Forest and conservation technicians measure and improve the quality of forests, rangeland, and other natural areas.                                  

Duties

Forest and conservation technicians typically do the following:

  • Gather data on water and soil quality, disease, insect damage to trees and other plants, and conditions that may pose a fire hazard
  • Locate property lines and evaluate forested areas to determine the species, quality, and amount of standing timber
  • Select and mark trees to be cut
  • Track where wildlife goes, help build roads, and maintain trails, campsites, and other recreational facilities
  • Train and lead seasonal workers who plant seedlings
  • Monitor the activities of loggers and others who remove trees for sale as timber or for other reasons
  • Patrol forest areas and enforce environmental protection regulations
  • Communicate with foresters, scientists, and sometimes the public about ongoing forestry and conservation activities
  • Suppress forest fires with fire control activities
  • Train other forestry workers and coordinate detection programs

Forest and conservation technicians generally work under the supervision of foresters or conservation scientists and may themselves supervise forest and conservation workers.

Increasing numbers of forest and conservation technicians work in urban forestry—the study and management of trees and associated plants, individually or in groups within cities, suburbs, and towns—and other nontraditional specialties, rather than in forests or rural areas.

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Work Environment

Forest and conservation technicians held about 34,000 jobs in 2012. The industries that employed the largest numbers of forest and conservation technicians in 2012 were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service 74%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 14
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 7

Most forest and conservation technicians work for federal, state, or local government or on privately owned forest lands. Most government technicians are employed by the federal government. Technicians in the eastern United States usually work on private forests. Because many national parks are in the West and Southwest, most technicians in these areas work for the federal government.

Forest and conservation technicians typically work outdoors, sometimes in remote locations and in all types of weather. The work can be physically difficult. They must walk long distances, sometimes on steep slopes and in heavily forested areas or wetlands.

When working near logging operations or in wood yards, technicians must wear a hardhat.

Other technicians work closely with the public, educating people about forest conservation or the proper use of recreational sites.

Work Schedules

Most forest and conservation technicians work full time and have a routine work schedule. Seasonal employees may work longer hours and at night. In addition, technicians may need to work longer hours to respond during emergencies.

Education and Training

Forest and conservation technicians typically need an associate’s degree in forestry or a related field. Employers look for technicians who have a degree that is accredited by the Society of American Foresters (SAF).

Education

Forestry and conservation technicians typically need an associate’s degree in a forestry technology or technician program or in a related field. Most forestry and conservation technology programs are accredited by SAF, and every state has accredited programs.

Many technical and community colleges offer programs in forestry technology or a related field. Associate’s degree programs at community colleges are designed to provide easy transfer to bachelor’s degree programs at colleges and universities. Training at technical institutes usually includes less theory and education than that in community colleges.

Coursework for an associate’s degree in forestry technology or a related field includes ecology, biology, and forest resource measurement. Some technicians also have a background in a geographic information system (GIS) technology and other forms of computer modeling.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Some forestry technician positions require related work experience. For example, technicians who work for The United States Forest Service in fire management positions typically need some previous experience in fighting wildfires or in wildfire suppression.

Personality and Interests

Forest and conservation technicians typically have an interest in the Building, Thinking and Persuading interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Thinking or Persuading interest which might fit with a career as a forest and conservation technician, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Forest and conservation technicians should also possess the following specific qualities:

Analytical skills. Forest and conservation technicians conduct a variety of field tests and onsite measurements, all of which require precision and accuracy.

Communication skills. Forest and conservation technicians must clearly instruct forest and conservation workers, who typically do the labor necessary to take care of the forest. Technicians must also follow instructions given to them by foresters and conservation scientists.

Critical-thinking skills. Forest and conservation technicians reach conclusions through sound reasoning and judgment. They determine how to improve forest conditions and must react appropriately to fires.

Physical stamina. Forest and conservation technicians often walk long distances in steep and wooded areas. They work in all kinds of weather, including extreme heat and cold.

Pay

The median annual wage for forest and conservation technicians was $33,920 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,930, and the top 10 percent earned more than $53,780.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for forest and conservation technicians in the top three industries in which these technicians worked were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and
hospitals
               $35,700
Federal government, excluding
postal service
                 33,400
State government, excluding education and
hospitals
33,400

Most forest and conservation technicians work full time and have a routine work schedule. Seasonal employees may work longer hours and at night. In addition, technicians may need to work longer hours to respond during emergencies.

Job Outlook

Employment of forest and conservation technicians is projected to decline 4 percent from 2012 to 2022.

Heightened demand for American timber, wood pellets, and biomass will help overall job prospects for forest and conservation technicians. Most growth in employment over the next 10 years is expected to be in state owned forest lands. Because more people are living near federal and state forests, more technicians and other forestry and conservation workers will be needed to combat fires and protect property.   

For More Information

For more information about forest and conservation technicians, visit

Forest Guild

For more information about forestry careers and schools offering education in forestry, visit

Society of American Foresters

For more information about forest and conservation technicians in the federal government, visit

The United States Forest Service

FAQ

Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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I am not sure if this career is right for me. How can I decide?

There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. We recommend the Career Personality Profiler assessment ($29), the Holland Code assessment ($19), or the Photo Career Quiz (free).