Guide to Online Forestry Degree Programs

Forestry degree and certificate programs help prepare students for careers in non-profit organizations, governmental land management and environmental agencies, colleges, consulting groups and timber products firms. Graduates work as foresters, conservation technicians, consultants, researchers, harvest managers, resource analysts, procurement officers, public policy experts, GIS specialists and land-use planners. Because of the environmental field work related to the major, there are very few programs in forestry that are conducted entirely online. However, there are private schools, colleges and universities that present students with unique opportunities to pursue accredited forestry degrees and professional certificates through online classwork.

Popular Online Forestry Programs

It may seem near impossible to earn a forestry degree online. However, many of the academic elements involved in the discipline can be studied and learned remotely. This may include management principles or various theories behind de-forestation. The following colleges offer students either hybrid or online forestry degree options at the associate, bachelor’s or graduate levels, respectively.

School Name City State Loan Default Rate Online Programs
Auburn University Auburn University Alabama Public

Master of Soil Water And Environmental Sciences (Swes)

Mississippi State University Mississippi State Mississippi Public

Master of Science in Forestry

Montana State University Bozeman Montana Public

Master of Science in Land Resources And Environmental Sciences

North Carolina State University Raleigh North Carolina Public

Master of Forest Biomaterials

Southside Virginia Community College Alberta Virginia Public

Associate of Applied Science in Forestry

Associate of Applied Science in Forest Science

Associate of Applied Science in Environmental Science

University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Pine Bluff Arkansas Public

Master of Science in Human Environmental Sciences

University of Florida Gainesville Florida Public

Master of Science in Forest Resources And Conservation - Natural Resource Policy And Administration

Master of Science in Forest Resources And Conservation - Geomatics

Master of Science in Forest Resources And Conservation - Ecological Restoration

Master of Science in Soil And Water Science - Environmental Science

University of Idaho Moscow Idaho Public

Master of Science in Environmental Science

University of South Florida-St. Petersburg St. Petersburg Florida Public

Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science & Policy


Master of Science in Environmental Science And Policy

Master of Arts in Environmental Science And Policy

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Blacksburg Virginia Public

Master of Environmental Sciences And Engineering

Online Associate Degrees in Forestry

Entry-level education in forestry can lead to an AS degree or Associate of Applied Science degree in forestry, environmental management sustainability, forestry science, wildlife and natural resourcesand forest technology. These two-year programs require 60 credit hours of coursework, divided into general core education classes and undergraduate classes in botany, dendrology, ecology, surveying, silviculture, harvesting and forest products, diseases and insects and wildlife management. Admissions requirements typically include completion of a high school diploma. An online certificate program in forestry at the undergraduate level allows students to focus on a specific area in forestry. The programs take a year or less to complete because they do not require the general education classes required in a full associate degree program. Some online undergraduate certificates in forestry are in specializations such as community forestry, restoration, land use and urban forestry, water resources, or another related field of study. Certificate programs are often offered as an interdisciplinary program, drawing on faculty from forestry and ecology fields. Graduates of the associate or undergraduate certificate programs typically seek entry-level roles in land management, forestry, or ecology organizations or within the wood products industries.

Online Forestry Degrees at the Bachelor's Level

The majority of jobs in the forestry or wood products profession require a post-secondary education, and many of them set the educational bar at the minimum of a four-year degree. Often, degree programs are interdisciplinary in nature, drawing from numerous sciences. The wide range of online bachelor's of science degree programs in forestry lead to credentials with unique names, including:

  • BS in Forest Engineering
  • BS in Forestry
  • BS in Forest Health
  • BS in Forest Operations Management
  • BS in Forest Resources Management
  • BS in Paper Engineering

Online four-year forestry programs usuallyrequire students to accrue 120 credit hours. Half of the courses may concentrate on general core education studies in the liberal arts and sciences. The balance of the programs concentrate on studies in courses such as soil science, plant biology, conservation, restoration ecology, field methods, vegetation, hydrology, microeconomics, silviculture, wildland fire science, forestry technology and statistical data analysis, geographic information systems, natural resource policy, and human impact on forests.Degree completion requirements may also include extensive laboratory or field work, an internship, and senior research project. Admissions requirements can vary by institution, but in general, BS degree applicants are expected to hold a high school diploma, to submit all previous secondary or post-secondary transcripts and scores from college admissions exams such as the SAT.

Online Graduate Education in Forestry

For professionals wanting to build on their forestry expertise or move into leadership and educational roles in forestry, there are online graduate programs that lead to master's degrees and doctorates. Many employed in the industry pursue graduate online professional certification programs to earn advanced credentials in their specialty in as little as a year.

Online Master's Degrees in Forestry

Master's degree programs take two years to complete and require 30 credit hours of advanced study. The programs may involve extensive field work and laboratory research, as well as completion of a major study. Online master's degrees in forestry are offered with a number of designations, including:

  • Master of Forestry (MF)
  • Master of Forest Molecular Genetics and Biotechnology
  • Master of Science in Forest Resources (MSFR)
  • Master of Natural Resources (MNR)
  • Master of Science in Forest Resources and Conservation, Ecological Restoration
  • Master of Natural Resource Stewardship (M.N.R.S)

Master's-level curriculum can include studies in forest operations planning, forest resources economics, pests and diseases, image interpretation and mapping, graduate seminar, and completion of an advanced research project. Admissions requirements may include an undergraduate degree, submission of official post-secondary transcripts, and test scores from the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE).

The Online PhD Program in Forestry

Online PhD programs take an estimated four years to complete following a bachelor's degree, and may be focused on research and scholarship in forestry and related areas. These programs are suited for forestry specialists who wish to teach or conduct research at accredited universities, governmental organizations, or forest products firms. Doctor of Philosophy degrees include:

  • PhD in Forestry
  • PhD in Forest Resources
  • PhD in Forest Ecosystems and Society
  • PhD in Wood Science & Engineering
  • PhD in Sustainable Forest Management

Doctoral coursework in forestry may be the most specialized of advanced education in the field. Studies can be in areas of forest social science, forest management and economics, and ecosystem science. Other specializations include forest biometrics and geomatics, watershed management, sustainable engineering, policy, biodeterioration and materials protection, genetics and physiology. Graduation requirements typically involve research, presentation and defense of a scholarly dissertation. Students may also be required to take summer internships with conservation, forestry, or wood products organizations. Admissions requirements to online PhD forestry programs typically require completion of a bachelor's or master's degree, submission of all official transcripts, letters of recommendation, and scores from the GRE.

Online graduate certificates in forestry are for professionals who want to add expertise or distinction to their existing scholarship. Unlike graduate degrees, these advanced certificates focus on coursework directly applicable to their major field instead of mixing in general courses. Some online graduate-level certificates include:

  • Ecological Restoration Graduate Certificate
  • Environmental Education and Communication Graduate Certificate
  • Forest Health and Ecological Restoration Certificate
  • Graduate Certificate in Forest Carbon Science, Policy and Management
  • Graduate Certificate in Urban Forestry
  • Graduate Certificate in Wilderness Management
  • Natural Resource Policy & Administration Graduate Certificate
  • Geospacial Analysis Graduate Certificate

Online certificate programs in forestry set their own admission requirements. Students who are earning a certificate (not an advanced degree) can apply to forestry schools, colleges and universities by submitting all post-secondary institutional transcripts. They may also be required to write an admissions essay. Non-degree students are not usually required to submit GRE test scores. Students should contact prospective forestry certificate programs to determine the admissions procedure.

Assessing Potential Online Forestry Degree Programs

There are critical factors to consider when evaluating online forestry degree and certificate programs. Potential students need to know how well their degree or certificate is accepted in the academic and professional forestry communities. Since programs can vary in terms of degree completion requirements and individual courses in the major, students should take painstaking care to evaluate each online forestry degree program in terms of how the classes map to their career goals. Are students supported by the school during and after graduation in career and job searches, resume preparation, and recruitment job fairs? The first assessment should be of the program and school's accreditation by independent evaluators.

School or Program Accreditation

Accreditation is a voluntary process through which a school, college or university participates in a non-biased review of academic standards and financial status. Accreditation protects the value of the student's education or degree and can be instrumental for applying for jobs or enrolling in additional forestry degree programs. There are six regional organizations endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education for accrediting entire institutions or individual forestry programs. The Society of American Foresters (SAF) is a major accreditation agency for evaluating online forestry schools. Colleges and schools offering online degree programs may also choose to seek accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). Schools that do not have endorsed accreditation may not be eligible to offer their students federally backed financial aid packages including loans, grants and scholarships.

Forestry Student Learning Assistance and Technical Support

In addition to evaluating the curriculum and accreditations, students should examine the online course delivery systems at prospective schools, colleges, and universities offering forestry degrees or certifications. Most schools offer online demos that illustrate the course delivery systems features such as streaming lectures, multimedia presentations, chat sessions, threaded discussions and research libraries. Are online programs delivered in an asynchronous format, allowing for 24/7 access? Is there a technical support staff available for resolving issues with the technology or tools?

Student and Graduate Services

Potential enrollees need to know the graduation success rate for students at their target schools, how long it takes on average to complete the program, and whether grads find work in the field. Are faculty members active participants in the larger forestry science community? Do they have practical experience in the field? Does the institution have career counseling and/or job placement resources? Online students should have identical support resources at their fingertips that are offered to on-campus students.

Interview with a Professional Conservation Forester

Terry returned to college four years ago to add an online master’s degree in forest preservation and conservation. She completed her undergraduate work at a college in Oregon and found her first related job with a Montana consulting firm. Today she conducts research on the restoration of native plants in Montana’s wildlands for the Department of the Interior.

  • Terry G., forester/researcher, Montana.
    Why did you choose to add a master’s degree in your field?

    Simply enough, to specialize and add skills. I found myself drawn more to the restoration of native species of the Northwest and I wanted to publish in the field. If you want to publish, you have to do research.

    Which factors (curriculum, schedule, program reputation, career goals, course delivery system and methodology) influenced your choice?

    The main factor was accessibility. When you’re living and working in a small Montana town, it’s not easy to commute to college. I wanted an M.S. in sustainable management so I could conduct research applicable to my fieldwork without having to relocate. It’s easier to juggle work and academic research when they go hand in hand. Because I’m often in the field, it was a real advantage to work on the degree at a roadside café or restaurant with internet.

    How would you describe the outcome in terms of degree acceptance, career advancement, and professional accomplishment?

    There was no push-back about getting an online master’s. My managers are happy with my work and what I contribute to their projects. I’ve already had a significant advancement, but I will need to add a doctorate sooner than later. I’ll probably do that one online, too.