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At a Glance

  • Manage the logging, planting, and growth of forests
  • Use a variety of tools, from meters to satellite photographs
  • Deal with landowners, loggers, government officials, and the public
  • Often work outdoors
  • Have a bachelor's degree
  • May need a license

Career summary

Foresters manage, use, and help protect forests and other natural resources.

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Foresters typically work for:

Foresters who work in private companies acquire timber from private landowners. They contact local forest owners to ask permission to inventory their timber. They check the type, amount, and location of all standing timber on the property. This process is called timber cruising. Foresters appraise the value of the timber, negotiate a price, and draw up a contract. After the purchase, they subcontract with loggers to harvest the trees. They also help layout the road loggers will use. During the logging, foresters stay in close contact with both the workers and the landowner. They must be sure that the work meets the landowner's requirements and all government regulations.

Foresters who work for state and federal governments manage public forests and parks. Managing public forests involves a number of possible duties. For example, foresters may plan and carry out conservation programs. They may plan ways to control floods or fires. They may also develop plans for harvesting timber. Often, they monitor cleared lands to make sure they are reclaimed to forests or another suitable use. Foresters may also fight forest fires or direct other workers to fight them. They may conduct education programs for the public on forest care and conservation. Foresters may also design roads, buildings, fire towers, campgrounds, or recreation sites.

Regardless if they work for private companies or the government, foresters consider the impact proposed projects and programs might have on the environment. They decide how best to conserve wildlife habitats, creek beds, water quality, and soil stability. They also decide how best to comply with regulations.

Foresters also supervise the planting and growing of new trees. This process is called regeneration. They choose and prepare the site. They use various methods, such as controlled burning, to clear weeds, brush, and logging debris. They advise workers on the type, number, and placement of trees to be planted. Foresters monitor the seedlings. They watch for healthy growth and decide the best time to harvest.

All foresters use a variety of tools to perform their jobs. They use meters and gauges to measure timber. They use special types of photos taken from airplanes or satellites to map large forest areas. They use computers in the office and in the field to store and analyze the data required to manage forests and natural resources. From this data, foresters prepare reports.

Related careers

This career is part of the Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to foresters.

Common work activities

Foresters perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, foresters:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Foresters frequently:

It is important for foresters to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for foresters to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Foresters need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a forester, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Almost all foresters have a bachelor's degree. Most land-grant colleges and universities offer programs in forestry. These programs cover science, math, communication skills, and computer science. You also study forest economics and business management. Increasingly, you take courses on policy issues and the environmental rules that affect forest management.

On-the-job training

Some employers offer varying levels of on-the-job training. This may be hands-on or classroom-based. In general, training lasts up to a year.

Many colleges require forestry students to complete an internship. You usually work in a research facility. It may be operated by the college, a government agency, or a private business.

Work experience

Some employers accept a combination of experience and appropriate coursework as a substitute for a bachelor's degree. However, competition for jobs makes this type of position difficult to find. Summer work experience in the forest is helpful for getting a job in this field.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers usually require that applicants have at least a bachelor's degree in forestry. They may prefer applicants who have gained work experience through summer jobs, internships, or cooperative education programs. In states that require a license, employers prefer applicants who already have their license.

Employers look for people who enjoy working outdoors and are physically strong and healthy. A willingness to move to where jobs are located is also important. Employers also prefer applicants with good communication skills who work well with people.

College course work in math, computer science, statistical analysis, and business management is beneficial. Timber cruisers may be hired who have a two-year degree in natural resource management. Employers look for applicants who can also withstand the repetitive nature of entry-level fieldwork. An advanced degree in forestry is required for teaching or research.


Summer work experience as a forestry aide, technician, firefighter, or work with a logging company should improve employability. A broad educational background, such as a major in business and a minor in forestry, or an advanced forestry degree with specialization, may increase employment opportunities. Some training in business, real estate practices, and taxation can be helpful.

Costs to workers

Some foresters join professional associations, which may have annual dues. Foresters who desire certification, such as the Certified Forester designation, may have to pay for additional education, competency testing, and continuing education for certificate maintenance.

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Foresters are not required to be licensed in Washington.

#statement in national hiring practices about licensing

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Foresters (SOC 19-1032)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $25.26 $28.44 $30.61 $36.42 $43.53
Monthly $4,378 $4,929 $5,305 $6,312 $7,544
Yearly $52,540 $59,150 $63,670 $75,760 $90,540
    Longview Hourly $29.74 $31.14 $37.08 $44.16 $49.46
Monthly $5,154 $5,397 $6,426 $7,653 $8,571
Yearly $61,856 $64,771 $77,146 $91,848 $102,861
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $27.51 $30.37 $31.13 $32.72 $40.05
Monthly $4,767 $5,263 $5,395 $5,670 $6,941
Yearly $57,214 $63,169 $64,761 $68,058 $83,298
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $20.56 $25.99 $30.37 $31.91 $38.89
Monthly $3,563 $4,504 $5,263 $5,530 $6,740
Yearly $42,772 $54,075 $63,177 $66,368 $80,872
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $26.13 $28.21 $31.28 $38.98 $85.11
Monthly $4,528 $4,889 $5,421 $6,755 $14,750
Yearly $54,347 $58,682 $65,047 $81,070 $177,020
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $20.90 $28.20 $30.38 $33.82 $37.05
Monthly $3,622 $4,887 $5,265 $5,861 $6,421
Yearly $43,474 $58,662 $63,185 $70,347 $77,065
    Vancouver Hourly $26.33 $30.38 $33.39 $38.03 $43.78
Monthly $4,563 $5,265 $5,786 $6,591 $7,587
Yearly $54,764 $63,182 $69,446 $79,097 $91,056
United States Hourly $19.88 $24.23 $29.53 $35.36 $41.77
Monthly $3,445 $4,199 $5,118 $6,128 $7,239
Yearly $41,350 $50,400 $61,410 $73,550 $86,870

Wages vary based on the forester's education level. Wages also vary by employer. Starting salaries in private industry are similar to those in the federal government. However, starting salaries in state and local government are usually lower.

Benefits also vary. Full-time foresters usually receive typical benefits. These include paid vacation, sick leave, and health insurance. Government employees usually receive a retirement plan.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook


The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Foresters (SOC 19-1032)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 998 5.2% 16.1% 94
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 86 7.0% 13.4% 9
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 68 2.9% 8.6% 6
    Benton and Franklin Counties 22 4.5% 15.0% 2
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 68 -2.9% 11.9% 5
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 148 -6.1% 15.2% 10
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 266 9.8% 14.1% 28
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 51 2.0% 14.6% 4
    King County 103 14.6% 19.6% 12
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 82 8.5% 13.8% 8
    Pierce County 23 -4.3% 15.2% 2
    Snohomish County 16 0.0% 12.4% 1
    Spokane County 40 2.5% 13.9% 3
United States 9,000 2.2% 5.2% 1,000

National employment

Foresters work in every state. However, employment is concentrated in the western and southeastern states. Many national and private forests and parks, and most of the lumber-producing forests, are located in these states.

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for US timber and wood pellets will help increase the demand for foresters. Most growth is expected to be in federally owned forest lands, particularly in the southwestern US. Jobs in private forests will grow alongside demand for timber and pellets, but ongoing financial problems will likely lessen the number of jobs in state and local governments.

Most job openings will occur as people retire. Those with experience in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and other remote sensing technology will have the best prospects.

Other resources

AgCareers.com (external link)
Western USA Office
AgForLife (external link)
American Forest and Paper Association (external link)
1101 K Street NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20005
American Forests (external link)
1220 L Street NW, Suite 750
Washington, DC 20005
American Wood Council (external link)
Environmental Career Center (external link)
P.O. Box 3387
Hampton, Virginia 23663
Environmental Protection Agency (external link)
Park Place Building
1200 - 6th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101
Forest Guild (external link)
Forest Resources Association (external link)
1901 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 303
Washington, DC 20006
National Future Farmers of America Organization (external link)
PO Box 68960
6060 FFA Drive
Indianapolis, IN 46268-0960
Society for Ecological Restoration (external link)
1133 15th St. NW, Suite 300
Washington, D.C. 20005
Society of American Foresters (external link)
10100 Laureate Way
Bethesda, MD 20814
Technology Student Association (external link)
1904 Association Drive
Reston, VA 20191-1540
Tree Care Industry Association (external link)
136 Harvey Road, Suite 101
Londonderry, NH 03053
United States Environmental Protection Agency (external link)
USDA Forest Service Research & Development (external link)
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services (external link)
Washington Business Week (external link)
PO Box 1170
Renton, WA 98057


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational cluster