Forest Ecosystem Management Major

Sustain the forest.

A hands-on science and management education in sustainable forestry. Forest Ecosystem Management grads take leadership roles in private companies, nonprofits, and government agencies.

Lessons from professors, trees, and satellites.

Your Forest Ecosystem Management adventure starts on campus and moves quickly to the millions of acres of Pennsylvania forests where you will learn and one day work in your profession. Forest Ecosystem Management requires boots on the ground to study the soils, water, animals, and plants that make up our woodlands. There are more than 9,000 acres of forested acres, outdoor laboratories, and research plots at or near University Park.

This science-based major focuses on ecology and management and incorporates cutting-edge technologies. Penn State is at the forefront of using innovative tools like LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), satellite imagery, and UAVs to understand and conserve our forests.

Forest Ecosystem Management is the right major if you’re: 

  • someone with an analytical mind to manage complex ecological systems and resolve environmental, economic, and social challenges
  • a hands-on learner
  • happiest outside
  • a disciplined, focused student
  • driven to improve the sustainability and health of our forest lands

Required courses

  • Field Dendrology
  • Forest Resources Measurements
  • Intro to GIS and GPS
  • Forest Ecology
  • Silviculture

One major. Four options. Infinite destinations.

You will learn about the biological and ecological aspects of contemporary forestry.

Forest Biology option*

Emphasis is put on the hard sciences behind forestry, like biology and chemistry. This option is a great foundation for professional employment and graduate‐level study in forest and environmental sciences.

Example courses

  • Biology: Populations and Communities
  • Plant Ecology
  • Soil Science Laboratory
  • Tree Physiology

*Accredited by the Society of American Foresters.

Students focus on the management of forest lands.

Forest Management option*

This path focuses on management of forest lands consistent with the needs of ownership objectives. Graduates work with public agencies, industry, and private consulting firms.

Example courses

  • Forest and Conservation Economics
  • Forest Fire Management
  • Remote Sensing and Spatial Date Handling
  • Forest Management and Planning

*Accredited by the Society of American Foresters.

Students focus on landscape trees and green space in urban communities.

Community and Urban Forest Management option*

This option emphasizes learning about the management of trees and green space in towns and cities. Excellent employment opportunities include municipalities, arboricultural companies, utilities, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations.

Example courses

  • Human Dimensions of Natural Resources
  • Ornamental Plant Materials
  • Urban Forest Management
  • Principles of Arboriculture

*Accredited by the Society of American Foresters.

Students learn more about the integrated management of water and other natural resources.

Watershed Management option

This option focuses on the integrated management of natural resources with an emphasis on water. Graduates work as hydrologists and in other water‐related careers for municipal watershed management; local, state, and federal government; and environmental/engineering consulting.

Example courses

  • Water Sciences
  • Physics
  • Watershed Management Laboratory

Ag Journeys

“Nothing is boring.”

– Sean Freidhof

More than the syllabus.

At Penn State, there are more opportunities to learn, meet professionals working in your field, network, and have fun than you can imagine.

The same goes with our internship opportunities. Companies compete to bring Penn Staters on board for the summer, and many students return to campus with a summer of practical experience and often a job offer waiting in the wings. There are research opportunities, study abroad opportunities, and more to gain experience and academic credit.

Craft your experience.  

Related clubs and teams 

  • Society of American Foresters (SAF)
  • Penn State Fly Fishing
  • Penn State Student Association for Fire Ecology
  • Penn State Spur Collectors
  • Penn State Lumber Lions
  • Student Farm
  • The Wildlife Society
  • See all clubs and teams

Recent internships  

  • Biological science technician
  • Forestry intern
  • Habitat management internship
  • Invasive species intern
  • Urban forestry intern

Popular study abroad  

  • Australian National University at Canberra
  • South Africa Study Tour
  • University of Freiburg, Germany
You will learn about the biological and ecological aspects of contemporary forestry.
Glacier hiking - one of the perks of studying forest ecosystems.
A Forest Ecosystem Management grad on her trip to Kenya.
A walk in the rainforest for Forest Ecosystem Management grads.

A practical, workforce-ready degree—and a college experience you’ll love.

Penn State Forest Ecosystem Management graduates are in the woods, at the office, out on the job, and across the globe, right now.

Our alumni out in the world

  • Land management agencies
  • State forests and parks
  • Conservation districts
  • Forest products companies
  • Environmental consulting firms
  • Tree care industry
  • Municipal watersheds
  • and more!

Forest Ecosystem Management Career Options

What can I do with a Forest Ecosystem Management degree? Here are a few examples.

Service forester

A service forester informs and advises managers of rural and community forests, landowners, and the public in support of sustainable forest management.

What will I do?

  • Advise on forest and water-related management best practices
  • Provide urban and community forestry management assistance
  • Inform regional planning efforts
  • Offer educational programs
  • Participate in insect and disease monitoring initiatives

GIS analyst

A GIS (Geographic Information Systems) analyst uses data to produce maps and inform science-backed decisions about land use.

What will I do?

  • Perform geospatial data building, modeling, or analysis using advanced spatial analysis, data manipulation, or cartography software
  • Evaluate data quality
  • Present data and make recommendations

Consulting forester

A consulting forester provides forest management services to private citizens, municipalities, businesses, and other entities that own forestland.

What will I do?

  • Conduct timber sales and timber appraisals
  • Supervise tree planting or vegetation control contractors
  • Assist with government cost-share and property tax programs
  • Provide wildlife habitat expertise
  • Design recreational features

Forest Ecosystem Management Students in the News

January 30, 2024

Aspiring natural resource professionals showcase skills in Dendro Cup contest

On a brisk afternoon in December, students in a forestry course in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences ventured into a wooded field on the University Park campus, eager to discover woody plant specimens and claim bragging rights in the second annual Dendro Cup competition. Designed by instructors Eric Burkhart and Calvin Norman, the competition evaluates the expertise gained by students in the morning and afternoon sections of their fall semester field dendrology course.

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September 7, 2023

Course at Penn State gives students hands-on wildland fire management training

This spring, five students in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences traveled to North Carolina and Florida to learn about wildland fire management and fire ecology techniques.

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December 2, 2022

Internships earn awards for College of Agricultural Sciences students

Twelve Penn State students have been selected as College of Agricultural Sciences Alumni Society 2022 Internship Award winners. The award, which includes a $1,000 stipend, was established to encourage students to participate in a credit or noncredit educational internship program related to their field of study.

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November 17, 2022

Ag Sciences student named 2023 National Veterans Leadership Foundation fellow

John Buckley, a U.S. Navy veteran and a senior majoring in forest ecosystem management in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, is one of a select number of military-connected students nationwide to be named a 2023 National Veterans Leadership Foundation fellow in recognition of his service and leadership potential.

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