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What is forestry?

Students majoring in forestry are working to ensure sustainable access to one of society’s most vital natural resources: wildland and urban forests. This major addresses both the scientific and human elements of forest ecosystem management, and you’ll learn about the life cycle and management of hundreds of tree species. You’ll graduate with a sense of stewardship and land-use ethics, and be prepared to take an active role in finding new and better ways to conserve, use, and sustain the world’s vital forest resources.

Learn more about this major and the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation.

What will I learn in this major?

Students majoring in forestry take courses in the following core areas: forest science, geospatial analysis, environmental economics, and natural resources policy. Students also take courses based on their specific option in one of the following areas:

  • Forest operations and business — Fire ecology and management, forest biometrics, soil management, forest harvesting, timber procurement, forest management, accounting, business writing, and business law and ethics.
  • Forest resources management — Fire ecology and management, forest biometrics, forestry field skills, outdoor recreation management, forest harvesting, forest boundaries, soil management, forests and pest management, accounting, chemistry, and physical science.
  • Urban and community forestry — Community forest management, forest and tree pests, geospatial analysis, soil science, arboriculture, landscape architecture, urban affairs and planning, and woody landscape plants.  

We are #1. The Virginia Tech forestry program is top-ranked by College Factual.

Why study forestry at Virginia Tech?

  • Virginia Tech’s forestry program was ranked No. 1 in the U.S. by College Factual in 2017-2018 for the second consecutive year.
  • Students are required to enroll in Field Experiences in Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, a two-credit, hands-on course involving field exercises that help students develop key skills related to navigation, mapping, taking inventory, resource conservation and management, timber harvesting, and forestry operations. Watch a video of students in action at Fishburn Forest.
  • Students have three options for the study of forestry, all of which are accredited by the Society of American Foresters, the national scientific and educational organization representing the forestry profession in the U.S.
  • Minors are available in urban and community forestry as well as watershed management. You might also be interested in one of the Pathways minors such as biodiversity conservation, ecological cities, pathways to sustainability, or blue planet. The addition of a minor will give you in-depth expertise in one of these fields so you can pursue a passion and stand out in the job market.
  • Research opportunities for undergraduates are available through programs such as the Conservation Management Institute’s Undergraduate Research Fellows. Recent projects involve carbon density and wildlife viability, American chestnut growth, amphibian fungi, and the spread of walnut tree blight.
  • Departmental faculty members conduct research in the following areas: economics and policy, ecosystem science and management, human dimensions of natural resources, genetics and biotechnology, geospatial analysis and biometrics, operations and business, urban forestry, and water resources.
  • The 1,353-acre Fishburn Forest, which is located only 10 minutes from campus, provides space for teaching and research activities.
  • Latham Hall, on the Virginia Tech campus, houses laboratory and research space such as the Forest Molecular Genetics and Biotechnology Laboratory, Forest Tree Nutrition Laboratory, and soil and plant preparation facilities.
  • Student clubs and organizations such as the Forestry Club and the Wildland Fire Crew provide an opportunity to connect with others with similar interests and get involved on campus and in the community. Virginia Tech also participates in Timberbeast, an annual timber sports and technical skills competition.  

What can I do with a degree in forestry?

Graduates in forestry may enter the job market or pursue a graduate degree in the field. Career possibilities are listed below, and potential employers include timber/lumber companies, forest products companies, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, state and local parks, environmental consulting firms, municipal forestry organizations, commercial tree care services, regional urban forest management groups, and nonprofit conservation organizations.

  • Arborist — Employed by private firms, nonprofit organizations, and utility service providers to plant, maintain, and protect landscape trees in and around cities and neighborhoods.
  • Consulting forester — Provides services and advice to companies, agencies, and individuals on how to manage forests for various uses.
  • Extension agent — Provides the public with information gained from current research programs and speaks with community groups to teach them about forestry.
  • Forest biologist — Protects the health of forests.
  • Forest entomologist — Studies forest insects and their impacts on forest health.
  • Forest manager — Manages forests to provide society with a renewable supply of wood and paper products, clean water, recreation opportunities, wildlife habitat, and environmental quality.
  • Forest technician — Helps to manage forested areas on public lands: marks trees for cutting, measures and calculates timber volumes, and surveys and identifies areas to be harvested or improved.
  • Geographic information system (GIS) programmer/computer mapping specialist — Uses computer technology to assist in managing forests and other natural resources.
  • Government forester — Works with landowners to manage their forests or manages publicly owned forests.
  • Landowner assistance forester — Provides technical assistance to landowners in managing forests for timber, wildlife, recreation, aesthetic quality, water quality, etc.
  • Natural resources planning and policy advisor — Advises governments and other agencies that make regulations on the use and management of natural resources, and analyzes impacts of proposed regulations and policies.
  • Procurement forester — Buys timber for paper and forest products companies.
  • Urban forester — Employed by local government or state agencies to manage trees in public urban spaces and advise communities on how to care for their trees.
  • Wildland firefighter — Uses a variety of tactics to suppress wildfires.
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