Forest Services Career Options and Training Requirements
Research forest services career information. Learn about job descriptions, training requirements and career options to make an informed decision about joining the forest service.
Careers with the U.S. Forest Service, part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), are generally divided into three categories: professional, technical and administrative. Wages vary greatly by area of specialty. For example, foresters and those working in conservation science earned a median salary of about $60,000 as of 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). However, the same source noted that forest and conservation technicians only earned about $35,000 that same year. The federal executive branch hires the most forestry employees, and it pays them the best out of all government and private entities.
Professional employees of the U.S. Forest Service usually work in scientific or engineering fields, such as hydrology or civil engineering. Their duties can range from developing ways to manage forests and keep them healthy to planning recreational activities. They also might formulate fire prevention plans, evaluate soil quality, rehabilitate injured wildlife or research methods of conserving water. Examples of professional careers with the U.S. Forest Service include:
- Fish biologist
- Landscape architect
- Range management specialist
- Soil scientist
- Wildlife biologist
Workers in technical positions, which make up the bulk of jobs with the forest service, usually work under the supervision of, and provide support to, employees in the professional category. Their job duties might include working to control disease and pest infiltration, administering permits, maintaining roads and trails, enforcing the law on forest service lands or collecting fire safety data for environmental impact studies. Following are some specific titles associated with technical employees of the U.S. Forest Service:
- Biological science technician
- Engineering technician
- Fire dispatcher
- Forestry technician
- Law enforcement officer
- Snow ranger
Administrative workers with the U.S. Forest Service are involved in both operations and community outreach, helping to ensure smooth functioning of the agency. Roles range from criminal investigators, who might work to determine the causes of forest fires, to accountants, who take care of budgets and payrolls. Other administrative positions include the following:
- Contract specialist
- Education and training specialist
- Human resources specialist
- Public affairs specialist
- Realty specialist
To be considered for professional positions with the U.S. Forest Service, applicants typically need a bachelor's degree in engineering, land management, forestry, biology or a related field. For example, foresters typically need to complete a 4-year degree program in forestry that covers such topics as renewable resource management and forest biology. Research positions with the forest service usually require an advanced degree.
Technical positions generally do not require a college degree. Instead, these workers typically gain experience in the field, working under the supervision of a professional forest service employee.
Education and training requirements for administrative positions usually are specific to the area of service. For example, a prospective accountant would need a degree in accounting or a related field, while an educator would need a degree in elementary or secondary education, coupled with teaching experience.
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