What Forest and Conservation Workers Do
Forest and conservation workers measure and improve the quality of forests.
Forest and conservation 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.
How to Become a Forest and Conservation Worker
Forest and conservation workers typically need a high school diploma before they begin working. Most workers receive training on the job.
The median annual wage for forest and conservation workers was $31,770 in May 2019.
Employment of forest and conservation workers is projected to show little or no change from 2019 to 2029. Although heightened international demand for U.S. timber and wood pellets will continue to demand forest and conservation workers, improved technology will also lessen the need for workers to perform certain tasks.
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.
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 fungi and to 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 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 handtools or their hands to gather woodland products, such as decorative greenery, tree cones, bark, moss, and other wild plantlife. Some may tap trees to make syrup or chemicals.
Forest and conservation workers who are employed by or are 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.
Forest and conservation workers held about 13,200 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of forest and conservation workers were as follows:
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||27%|
|Support activities for agriculture and forestry||13|
|Local government, excluding education and hospitals||11|
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 conservation workers work outdoors, sometimes in remote locations and in all types of weather. Workers 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 conservation workers have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. The work may be especially dangerous for those whose primary duties involve fire suppression. To protect against injury, forest and conservation workers must wear special gear and follow prescribed safety procedures.
Many forest and conservation workers are employed full time and work regular hours. Responding to an emergency may require workers to work additional hours and at any time of day.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of forest and conservation workers.
|Occupation||Job Duties||Entry-Level Education||Median Annual Pay, May 2019|
Conservation Scientists and Foresters
Conservation scientists and foresters manage the overall land quality of forests, parks, rangelands, and other natural resources.
Firefighters control and put out fires and respond to emergencies where life, property, or the environment is at risk.
|Postsecondary nondegree award||$50,850|
Logging workers harvest forests to provide the raw material for many consumer goods and industrial products.
|High school diploma or equivalent||$41,230|
Cartographers and Photogrammetrists
Cartographers and photogrammetrists collect, measure, and interpret geographic information in order to create and update maps and charts for regional planning, education, and other purposes.
For information about forestry careers and about schools offering education in forestry, visit
For information about careers in forestry, particularly conservation forestry and land management, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Forest and Conservation Workers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/farming-fishing-and-forestry/forest-and-conservation-workers.htm (visited ).