Forest and Conservation Workers

Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 Forestry Worker Jobs

  • Farm Worker - Timberland Forestry - Columbia Falls, ME

  • Grounds Maintenance Worker (Forestry) - Forest Preserve District of DuPage County - West Chicago, IL

    Forestry Crew · General tree maintenance including tree removals, trimming, storm damage, and cabling · River clearing · Turf restoration and

  • Soil Conservationist - National Older Worker Career Center - Paris, KY

    Valid State Driver's License. The Enrollee must have professional experience with

See all Forestry Worker jobs

Top 3 Conservation Worker Jobs

See all Conservation Worker jobs

What Forest and Conservation Workers Do[About this section] [To Top]

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 of Forest and Conservation Workers

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 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 forest workers 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 hand tools or their hands to gather woodland products, such as decorative greenery, tree cones, bark, moss, and other wild plant life. 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 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 for Forest and Conservation Workers[About this section] [To Top]

Forest and conservation workers held about 14,000 jobs in 2014.

Forest and conversation 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.

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 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 safety precautions because the work can be dangerous. Workers must follow prescribed safety procedures and wear proper safety gear.

Forest and Conservation Worker Work Schedules

Many 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 additional hours and at any time of day.

How to Become a Forest and Conservation Worker[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Forest and Conservation Workers near you!

Forest and conservation workers typically need a high school diploma before they begin working. Most workers get on-the-job training.

Forest and Conservation Worker 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.

Forest and Conservation Worker 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 for Forest and Conservation Workers

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 for Forest and Conservation Workers

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.

Forest and Conservation Worker Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for forest and conservation workers was $26,190 in May 2015. 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 $18,870, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $46,660.

Many 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 additional hours and at any time of day.

Job Outlook for Forest and Conservation Workers[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of forest and conservation workers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations. On the one hand, heightened demand for U.S. timber and wood pellets may help to increase demand for these workers. On the other hand, new technologies, such as remote sensing, allow fewer workers to perform certain tasks such as tree counts and tree identifications.

There is likely to be an increase in wildfires caused by unpredictable climate conditions and overgrown vegetation on forest lands, which would in turn increase 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 greater need for workers to protect those areas from fire dangers.

Forest and Conservation Workers 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, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Forest and conservation workers 14,000 14,600 4 600


*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Used by permission.

Explore more careers: View all Careers or Browse Careers by Category

Search for jobs: