A forester manages and protects forests, parks and other natural resources. It is a key environmental or “green” career options. Foresters stay updated on laws governing land use. They develop plans for the oversight of a forest and carry out those plans. They oversee the harvesting of trees in allowed areas, minimizing the environmental impact to the area, and manage the planting and care of new trees. They work to protect trees from disease and wildfire. These professionals spend some time in office settings, but many spend the bulk of their day outdoors. Foresters often work for federal or state agencies. They can also work for private employers, logging companies or nonprofit organizations. There are a number of job titles foresters may have. Procurement foresters negotiate the purchase of timber. Urban foresters manage trees in city settings; they are specialists in water runoff, shade and green quality-of-life topics. Conservation education foresters educate people about forest land and issues.
Foresters need a bachelor’s degree in forestry or a field such as environmental science, agricultural science, rangeland management or other “green” specialties. Some foresters go on to get advanced degrees. Many states require a forestry license. Foresters require analytical and critical-thinking skills, are able to make decisions based on science, have good people skills and are able to handle the physical rigors of the job.
The median salary for foresters in May 2010 was $54,540, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those at the bottom 10 percent of the salary range earned less than $35,670 and those at the top 10 percent earned more than $75,540. Those working for the federal government earned the most and those working for state government earned the least. The salary depended on geographic region and experience. Foresters in California are among the highest paid, earning $67,220 per year in 2009, according to the bureau. Among metropolitan areas, The Washington, D.C. area paid the most, with $79,200.
The number of forester jobs in the United States is expected to grow by 5 percent from 2010 to 2020. This is worse than what’s predicted for other occupations. The best chance for new jobs is expected to be in the federal government, since state and local governments are experiencing budget constraints that prevent job growth. The Southwest is likely to see the highest rate of forestry job growth. Forester jobs will see modest growth over the next several years.