Summary

forest and conservation workers image
Forest and conservation workers measure and improve the quality of forests.
Quick Facts: Forest and Conservation Workers
2016 Median Pay $26,940 per year
$12.95 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, 2016 14,300
Job Outlook, 2016-26 -1% (Little or no change)
Employment Change, 2016-26 -200

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 conservation 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 receive training on the job.

Pay

The median annual wage for forest and conservation workers was $26,940 in May 2016.

Job Outlook

Employment of forest and conservation workers is projected to show little or no change from 2016 to 2026. Although heightened international demand for U.S. timber and wood pellets will continue to demand forest and conservation workers, improved technology will also lessen the need for workers to perform certain tasks.

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 About this section

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 fungi and to 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 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 handtools or their hands to gather woodland products, such as decorative greenery, 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 are 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 About this section

Forest and conservation workers
Forest and conservation workers work outdoors, sometimes in remote locations and in all types of weather.

Forest and conservation workers held about 14,300 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of forest and conservation workers were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals 27%
Forestry 18
Support activities for agriculture and forestry 15
Self-employed workers 14
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 13

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 conservation workers work outdoors, sometimes in remote locations and in all types of weather. Workers 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 conservation 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. 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 About this section

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 receive training on the job.

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 About this section

Forest and Conservation Workers

Median annual wages, May 2016

Total, all occupations

$37,040

Forest, conservation, and logging workers

$36,510

Forest and conservation workers

$26,940

 

The median annual wage for forest and conservation workers was $26,940 in May 2016. 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 $19,100, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $49,150.

In May 2016, the median annual wages for forest and conservation workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals $31,960
State government, excluding education and hospitals 22,260

Many forest and conservation workers are employed full time and work regular hours. Seasonal employees may be expected to work longer shifts 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 About this section

Forest and Conservation Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2016-26

Total, all occupations

7%

Forest and conservation workers

-1%

Forest, conservation, and logging workers

-6%

 

Employment of forest and conservation workers is projected to show little or no change from 2016 to 2026. Although demand for forestry products and services will likely be steady, it is expected to be counteracted by the automation of much of the work that these workers do.

New technologies, such as remote sensing, allow fewer workers to perform certain tasks, such as tree counts and tree identifications. As the automation of manual forest tasks continues, fewer of these workers will be needed to perform the same amount of work.

There is likely to be an increase in wildfires caused by unpredictable climate conditions and overgrown vegetation on forest lands. This rise in the number of wildfires would in turn increase demand for 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 a greater need for workers to protect those areas from fires. In addition, heightened demand for U.S. timber and wood pellets is expected to continue demand for these workers.

Job Prospects

Workers who follow standard safety procedures, remain physically fit, and work well on teams will have the best job opportunities.

Employment projections data for forest and conservation workers, 2016-26
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Forest and conservation workers

45-4011 14,300 14,100 -1 -200 employment projections excel document xlsx

State & Area Data About this section

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.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop 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 About this section

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 Help 2016 MEDIAN PAY Help
Agricultural workers

Agricultural Workers

Agricultural workers maintain crops and tend to livestock. They perform physical labor and operate machinery under the supervision of farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers.

See How to Become One $22,540
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 $60,610
Firefighters

Firefighters

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

Postsecondary nondegree award $48,030
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 $26,830
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 $37,590
Cartographers and photogrammetrists

Cartographers and Photogrammetrists

Cartographers and photogrammetrists collect, measure, and interpret geographic information in order to create and update maps and charts for regional planning, education, emergency response, and other purposes.

Bachelor's degree $62,750
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Forest and Conservation Workers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/farming-fishing-and-forestry/forest-and-conservation-workers.htm (visited November 28, 2017).

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What They Do

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Work Environment

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How to Become One

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Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2016 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2016

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2016, which is the base year of the 2016-26 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2016-26

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

2016 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.