By studying forestry, you’ll have the chance to work with your mind and your body, all while enhancing parks and forests so that they can be enjoyed by everyone and continue to be enjoyed for years to come! An online forestry degree is perfect for anyone who loves to work in the great outdoors.
While a forestry major may conjure up images of park rangers chasing after bears, be forewarned that foresters today do a lot more than police parks for errant wildlife. Graduates of forestry degree online programs often work as environmentalists, land lease specialists, conservationists, agricultural developers, natural resource guides, wildlife biologists and firefighters. Entry-level foresters who do the grunt work of timber harvesting and fire fighting earn the least, averaging $33,000. But PayScale.com reports higher salaries—typically up to $80,000—for forestry managers who work inside the commercial paper and pulp industries or who manage large government resource areas.
THE CAREER PATH
A degree in forestry might seem a little limited, but while the career of a forester is one of the most interesting and engaging jobs you can have, there are other opportunities available. You could work as a forest ranger, which allows you to work on state and national forests, maintaining the beauty and quality of the local ecosystem while making the park accessible and enjoyable to visitors. You could also work as a forestry science technician, or you could go into a career is a procurement agent, which is a career employed by the paper and lumber industries, as well as energy companies. These professionals are responsible for finding and surveying forest land that can be used for many different purposes.
There are many advantages that you’ll gain with a degree in forestry. First and foremost, you’ll mostly get to work outside, which is a major benefit to many people. You’ll also contribute to environmental wellness by helping to maintain healthy, sustainable forest use. This career also gives you the chance to work with exciting new technologies, and use highly specialized knowledge to solve complex problems, such as how to harvest lumber without damaging the ecosystem or environment. Let's take a look at a few more closely…
- Conservation Scientist—In many ways, this is the job you think of when considering a forestry degree. This career requires that you manage the overall quality of the land, including wildlife and plant life. You would manage forestry efforts, establish plans for management, and work with landowners, farmers, and the government to achieve the best possible results. In this career, you’ll see a median salary of $60,970, which is a solid income by itself. However, if you work your way into the top 10%, you can expect to earn over $97,000 a year. While 6% growth may not seem like much, it generally keeps pace with the national average for all careers, so you can reasonably expect employment opportunities after graduation.
- Wildlife Biologist—Wildlife biologists, as well as zoologists, study the interaction between animals, plants, and other elements of an ecosystem, which is a crucial component of forestry. These professionals will develop studies, collect biological data, study the characteristics of plants and animals, and create conservation plans, which are all skill learned during a forestry education. This career has a strong median salary of $62,290, but people working in the top 10% of the field can expect salaries over $99,700. The expected job growth is 8%, which is slightly higher than the national average of 7%. While there won’t be a massive growth in jobs, the career is certainly not expected to disappear.
WHO IS THE IDEAL CANDIDATE?
This seems like one of the best careers possible, but it’s certainly not for everyone. Before enrolling in a forestry program, you need to decide if you would be comfortable with the working conditions that come with this field. Specifically, you’ll be expected to work outside, which is a dream in the fall and spring, but during extreme summer heat and frigid winter chills, it can be tough. You also have to enjoy working with your hands and, quite frankly, you can’t mind getting dirty. The best candidates for this degree focus are people who are passionate about plants and animals and believe they should be preserved for all people.
While there are lot of non-academic qualities you should have, you should also enjoy math and science classes. There will be lots of detailed scientific principles, as well as math disciplines like statistics, so enjoying, or at least tolerating, these complex classes is a must.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR?
Forestry professionals—many of them stationed in remote locations—have long used distance learning to gain access to higher education. More than one forestry management professional has radioed in coursework while sitting atop a lookout tower. While you don't have to be currently employed in the forestry sector, you most likely will have to complete an internship out in the field.
Nowadays, most forestry programs online are offered at a master's degree level. A graduate degree may be essential if your goal is to learn the natural resources management skills necessary to advance from the service end of this sector into a higher-paying managerial role. Opportunities exist in research, consulting, land use management and more.
Expect online forestry programs to cover biology, wildlife conservation, natural resources management, woodlands management, recreational resources development, hydrology, sustainability and wildlife biology. Most also cover methods for pest management and strategies for environmentally-friendly resource harvesting and soil nutrition replenishment.
Forestry is closely tied to fire science, so be prepared for courses in forest fire management and the protection of ecosystems. Other elective classes may touch upon wildlife ecology as it relates to forests. Take a geographic information system class for a technology-based look at mapping out forests.
Compare costs when considering programs. The average cost of an online bachelor's degree is between $30,000 and $50,000, however many cheaper programs exist! Click on a program below to view accreditation, prerequisites, and tuition information.