What Is A Forester?

The jack-of-all-trades of forest workers, a forester is a professional who manages the natural and anthropogenic aspects of forested ecosystems. Foresters manage over 700 million acres of forest land in the United States. They must conserve forested ecosystems while meeting a variety of human needs for forest resources including; timber, recreation, and water quality.

What Do Foresters Do?

Forester activities will vary depending on their employer and may include the following:

  • Plan and implement management of forested ecosystems
  • Consult with forest owners on the best way to meet the goals they have for their forest
  • Conduct research
  • Conduct resource surveys
  • Develop and monitor reforestation activities
  • Fight wildfires and manage prescribed fires
  • Plan and lay-out forest road systems, hiking trails, and tree planting
  • Evaluate insect and disease outbreaks
  • Procure timber for a paper mill or sawmill
  • Measure, grade, and appraise the timber value of trees in a forest ready for harvest
  • Supervise timber harvests
  • Plan and direct the recreational use of forests
  • Design and implement watershed management plans
  • Plan and implement forest management plans for wildlife benefits
  • Manage urban trees and community forests

Where Do Foresters Work?

Many foresters work outdoors in all kinds of weather or in isolated areas. The job can be physically demanding, requiring the forester to walk long distances through dense “cover” land to carry out his or her duties. These foresters are employed by forest industries, private consulting companies, state and federal agencies.

Water companies who own land often hire foresters. These foresters manage forests in a way to maximize water quality and maintain water availability while maximizing profits from timber harvests. Municipalities also hire foresters to manage city parks, street trees, and community forests; this profession is called urban forestry.

Foresters also work at universities. They may work as a professor conducting research and teaching or for a cooperative extension providing assistance to private landowners. Some universities hire foresters to manage their school’s forests.


A Bachelor’s degree is required to be recognized as a professional forester. Some states require foresters to be registered or licensed in order to provide forestry services. In the federal government, a combination of experience and education can substitute for a 4-year degree, but job competition can be intense.

As of 2008, 50 colleges and universities in the United States offered Bachelor’s or higher degrees in forestry that were accredited by the Society of American Foresters. Attending a forestry degree program that is accredited is important because it verifies that the degree holder has had substantial course work and experience that meets the standards of professional foresters.

A Master’s degree in forestry is increasingly sought by foresters that are interested in advancing their career to higher and administrative levels. A Master’s degree makes a forester more competitive in the job market, especially with government and conservation agencies. Even with a Master’s degree it is essential for a forester to have on the ground work experience.

A Ph.D. is another option for foresters. This degree provides opportunities to teach and do research at universities. It also allows an individual to specialize within forestry and conduct research for a government experiment station. Prospective foresters must have knowledge of policy issues and the complex environmental regulations that may affect forestry activities. High school students interested in this field should take as many courses in mathematics, chemistry, biology, physics, earth sciences and natural resources as they are able to.

For more information visit: The Society of American Foresters