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 wilderness where you will learn and one day work in your profession. Forest Ecosystem Management requires rolled-up sleeves and 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 (former military excel)
  • driven to improve the sustainability and health of our forest lands

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
  • Elements of Forest Ecosystem Management
  • Introduction to Soil Science
  • 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 Ecosystem Monitoring and Data Analysis
  • Forest Resources Measurements
  • Silviculture
  • Forest and Conservation Economics

*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
  • 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
  • Limnology
  • 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 Spur Collectors
  • Penn State Woodsmen’s Team
  • Student Farm
  • The Wildlife Society
  • See all clubs and teams

Recent internships  

  • Biological science technician
  • Forestry intern
  • Forestry technician
  • 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