Forestry Degrees: Associate's, Bachelor's & Online Course Info

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Associate's and bachelor's degrees in forestry can lead to careers in public and private industries. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and online options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Study Forestry: Degrees at a Glance

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources defines forestry as the application of scientific, economic and social principles to the care of a forest ( If you choose to work in this field you have several options in both the private and public sectors. Your duties may include studying the various ecosystems and wildlife or balancing economic needs with environmental sustainability. If you are considering a program in forestry, you may want to attend one that is approved by the Society of American Foresters.

While you will have several career options with a degree in forestry, many of these careers were projected to have slow employment growth, or even decline, from 2010-2020. One career you may pursue is a forest or conservation technician. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this career was expected to decline one percent from 2010-2020. Over that same time period, the BLS predicted only a five percent increase in the employment of conservation scientists and foresters. The slow growth rates are due to factors such as budget cuts in local governments.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals who want to work as technicians or conservation workers Individuals interested in professions such as foresters and conservation scientists
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Forest and conservation workers ($23,000)*
- Forest and conservation technician ($35,000)*
- Arborist ($25,000 - $59,000)**
- Conservation scientists ($60,000)*
- Foresters ($55,000)*
Time to Completion Two years full-time Four years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Around 60 credits
- Group project or field study
- Around 120 credits
- Management plan or senior project
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED - High school diploma or GED
- SAT or ACT scores
Online Availability No No

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), ** (October 2012 figures, 10th - 90th percentile)

Associate's Degree Programs

Associate's degree (typically 2-year) programs in forestry may be offered as Associate of Science, Associate of Arts and Associate of Applied Science degree programs. These curricula prepare you for jobs in both forestry and businesses based on forestry production. While most associate's programs include topics in the forestry-related sciences, programs in forestry management technology also cover instrumentation and measurement. The credits from these programs may be transferable to a bachelor's program.

Pros and Cons


  • May give you an advantage over individuals with only a high school diploma
  • Credits may be transferable toward a bachelor's degree
  • Experience opportunities may be incorporated into the curriculum


  • May not be sufficient for a scientist position
  • May require you to make additional purchases, such as hard hats, compasses and boots
  • May have to pass assessment testing to begin the curriculum

Coursework and Requirements

Associate's degree programs in forestry include courses in science and math, such as chemistry, biology and algebra. Your core courses will cover the specific areas of a forest, such as soil and wildlife. In addition to the coursework, you may be required to complete a group project or field study. Some of the courses you may take include:

  • Silviculture
  • Wildlife management
  • Agricultural economics
  • Environmental studies
  • Introductory soil science

Online Programs

While some graduate programs are offered completely online, online associate's degree programs in forestry are rare. This may be due to the amount of hands-on training that these programs require. While complete programs are not available online, you may find courses in forestry that can be taken through distance learning and transferred toward to the completion of a degree program.

How to Get Ahead with This Degree

In addition to completing your associate's degree, you may consider becoming professionally certified. The type of certification you choose to pursue may depend on your career interests. For instance, if you are interested in working in conservation, you may consider certifications through organizations such as the Forest Stewardship Council. The BLS states that forestry and conservation technicians may need to be experienced with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology.

Bachelor's Degree

Bachelor's (4-year) degree programs may be offered as Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Applied Science programs. These programs prepare you to manage forest preserves, work in forestry-related industries, research ecosystems and analyze natural resources. With the curricula, these programs may include opportunities for practical experience and certifications.

Pros and Cons


  • Joint bachelor's/master's programs may be offered
  • May improve your chances of getting a management position
  • Certifications may be built into a program
  • Many programs include concentration options


  • Experience may still be required for management positions
  • Few programs offered in urban settings
  • May be required to pass pre-professional track and general education requirements to be admitted

Coursework and Requirements

Similar to associate's programs, bachelor's degree programs include math and science requirements, such as biology, calculus and chemistry. Besides coursework, you will gain experience through labs and field work. Additionally, you may complete a management plan or project during your senior year. Some of the potential courses you may take include:

  • Forest policy
  • Forest ecology
  • Wildlife management
  • Forest economics
  • Forest products and services

Online Programs

Like associate's programs, bachelor's degree programs aren't readily available online. You may be able to find some courses offered through distance learning, but the lab-based courses and field study requirements make being on campus necessary. You may consider earning a general associate's degree online and transferring the credits toward a bachelor's degree.

How to Get Ahead with This Degree

In addition to obtaining the same certifications available to associate's degree holders, you may consider becoming professionally licensed. The BLS indicates that 16 states have either mandatory or voluntary registration. The process of becoming licensed can vary by state, but the BLS reports that a bachelor's degree and several years of work experience are typically required. You may want to be technically proficient in computer modeling and measuring instrumentation.

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