Forestry specialist

DNR forester and landowner walking in landowner's woodlands

If you like to work outdoors and have a passion to help manage natural resources in a sustainable way that benefits all Minnesotans, a position as a forester might be right for you.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resource foresters manage 4.2 million acres of forest land across the state to provide forest products such as paper and wood, clean air and water, wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities.

Why do we need foresters?

Foresters protect and conserve Minnesota's forests. Our forests need care and management to provide clean water and natural resources for future generations. With this in mind, we weave sustainability into all of our forestry work — from what trees to plant, to what areas to harvest, to what places to reserve from active management.

What do foresters do?

One of the most exciting aspects about forestry work is its diversity throughout the seasons and across the Minnesota landscape.

  • Spring: Plant trees, conduct prescribed burns, and fight wildfires.
  • Summer: Monitor seedling growth, survey plant communities, identify tree insects and diseases, and work with wildlife managers.
  • Fall: Examine and mark stands for future harvest.
  • Winter: Monitor logging projects, plan spring planting projects, and snowmobile across frozen ground to conduct inventory in remote forests.

At any time during the year, you might also help woodland owners with the stewardship of their lands by providing forest management advice, and communicate with the public about forestry issues.

What are the working conditions?

Forestry specialist positions require working outside in different weather conditions and often in remote areas. It can be a physically demanding position that requires operating equipment, walking in different terrains and occasionally lifting heavy objects. In addition, foresters work in a variety of communities, from rural to urban, and work with contractors and local officials to suppress wildland fire and keep the forest community healthy. Foresters also spend time indoors on data analysis, planning and administrative tasks.

How should I prepare while I am in high school?

If you would like to do professional-level forestry work, you will need a college degree. To prepare for college, take challenging coursework in high school and begin exploring the requirements of schools offering forestry programs accredited by the Society of American Foresters, or a comparable accrediting institution.

Natural resource careers such as a forester require interdisciplinary skills and a background in the following:

  • Math: Forestry requires data analysis skills. Ensure you gain important math skills in high school such as algebra, geometry, pre-calculus and statistics.
  • Sciences: Having a good understanding of physical, chemical, and biological sciences in high school will provide you with a strong background to explore more specialized subjects such as forest management. In addition to biology, chemistry, and physics, Earth sciences and environmental science classes are also useful.
  • Language arts: Communication and language are key to success in any career, including natural resources. In high school, take courses in English, intensive writing and public speaking.

It is also helpful to get hands-on experience so that you know what the job is really like before you pursue a degree in the area. High school students can contact local forestry offices about doing a volunteer job shadow to see firsthand what the work is like. They can also volunteer with nonprofits on work such as Arbor Day events and participate in school forest activities where available.

What do I need to do in college?

In order to be a forestry specialist, you will need a bachelor of science degree in forest science/management (or a closely related natural science field of study) from a university program accredited by the Society of American Foresters, a comparable accrediting institution, or current Society of American Foresters Certified Forester status.

The field forester position requires a broad range of knowledge in the scientific and theoretical aspects of forestry practice. It is critical for the position to have knowledge of:

  • Forest ecology
  • Forest regeneration and timber stand improvement practices
  • Forest survey, appraisal and data analysis methods
  • Fire suppression techniques
  • Forest road design and maintenance
  • Forest insects and diseases and terrestrial invasive species
  • Forest economics
  • Outdoor forest recreation activities

What if I am not pursuing a four-year degree?

The DNR has a forestry technician position that requires an associate degree in natural resources. These positions are more field based and technical in nature including traditional field work, wildland fire fighting and operating heavy equipment. In addition, DNR forestry has seasonal positions responding to wildfires, cultivating and lifting seedlings in the state nursery or planting trees in the state forests.

Career advancement

At the Minnesota DNR, forestry specialist positions are entry-level jobs that can lead to more intermediate or senior-level positions. Examples include supervisors of staff in a geographic region. The titles of some of these positions are listed below.

DNR forestry classifications

When you are applying for a position you will see both a classification or pay grade and a more descriptive working title. Here are some examples of what you will want to look for.

  • NR (Natural Resources) technician (fire)
  • NR forestry technician
  • NR specialist forestry
  • NR forestry specialist intermediate
  • NR forestry specialist senior
  • NR forestry area assistant supervisor
  • NR forestry area supervisor
  • NR forestry region specialist
  • NR forestry program coordinator
  • NR forestry program consultant
  • NR forestry supervisor

Example working titles

  • Forester
  • Forester, intermediate
  • Forester, senior
  • Forestry supervisor
  • Forestry area supervisor
  • Forestry region specialist

Positions in other industries

With similar education and background, there are other industries you can work in such as federal agencies, American Indian tribes, timber companies, tree care services, universities, county land departments and natural resource agencies in other states. 

Wages

The salary for the entry level forestry specialist position will vary depending on qualifications and experience, but the range is:

  • $21.08 to $30.59 hourly
  • $44,015 to $63,872 annually

Click on a video to learn more about the different positions within forestry at the DNR.