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
2012 Median Pay $24,340 per year
$11.70 per hour
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, 2012 10,500
Job Outlook, 2012-22 4% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 500

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. Those employed by forest management services may work for the federal government 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 $24,340 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of forest and conservation workers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations.

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 camping trails, roadsides, and camping areas
  • Count 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 do 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, where they plant, cultivate, and harvest many different kinds of trees. Their duties vary with the type of farm and may include planting seedlings, spraying to control weed growth and insects, and harvesting trees.

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 handtools or their hands to gather woodland products, such as decorative greens, tree cones, bark, moss, and other wild plantlife. 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 study 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 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 hospitals39%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals20
Logging4
Landscaping services3

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.

Work Schedules

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.

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 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.

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.

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. For more information, see the profiles on forest and conservation technicians and conservation scientists and foresters.

Important 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.

Pay

Forest and Conservation Workers

Median annual wages, May 2012

Total, all occupations

$34,750

Forest and conservation workers

$24,340

Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

$19,370

 

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:

Logging$33,290
Local government, excluding education and hospitals28,870
Landscaping services22,300
State government, excluding education and hospitals20,840

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.

Job Outlook

Forest and Conservation Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Total, all occupations

11%

Forest and conservation workers

4%

Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

-3%

 

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

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, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Forest and conservation workers

45-4011 10,500 11,000 4 500 [XLS]

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 2012 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 $18,910
Conservation scientists and foresters

Conservation Scientists and Foresters

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

Bachelor’s degree $59,060
Firefighters

Firefighters

Firefighters control fires and respond to other emergencies, including medical emergencies.

Postsecondary non-degree award $45,250
Forest and conservation technicians

Forest and Conservation Technicians

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

Associate’s degree $33,920
Grounds maintenance workers

Grounds Maintenance Workers

Grounds maintenance workers provide a pleasant outdoor environment by ensuring that the grounds of houses, businesses, and parks are attractive, orderly, and healthy.

See How to Become One $23,970
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 $33,630
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Forest and Conservation Workers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/farming-fishing-and-forestry/forest-and-conservation-workers.htm (visited April 20, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014