Forest and conservation workers held about 10,500 jobs in 2012. The industries that employed the most forest and conservation workers in 2012 were as follows:
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||39%|
|Local government, excluding education and hospitals||20|
Forest and conversation workers typically work for state and local governments or on privately owned forest lands. Those employed by forest management services may work for the federal government on a contract basis.
Forest and conservation workers’ jobs are concentrated in the western and southeastern areas of the United States, where there are many national and private forests and parks.
Forest and conversation workers work outdoors, sometimes in remote locations and in all types of weather. However, the increased use of machines has reduced some of the discomfort of working in bad weather and has made tasks much safer. Workers also use proper safety measures and equipment, such as hardhats, protective eyewear, and safety clothing.
Most of these jobs are physically demanding. Forest and conservation workers may have to walk long distances through densely wooded areas and carry their equipment with them.
Injuries and Illnesses
Forest and conversation workers whose primary duties involve fire suppression must take significant safety precautions because the work can be dangerous. Workers must follow prescribed safety procedures and wear proper safety gear.
Most forest and conservation workers are employed full time and work regular hours. Seasonal employees may be expected to work longer hours and at night. Responding to an emergency may require workers to work longer hours and at any time of day.
Forest and conservation workers typically need a high school diploma before they begin working. Most workers get on-the-job training.
Forest and conservation workers typically need a high school diploma before they begin working. Some vocational and technical schools and community colleges offer courses leading to a 2-year technical degree in forest management technology, wildlife management, conservation, or forest harvesting. Programs that include field trips to watch and participate in forestry activities provide particularly good background knowledge.
Entry-level forest and conservation workers generally get on-the-job training as they help more experienced workers. They do routine labor-intensive tasks, such as planting or thinning trees. When the opportunity arises, they learn from experienced technicians and foresters who do more complex tasks, such as gathering data.
To advance their careers and become forest and conservation technicians or foresters, forest and conservation workers usually need an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in forestry or a related field. For more information, see the profiles on forest and conservation technicians and conservation scientists and foresters.
Forest and conservation workers typically have an interest in the Building, Thinking and Organizing 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 Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.
If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Thinking or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a forest and conservation worker, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Forest and conservation workers should also possess the following specific qualities:
Communication skills. Forest and conservation workers must convey information effectively to technicians and other workers.
Decision-making skills. Forest and conservation workers must make quick, intelligent decisions, especially when they face dangerous conditions.
Detail oriented. Forest and conservation workers must watch gauges, dials, or other indicators to determine whether equipment and tools are working properly. Workers must follow safety procedures with precision.
Listening skills. Forest and conservation workers must give full attention to what their superiors are saying. They must understand the instructions they are given before performing tasks.
Physical stamina. Forest and conservation workers must plant trees and repeatedly perform a variety of physical tasks. They must also be able to walk long distances through densely wooded areas and carry heavy packs with them.
The median annual wage for forest and conservation workers was $24,340 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 $16,690, and the top 10 percent earned more than $45,900.
In May 2012, median annual wages for forest and conservation workers in the top four industries employing these workers were as follows:
|Local government, excluding education and hospitals||28,870|
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||20,840|
Most forest and conservation workers are employed full time and work regular hours. Seasonal employees may be expected to work longer hours and at night. Responding to an emergency or a fire may require workers to work longer hours and at any time of day.
Employment of forest and conservation workers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Heightened demand for American timber and wood pellets will help increase demand for forest and conservation workers.
Jobs in private forests will grow with the increasing demand for timber and pellets, but ongoing fiscal crises may lessen the number of available positions in state and local governments. Wildfires caused by unpredictable climate conditions and overgrown vegetation on forest lands will increase the fire suppression activities of forest and conservation workers.
Most employment growth for forest and conservation workers is expected to be in state-owned forest lands. Recent developments in western forests may result in the conversion of unused roads into forest land, thus creating some new jobs. In addition, increasing pressure on the U.S. Forest Service (part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture) to undertake major fire suppression duties may result in higher levels of employment.
Job prospects will be best for workers who have a background in fire suppression activities. Workers who follow standard safety procedures, remain physically fit, and work well in teams will have the best opportunities.