Forest and Conservation Workers

Summary

forest and conservation workers image
Forest and conservation workers may select or cut trees according to markings, sizes, types, or grades.
Quick Facts: Forest and Conservation Workers
2014 Median Pay $27,160 per year
$13.06 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2014 14,000
Job Outlook, 2014-24 4% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 600

What Forest and Conservation Workers Do

Forest and conservation workers measure and improve the quality of forests. Under the supervision of foresters and forest and conservation technicians, they develop, maintain, and protect forests.

Work Environment

Forest and conversation workers typically work for state and local governments or on privately owned forest lands or nurseries. Governments also employ forest and conservation workers on a contract basis.

How to Become a Forest and Conservation Worker

Forest and conservation workers typically need a high school diploma before they begin working. Most workers get on-the-job training.

Pay

The median annual wage for forest and conservation workers was $27,160 in May 2014.

Job Outlook

Employment of forest and conservation workers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations. Although improved technology will lessen the need for workers to perform certain tasks, heightened international demand for U.S. timber and wood pellets may help increase demand for forest and conservation workers.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for forest and conservation workers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of forest and conservation workers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about forest and conservation workers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Forest and Conservation Workers Do

Forest and conservation workers
Forest and conservation workers count trees during tree-measuring efforts.

Forest and conservation workers measure and improve the quality of forests. Under the supervision of foresters and forest and conservation technicians, they develop, maintain, and protect forests.

Duties

Forest and conservation workers typically do the following:

  • Plant seedlings to reforest land
  • Clear away brush and debris from trails, roadsides, and camping areas
  • Count and measure trees during tree-measuring efforts
  • Select or cut trees according to markings, sizes, types, or grades
  • Spray trees with insecticides and fungicides to kill insects and protect the trees from disease
  • Identify and remove diseased or undesirable trees
  • Inject vegetation with insecticides and herbicides
  • Help prevent and suppress forest fires
  • Check equipment to ensure that it is operating properly

Forest and conservation workers are supervised by foresters and forest and conservation technicians, who direct their work and evaluate their progress.

Forest and conservation workers perform basic tasks to maintain and improve the quality of the forest. They use digging and planting tools to plant seedlings and power saws to cut down diseased trees.

Some forest workers work on tree farms or orchards, where they plant, cultivate, and harvest many different kinds of trees. Their duties vary with the type of farm and may include planting seedlings or spraying to control weed growth and insects.

Some forest and conservation workers work in forest nurseries, where they sort through tree seedlings, discarding the ones that do not meet standards. Others use hand tools or their hands to gather woodland products, such as decorative greenery, tree cones, bark, moss, and other wild plant life. Some may tap trees to make syrup or chemicals.

Forest and conservation workers who are employed by or under contract with state and local governments may clear brush and debris from trails, roads, roadsides, and camping areas. They may clean kitchens and restrooms at recreational facilities and campgrounds.

Workers with a fire protection background help to suppress forest fires. For example, they may construct firebreaks, which are gaps in vegetation that can help slow down or stop the progress of a fire. In addition, they may work with technicians to determine how quickly fires spread and how successful fire suppression activities were. For example, workers help count how many trees will be affected by a fire. They also sometimes respond to forest emergencies.

Work Environment

Forest and conservation workers
Forest and conservation workers plant seedlings to reforest land.

Forest and conservation workers held about 14,000 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most forest and conservation workers were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals 23%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 14
Social advocacy organizations 3
Logging 3

Forest and conversation workers typically work for state and local governments or on privately owned forest lands or nurseries. Governments also employ forest and conservation workers on a contract basis.

Forest and conservation workers work mainly in the western and southeastern areas of the United States, where there are many national and state forests, and on 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 safety precautions because the work can be dangerous. Workers must follow prescribed safety procedures and wear proper safety gear.

Work Schedules

Many 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 additional hours and at any time of day.

How to Become a Forest and Conservation Worker

forest and conservation workers image
Forest and conservation workers typically need a high school diploma before they begin working.

Forest and conservation workers typically need a high school diploma before they begin working. Most workers get on-the-job training.

Education

Forest and conservation workers typically need a high school diploma and a valid driver’s license before they begin working. Some vocational and technical schools and community colleges offer courses leading to a 2-year technical degree in forestry. The programs typically offer courses in forest management technology, wildlife management, conservation, or timber harvesting. Programs that include field trips to watch and participate in forestry activities provide particularly good background knowledge.

Training

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. Workers also learn safety procedures, including how to operate equipment safely and how to maintain safety gear.

In addition, some states require that crews and individuals receive training, and sometimes a license, in the use of commercial pesticides. For more information, consult states’ Departments of Agriculture.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Forest and conservation workers must convey information effectively to technicians and other workers.

Decisionmaking 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 plant trees and repeatedly perform a variety of physical tasks. They also must be able to walk long distances through densely wooded areas and carry heavy equipment with them.

Advancement

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.

Pay

Forest and Conservation Workers

Median annual wages, May 2014

Total, all occupations

$35,540

Forest, conservation, and logging workers

$34,200

Forest and conservation workers

$27,160

 

The median annual wage for forest and conservation workers was $27,160 in May 2014. 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 $16,800, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $46,390.

In May 2014, the median annual wages for forest and conservation workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Logging $32,650
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 30,160
Social advocacy organizations 23,090
State government, excluding education and hospitals 22,060

Many 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 additional hours and at any time of day.

Job Outlook

Forest and Conservation Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Total, all occupations

7%

Forest and conservation workers

4%

Forest, conservation, and logging workers

-2%

 

Employment of forest and conservation workers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations. On the one hand, heightened demand for U.S. timber and wood pellets may help to increase demand for these workers. On the other hand, new technologies, such as remote sensing, allow fewer workers to perform certain tasks such as tree counts and tree identifications.

There is likely to be an increase in wildfires caused by unpredictable climate conditions and overgrown vegetation on forest lands, which would in turn increase the fire suppression activities of forest and conservation workers. Most employment growth for forest and conservation workers is likely to be in state-owned forest lands. As more people continue to build homes in western forests, there will be greater need for workers to protect those areas from fire dangers.

Job Prospects

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.

Employment projections data for forest and conservation workers, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Forest and conservation workers

45-4011 14,000 14,600 4 600 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of forest and conservation workers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2014 MEDIAN PAY
Agricultural workers

Agricultural Workers

Agricultural workers maintain the quality of farms, crops, and livestock by operating machinery and doing physical labor under the supervision of farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers.

See How to Become One $19,330
Conservation scientists and foresters

Conservation Scientists and Foresters

Conservation scientists and foresters manage the overall land quality of forests, parks, rangelands, and other natural resources.

Bachelor's degree $60,360
Firefighters

Firefighters

Firefighters control and put out fires, and respond to emergency situations where life, property, or the environment is at risk.

Postsecondary nondegree award $45,970
Grounds maintenance workers

Grounds Maintenance Workers

Grounds maintenance workers ensure that the grounds of houses, businesses, and parks are attractive, orderly, and healthy in order to provide a pleasant outdoor environment.

See How to Become One $24,810
Logging workers

Logging Workers

Logging workers harvest thousands of acres of forests each year. The timber they harvest provides the raw material for many consumer goods and industrial products.

High school diploma or equivalent $35,160
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Forest and Conservation Workers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/farming-fishing-and-forestry/forest-and-conservation-workers.htm (visited February 12, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015