Forest and Conservation Technicians Overview
Many science technicians, including forest and conservation technicians work outdoors, sometimes in remote locations. They need some postsecondary training, such as an associate degree or a certification in applied science or science related technology, such as natural resources/conservation or forestry technology. Overall growth is expected to be about as fast as average and job opportunities are expected to be the best for graduates of applied science technology programs.
Nature of the Work for Forest and Conservation Technicians
Forest and conservation technicians use the principles and theories of science and mathematics to assist in research and development and to help invent and improve products and processes. However, their jobs are more practically oriented than those of scientists. They must keep detailed logs of all of their work.
Forest and conservation technicians compile data on the size, content, and condition of natural lands, such as rangeland and forests. These workers usually work under the supervision of a conservation scientist or forester, doing specific tasks such as measuring timber, tracking wildlife movement, assisting in road building operations, and locating property lines and features. They may gather basic information, such as data on water and soil quality, disease and insect damage to trees and other plants, and conditions that may pose a fire hazard. In addition, forest and conservation technicians train and lead forest and conservation workers in seasonal activities, such as planting tree seedlings and maintaining recreational facilities. Increasing numbers of forest and conservation technicians work in urban forestry—the study of individual trees in cities—and other nontraditional specialties, rather than in forests or rural areas.
Overall, forest and conservation technicians work mainly outdoors, often in remote locations.
Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Forest and Conservation Technicians
Most forest and conservation technicians need some formal postsecondary training, such as an associate degree or a certificate in an applied science or science-related technology such as forestry technology.
There are many ways to qualify for a job as a forest and conservation technician. Most employers prefer applicants who have at least 2 years of specialized postsecondary training or an associate degree. Some forest and conservation technicians have a natural sciences bachelor’s degree, while others have no formal postsecondary education and learn their skills on the job.
Whatever their formal education, forest and conservation technicians usually need hands-on training, which they can receive either in school or on the job. Job candidates with extensive hands-on experience using a variety of laboratory equipment, including computers and related equipment, usually require only a short period of on-the-job training. Those with a high school diploma and no college degree typically have a more extensive training program where they work as trainees under the direct supervision of a more experienced technician.
People interested in careers as forest and conservation technicians should take as many high school science and math courses as possible. Science courses taken beyond high school, in an associate or bachelor’s degree program, should be laboratory oriented, with an emphasis on bench skills. A solid background in applied chemistry, physics, and math is vital.
Communication skills are important because technicians are often required to report their findings both orally and in writing. In addition, technicians should be able to work well with others. Because computers often are used in research and development laboratories, technicians should also have strong computer skills, especially in computer modeling. Organizational ability and skill in interpreting scientific results are important as well, as are high mechanical aptitude, attention to detail, and analytical thinking.
Technicians usually begin work as trainees in routine positions under the direct supervision of a scientist or a more experienced technician. As they gain experience, technicians take on more responsibility and carry out assignments under only general supervision, and some eventually become supervisors. Technicians who have a bachelor’s degree often are able to advance to scientist positions in their field after a few years of experience working as a technician or after earning a graduate degree.
Employment and Job Outlook for Forest and Conservation Technicians
Forest and conservation technicians hold about 31,440 jobs. About 75 percent of these workers held jobs in the Federal Government, mostly in the Forest Service. Employment of forest and conservation technicians is projected to grow by 9 percent, about as fast as the average. Opportunities at State and local governments within specialties such as urban forestry may provide some new jobs. In addition, an increased emphasis on specific conservation issues, such as environmental protection, preservation of water resources, and control of exotic and invasive pests, will spur demand.
In addition to job openings created by growth, many openings should arise from the need to replace technicians who retire or leave the labor force for other reasons. Job opportunities are expected to be best for graduates of applied science technology programs who are well trained on equipment used in laboratories or production facilities. As the instrumentation and techniques used in industrial research, development, and production become increasingly more complex, employers will seek individuals with highly developed technical skills.
Earnings and Salary for Forest and Conservation Technicians
The median annual wages of forest and conservation workers are $32,860. The middle 50 percent earn between $27,510 and $43,510. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $24,490, and the highest 10 percent earn more than $53,080.