Online Forestry Degrees

It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of forests to life on Earth. In fact, they’ve been called the “lungs of the world.” This is due to their role in transforming carbon dioxide into oxygen. They’re also wild spaces in need of conservation. And certainly they’re sources of natural materials that help society thrive. An online forestry degree program may help you learn how to protect and manage our shared forest resources.

Forestry is also known as silviculture. And this field may be more important than ever. In fact, NASA has reported that wildfire seasons throughout the globe are getting longer. It also cited changes in weather patterns connected with warming temperatures. So managing key resources like forests is critical. This is true both for large scale wild areas as well as small scale urban forests.

If you’re interested in forestry conservation, management of this natural resource, environmental science or sustainability, then an online forestry program might be perfect for you. Read on to learn more about degree programs as well as career paths that focus on forest ecosystems.

What do forest and conservation scientists do?

Although the two fields have much in common, each type of worker may fill different roles when on the job. To explain, here’s a quick look at what you might expect from each profession:

Forestry

  • Choosing planting sites for new trees and preparing the soil
  • Using ecological methods to clear land for reforesting
  • Keeping watch on young forests as they grow
  • Managing teams of conservation and forestry workers
  • Studying how to suppress forest fires and putting plans into action
  • Determining how to harvest timber in a sustainable way

Conservation science

  • Creating plans for resource use, land management, and forest management
  • Monitoring forest ecosystems projects to make sure they comply with regulations
  • Negotiating contracts for forest harvesting and land use
  • Working with landowners, farmers, and local governments to help improve land
  • Ensuring that large land-use proposals line up with regional ecology

What jobs might you pursue with a forestry degree?

Working in forestry and conservation science is likely to be the job goal for graduates of online forestry degree programs. But know that the U.S. Department of Labor says that many of these jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Then again, a master’s degree might be helpful for senior positions.

To show an overview of the field, here’s a table of national job and salary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for foresters and conservation scientists.

Job Title
Total Employment, 2019
2019 Median Annual Salary
Projected Job Growth for 2019-29
Forestry and Conservation Scientist36,100$62,4105%

What are the different types of degrees for forest and conservation scientists?

Every school that offers forest science degree programs usually has different resources at its disposal. That means that bachelor’s degree and master’s degree study plans could vary from place to place. Schools may also use different titles for their forestry programs. This is because they each may be aligned to a certain career path.

Sample Program Titles and What They Might Cover

  • Forest Engineering. Programs with this title may help you to plan and manage complex operations. In order to do this, they often emphasize the skills needed to find a balance between conservation and industrial needs.
    • The program at Oregon State University includes courses in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), civil engineering, and watershed management.
  • Forest Resources and Conservation. These programs often focus on the ecological responses to forest stress. This could be caused by economic demand, for example. Therefore, this study plan usually has a broad curriculum in the natural sciences.
    • The program at the University of Florida is accredited by the Society of American Foresters (SAF).
  • Urban Forestry. Green space is emerging as an important urban feature in modern cities. And these programs could teach you how to manage urban forests. For example, they might take into account the conditions that exist in a city setting.
    • Courses for these programs may also be offered through a school’s departments of ecology or civil engineering.
  • Wildlife or Forestry Conservation. This is one of the degree titles that tends to focus tightly on conservation. While other study plans work toward helping strike a balance between nature and industry, those with strong ties to conservation tend to lean toward the nature side.
    • Penn Foster Career School is one example of a school that offers an online diploma in this subject.
  • Forest Business. Degree plans with this focus could teach you how to approach natural resource management from the business side. In essense, they may include some conservation classes but tend to focus on growing and procuring commercial timber.
    • Mississippi State University offers a concentration in this subject.

What could you pursue with an online forestry degree?

Each degree level typically comes with its own set of career options. Here’s a look at a range of online programs in the field. Understanding the options might help you pick an education path that’s perfect for you.

Online Associate Degrees in Forestry

What could you expect to learn in an online associate in forestry degree program?

Online forestry programs at this degree level usually teach you the basics of forest science. They may also prepare you for further study in the field. They’re typically offered at community colleges and primarily lead to Associate of Science (A.S.) or Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degrees.

Typical program length: Two years of full-time study (60-65 credit hours).

Standard requirements: High school diploma or equivalent (GED, TASC, etc.); some schools may require you to complete specific courses before enrolling in the forestry program.

Common topics of study: Forest ecology, natural resources management, silviculture, forest industry practices

What kind of jobs could you pursue after earning an associate degree in forestry?

Graduates with an A.S. or A.A.S. may be able to find entry-level positions in the field. For example, this job role may be available to associate degree holders:

  • Forest and conservation worker. These typically work under the supervision of foresters. And they perform the day-to-day tasks of forest management. For example, they may work to clear debris from forest trails and campsites. Or they could plant seedlings or measure trees. They may also manage disease treatments. In addition, they might operate forestry equipment.

Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Forestry

What could you expect to learn in an online bachelor’s in forestry degree program?

The bachelor’s is the main undergrad degree that may be required for aspiring foresters, according to the BLS. Completing the program typically leads to a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree. The plan may include concentrations like forest hydrology, forest recreation, and urban forest management. In addition, general ed courses for these programs often include coursework in social sciences, math, and communication.

Typical program length: Four years of full-time study (120-128 credit hours).

Standard requirements: High school diploma or equivalent (GED, TASC, etc.). Certain course prerequisites and GPA requirements may apply.

Common topics of study: Tree physiology, dendrology, insect biology, environmental science, urban ecology, arboriculture

What kind of jobs could you pursue after earning a bachelor’s degree in forestry?

You may find a more diverse range of job options at this degree level. Plus, these jobs often come with more responsibility. To explain, here’s a quick look at the two main jobs that may be available to graduates with a B.S. in forestry:

  • Forester. Their specific duties often depend on their employer. It may also depend on the area of focus the student chooses in school. This type of professional often works to restore damaged forests to health. In addition, they might look for ways to sustainably harvest lumber. This would be in order to balance the needs of nature and industry.
  • Conservation scientist. This career could allow you to focus on environmental management and conservation. These pros may work on either public or private land. Jobs with this title usually emphasize ecological approaches. In effect, how to make use of the land and its resources.

Online Master’s Degrees in Forestry

What could you expect to learn in an online master’s in forestry degree program?

If you want to take your knowledge and skills to the next level, then a graduate degree might be perfect for you. Online master’s programs in this subject typically lead to either a Master of Science in Forestry (M.S.). Or they could lead to a Master of Natural Resources (M.N.R.). Online courses for these grad programs are offered in many different aspects of this field.

Typical program length: 1.5 to 3 years of full-time study, depending on a thesis requirement (30-45 credit hours).

Standard requirements: Bachelor’s degree in forestry or a related field, typically with a GPA requirement. Students with degrees in other fields may need to take prerequisite courses first.

Common topics of study: It depends heavily on your chosen concentration. Programs tend to include courses in research, experimental, and statistical methods.

What kind of jobs could you pursue after earning a master’s degree in forestry?

The tight focus on specific avenues of forest science and conservation may open up additional career options. In additional to being a forester or conservation scientist, here are a few of the other careers that your graduate degree might prepare you for:

  • Hydrologist. This could be an option because water is an integral part of any forest. Hydrologists measure the properties of lakes, streams, and other water bodies. They do this to look for ways to minimize damage caused by erosion or drought. They may also deal with other water-related issues.
  • Geoscientist. This career path might also be of interest because of how forests fit into the larger web of ecosystems on Earth. For example, geoscientists may use a wide range of methods to explore the features and conditions of forests. They also look at how distinct biological communities relate to the planet as a whole.

Online Graduate Certificates in Forestry and Conservation Science

What could you expect to learn in a graduate certificate program in forestry?

If you’ve already earned a bachelor’s degree in another subject, then you could still move into forestry as a career. But in order to do this, you might enroll in a graduate certificate program. This option could be perfect for you. This is because these non-degree study plans allow you to avoid the need to retake courses from your undergraduate general education core. Graduate certificates may also serve to deepen your existing knowledge of forestry on a particular subject.

Typical program length: 1-2 years of full-time study (12-24 credit hours).

Standard requirements: Bachelor’s degree and completion of any required prerequisite courses.

Common topics of study: Many study plans only contain courses directly related to the title of the certificate.

Online Doctoral Degrees in Forestry

What could you expect to learn in an online doctoral forestry degree program?

Doctoral degree programs are the highest level of education available. They usually lead to a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). But other titles may be offered, too. If you’re hoping to start a career in high-level research about forests, then a doctoral program could be just what you need. In addition, you may need a Ph.D. if you want to work toward setting environmental policy for the entire United States, for example.

Typical program length: Between three and five years of full-time study (30-60 credit hours).

Standard requirements: Master’s degree in forestry or a related subject. Some programs may offer a bachelor’s to doctoral plan. That type of plan usually involves earning more credits. But it does not require having a master’s degree.

Common topics of study: Conservation biology, research methods, soil science, natural resource policy

What kind of jobs could you pursue after earning a doctorate in forestry?

  • Researcher. A doctorate is often required for jobs at the upper end of the research profession. Researchers at this level typically get to choose their own projects. They may also work with teams of junior researchers to accomplish their goals.
  • Forestry and conservation professor. A Ph.D. is typically required for those hoping to teach the next generation of foresters and conservation scientists. Professors may also conduct research and publish academic papers. Plus, they may advise environmental groups on best practices.

Accreditation

Accreditation is a process by which a school’s degrees and services are reviewed. This is in order to determine if they meet an accepted standard of quality. In general, accreditation for colleges as a whole comes from regional agencies. These are then overseen by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Forestry programs may earn a separate accreditation from the Society of American Foresters (SAF). So, it may be a good idea to look for programs with both types of accreditation.

Certifications for Forestry and Conservation Workers

Earning an optional certification could show an employer that you have an extra level of dedication to the field. In brief, two groups provide certification for forestry pros:

Each type has its own set of advantages and requirements. For this reason, look into both of them. You may then decide which one is perfect for your career goals.

Employment Statistics

The industry job numbers below, for foresters (BLS) and conservation scientists (BLS), are nationwide ones. But the wages for states and metro areas are specific to those locations. And those numbers reflect average annual wages.

Foresters

Industries with the highest employment levels
  • State Government: 3,270 employed
  • Federal Executive Branch: 1,240 employed
  • Local Government: 1,080 employed
  • Logging: 1,040 employed
  • Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services: 670 employed
States with the highest employment levels
  • California: 730 employed, $80,540
  • Oregon: 600 employed, $70,470
  • Wisconsin: 500 employed, $57,780
  • Washington: 500 employed, $67,410
  • Missouri: 420 employed, $37,090
  • Georgia: 380 employed, $59,680
  • North Carolina: 350 employed, $65,510
  • Minnesota: 330 employed, $63,870
  • Pennsylvania: 300 employed, $69,290
  • Virginia: 310 employed, $63,730
Metro areas with the highest employment levels
  • Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA: 150 employed, $66,150
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI: 120 employed, $63,880
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV: 100 employed, $78,370
  • Olympia-Tumwater, WA: 90 employed, $60,360
  • Fort Collins, CO: 80 employed, $61,550

Conservation Scientists

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Federal Executive Branch: 6,290 employed
  • Local Government: 5,010 employed
  • State Government: 4,960 employed
  • Social Advocacy Organizations: 2,980 employed
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools: 1,140 employed
States with the highest employment levels
  • Texas: 2,050 employed, $59,680
  • California: 1,760 employed, $80,510
  • Colorado: 1,300 employed, $73,740
  • Washington: 1,020 employed, $65,070
  • Mississippi: 840 employed, $54,950
  • Pennsylvania: 830 employed, $56,520
  • Ohio: 820 employed, $57,070
  • Wisconsin: 750 employed, $65,330
  • Oregon: 740 employed, $76,120
  • Louisiana: 630 employed, $63,530
Metro areas with the highest employment levels
  • Fort Collins, CO: 670 employed, $72,820
  • Jackson, MS: 520 employed, $53,9200
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV: 490 employed, $91,130
  • Austin-Round Rock, TX: 440 employed, $57,340
  • Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI: 370 employed, $58,060

Source: 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Scholarships for Forestry and Conservation Science Students

Paying for college may be a challenge. But financial aid may be available to those who qualify. You might consider options such as:

More Resources for Students

  • Federal Student Aid. The official website for the U.S. government‘s financial aid programs may provide helpful tips on student aid for your education.
  • Society of American Foresters. This is a national professional organization. It offers memberships and certification services. It also may be a great source for information on the topic of this natural resource.
  • Forest Stewardship Council. Sustainable and prosperous forest management is the goal of this organization. In order to support this goal, it offers info and certification for foresters.
 
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