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Conservation Scientists and Foresters

Summary

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Video transcript available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCAudFo7Eo4.
Quick Facts: Conservation Scientists and Foresters
2022 Median Pay $64,420 per year
$30.97 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2022 36,000
Job Outlook, 2022-32 4% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2022-32 1,300

What Conservation Scientists and Foresters Do

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

Work Environment

Conservation scientists and foresters work for federal, state, and local governments; on privately owned lands; or in social advocacy organizations. Most conservation scientists and foresters work full time, and schedules may vary.

How to Become a Conservation Scientist or Forester

Conservation scientists and foresters typically need a bachelor’s degree in forestry, natural resources, or a related field.

Pay

The median annual wage for conservation scientists was $64,460 in May 2022.

The median annual wage for foresters was $64,220 in May 2022.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of conservation scientists and foresters is projected to grow 4 percent from 2022 to 2032, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 3,000 openings for conservation scientists and foresters are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for conservation scientists and foresters.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of conservation scientists and foresters with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

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

What Conservation Scientists and Foresters Do About this section

Conservation scientists and foresters
Conservation scientists and foresters study forest and soil quality.

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

Duties

Conservation scientists and foresters typically do the following:

  • Oversee conservation and forestry activities to ensure compliance with government regulations and protection of habitats
  • Negotiate terms and conditions for contracts related to forest harvesting or land use
  • Establish plans for managing forest lands and resources
  • Choose and prepare sites for new trees, using controlled burning, bulldozers, or herbicides to clear land
  • Monitor forest-cleared lands and forest regeneration
  • Direct and participate in forest fire suppression
  • Work with private landowners, governments, farmers, and others to remove timber or improve land with minimal environmental damage

Conservation scientists and foresters evaluate data on forest and soil quality, assessing damage to trees and forest lands caused by fires and logging activities. In addition, they lead activities such as suppressing fires and planting seedlings. Fire-suppression activities include measuring the speed at which fires spread and the success of planned suppression.

Conservation scientists and foresters use a variety of tools and equipment. For example, they use clinometers to measure tree height, diameter tapes to measure tree circumference, and increment borers and bark gauges to measure tree growth for calculating timber volume and estimating growth rates. They also may use drones, aerial photographs, satellite images, and Geographic Information System (GIS) data to map large forest or range areas.

Conservation scientists manage, improve, and protect natural resources. They work with private landowners and federal, state, and local governments to find ways to use and improve the land while safeguarding the environment. They also advise farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers on ways to improve land while safeguarding the environment.

The following are examples of types of conservation scientists:

Conservation land managers work for land trusts or other conservation organizations to protect the wildlife habitats, biodiversity, scenic value, and other specific attributes of preserves and conservation lands.

Range managers, also called range conservationists, protect grazing lands to maximize their use without harming the environment. Rangelands contain many natural resources and cover millions of acres in the United States. Range managers may catalog animals, plants, and soils; develop resource management plans; help to restore ecosystems; or help oversee a ranch. They also maintain soil stability and vegetation for wildlife habitats, outdoor recreation, and other uses. Like foresters, range managers work to prevent and reduce wildfires and invasive species.

Soil and water conservationists give technical help in managing concerns related to soil and water. They develop programs to help landowners make their land productive without causing damage. They also help landowners and governments by advising on water quality, preserving water supplies, and handling erosion.

Foresters’ responsibilities vary by employer. Their duties may include creating plans to regenerate forested lands, monitoring the progress of reforested lands, and supervising tree harvests. They also design plans to keep forests free from disease, harmful insects, and damaging wildfires. Foresters may direct the work of forest and conservation workers and technicians.

The following are examples of types of foresters:

Procurement foresters contact, negotiate with, and buy timber from local forest owners. Procurement typically requires taking inventory on the type, amount, and location of a property’s standing timber. Procurement foresters then appraise the timber’s worth, negotiate its purchase, and draw up a contract for purchase and removal. After the contract is in place, these foresters usually subcontract with loggers or pulpwood cutters to fell trees and to help lay out roads for removing the timber.

Urban foresters live and work in cities and manage the trees. These workers focus on issues related to urban wellbeing, including air quality, shade, and storm water runoff.

Conservation education foresters train teachers and students about issues facing forest lands.

Work Environment About this section

Conservation scientists and foresters
Conservation scientists and foresters typically work in offices, in laboratories, and outdoors, sometimes in remote locations performing fieldwork.

Conservation scientists held about 24,700 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of conservation scientists were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service 31%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 22
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 18
Social advocacy organizations 14
Professional, scientific, and technical services 6

Foresters held about 11,300 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of foresters were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals 27%
Federal government, excluding postal service 12
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 12
Support activities for agriculture and forestry 11
Forestry and logging 5

Conservation scientists and foresters typically work in offices, in laboratories, and outdoors, sometimes traveling to remote locations. When visiting or working near logging operations or wood yards, they wear a hardhat and other protective gear to guard against injury. They also wear protective gear for activities related to fire suppression, which may include prevention or emergency response. Insect bites, poisonous plants, and other natural hazards also present some risk.

The work can be physically demanding. Some conservation scientists and foresters work outdoors in all types of weather. They may need to walk long distances through dense trees or plant growth.

Work Schedules

Most conservation scientists and foresters work full time, and schedules may vary to include weekends. Some work more than 40 hours per week, such as when traveling to remote locations.

How to Become a Conservation Scientist or Forester About this section

Conservation scientists and foresters
Conservation scientists and foresters typically need a bachelor’s degree in forestry or a related field.

Conservation scientists and foresters typically need a bachelor’s degree in forestry, natural resources, or a related field.

Education

To enter their occupation, conservation scientists and foresters typically need a bachelor's degree in forestry, natural resources, or a related subject, such as agriculture or biology.

Bachelor’s degree programs in forestry and related fields typically include courses in biology, ecology, and forest measurement. Conservation scientists and foresters also typically have a background in Geographic Information System (GIS) technology, remote sensing, and other forms of computer modeling.

The Society of American Foresters accredits academic programs in forestry, urban forestry, and natural resources and ecosystem management.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Several states may require some type of credentialing process for conservation scientists and foresters. In some of these states, conservation scientists and foresters must be licensed; check with your state licensing board for more information.

Some conservation scientists and foresters earn optional certification related to their area of work. For example, the Society of American Foresters (SAF) offers forester certification to candidates who have at least a bachelor’s degree from a SAF-accredited or equivalent forestry program, professional experience, and passed an exam.

The Society for Range Management offers certification in rangeland management or as a range management consultant to candidates who have a bachelor's degree in range management of a related field, related work experience, and passed an exam.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Conservation scientists and foresters must be able to evaluate results from field tests and experiments to determine potential impacts on soil, forest lands, and the spread of fires.

Communication skills. Conservation scientists and foresters must convey information to firefighters, forest and conservation workers, landowners, and, sometimes, the public.

Critical-thinking skills. Conservation scientists and foresters use reasoning to reach conclusions and to determine improvements for forest conditions.

Management skills. Conservation scientists and foresters must be able to lead the forest and conservation workers and technicians they supervise.

Physical stamina. Conservation scientists and foresters may walk long distances in challenging terrain, such as steep or wooded areas, and may work in all kinds of weather conditions.

Pay About this section

Conservation Scientists and Foresters

Median annual wages, May 2022

Life scientists

$83,060

Conservation scientists

$64,460

Conservation scientists and foresters

$64,420

Foresters

$64,220

Total, all occupations

$46,310

 

The median annual wage for conservation scientists was $64,460 in May 2022. 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 $41,360, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $102,670.

The median annual wage for foresters was $64,220 in May 2022. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $45,260, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $97,460.

In May 2022, the median annual wages for conservation scientists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service $79,350
Professional, scientific, and technical services 77,190
Social advocacy organizations 61,080
State government, excluding education and hospitals 59,720
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 58,100

In May 2022, the median annual wages for foresters in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service $70,620
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 64,460
State government, excluding education and hospitals 61,210

Most conservation scientists and foresters work full time, and schedules may vary to include weekends. Some work more than 40 hours per week, such as when traveling to remote locations.

Job Outlook About this section

Conservation Scientists and Foresters

Percent change in employment, projected 2022-32

Life scientists

7%

Conservation scientists

4%

Conservation scientists and foresters

4%

Total, all occupations

3%

Foresters

2%

 

Overall employment of conservation scientists and foresters is projected to grow 4 percent from 2022 to 2032, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 3,000 openings for conservation scientists and foresters are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Changing weather conditions and the development of unused land have contributed to a rise in wildfires. Preventing and suppressing these fires have become the primary concerns for managing forests and rangelands. In addition, with the increasing numbers of forest fires and of people who live on or near forest lands, foresters and conservation scientists will be needed to mitigate growing humanitarian and environmental impacts of forest fires.

Employment projections data for conservation scientists and foresters, 2022-32
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2022 Projected Employment, 2032 Change, 2022-32 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Conservation scientists and foresters

19-1030 36,000 37,300 4 1,300 Get data

Conservation scientists

19-1031 24,700 25,700 4 1,000 Get data

Foresters

19-1032 11,300 11,600 2 300 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) 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 OEWS 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.org. 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 conservation scientists and foresters.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2022 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Agricultural and food scientists Agricultural and Food Scientists

Agricultural and food scientists research ways to improve the efficiency and safety of agricultural establishments and products.

Bachelor's degree $74,940
Environmental science and protection technicians Environmental Science and Protection Technicians

Environmental science and protection technicians monitor the environment and investigate sources of pollution and contamination.

Associate's degree $48,380
Firefighters Firefighters

Firefighters control and put out fires and respond to emergencies involving life, property, or the environment.

Postsecondary nondegree award $51,680
Forest and conservation workers Forest and Conservation Workers

Forest and conservation workers perform physical labor to improve the quality of natural areas such as forests, rangelands, and wetlands.

High school diploma or equivalent $32,270
Zoologists and wildlife biologists Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists

Zoologists and wildlife biologists study animals, those both in captivity and in the wild, and how they interact with their ecosystems.

Bachelor's degree $67,430

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about conservation scientists and foresters, including schools offering education in forestry, visit

Society of American Foresters (SAF)

For information about careers in forestry, particularly conservation forestry and land management, visit

Forest Stewards Guild

Society for Range Management (SRM)

U.S. Forest Service

CareerOneStop

For career videos on conservation scientists and foresters, visit

Conservation scientists

Foresters

O*NET

Conservation Scientists

Foresters

Park Naturalists

Range Managers

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Conservation Scientists and Foresters,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/conservation-scientists.htm (visited October 01, 2023).

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 6, 2023

What They Do

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Work Environment

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Pay

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State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) 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

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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).

2022 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 and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2022, the median annual wage for all workers was $46,310.

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, 2022

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2022, which is the base year of the 2022-32 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2022-32

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032. The average growth rate for all occupations is 3 percent.

Employment Change, 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

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 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

2022 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 and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2022, the median annual wage for all workers was $46,310.