest resources, and public policy. Students should balance general science courses such as ecology, biology, tree physiology, taxonomy, and soil formation with technical forestry courses such as forest inventory, wildlife habitat assessment, remote sensing, land surveying, GPS technology, integrated forest resource management, forest protection, and silviculture (the care and cultivation of forest trees). In addition, mathematics, statistics, and computer science courses are recommended. Courses in resource policy and administration—specifically, forest economics and business administration—also are helpful. Forestry curricula increasingly are including courses on wetlands analysis and sustainability and regulatory issues because prospective foresters need a strong grasp of Federal, State, and local policy issues and an understanding of complex environmental regulations.
What can I expect from a career in Forestry?
Foresters oversee our Nation’s forests and direct activities on them for economic, recreational, conservation, and environmental purposes. Individual landowners, the public, and industry own most of the forested land in this country, and they require the expertise of foresters to keep the forests healthy and sustainable. Often, this means coming up with a plan to keep the forests free from disease, harmful insects, and damaging wildfires by planning, for example, when and where to plant trees and vegetation and when to cut timber. It also may mean coming up with ways to make the land profitable but still protected for future generations.
Foresters have a wide range of duties, depending on whom they are working for. Some primary duties of foresters include drawing up plans to regenerate forested lands, monitoring the progress of those lands, and supervising harvests. Land management foresters choose and direct the preparation of sites on which trees will be planted. They oversee controlled burning and the use of bulldozers or herbicides to clear weeds, brush, and logging debris. They advise on the type, number, and placement of trees to be planted. Foresters then monitor the seedlings to ensure healthy growth and to determine the best time for harvesting. If they detect signs of disease or harmful insects, they consult with specialists in forest pest management to decide on the best treatment. When the trees reach a certain size, foresters decide which trees should be harvested and sold to sawmills.
Throughout the forest management and procurement processes, foresters often are responsible for conserving wildlife habitats and creek beds within forests, maintaining water quality and soil stability, and complying with environmental regulations. Foresters must balance the desire to conserve forested ecosystems with the need to use forest resources for recreational or economic purposes. For example, foresters increasingly are working with landowners to find ways to generate money from forested lands, such as using them for hunting or other recreational activity, without cutting down trees. A major concern of foresters is the prevention of devastating wildfires. Using a variety of techniques, including the thinning of forests and controlled burns (to clear brush), foresters work with governments and private landowners to minimize the impact of fire on the forest. During a fire, they work with or supervise firefighters and plan ways to contain the fire.