Detailed Look at Online Forestry Degrees

Search Degrees

A forestry degree can be your entry into the field for those looking for a career as a forest ranger, conservation specialist, environmental biologist, or other ecological-related jobs. From undergraduate certificates to advanced degrees, there are many options for studying forestry online. Learn which programs are right for you and take the next step toward an education and career protecting our natural forest ecosystems.

Last Updated: 05/11/2022

2022’s Best Online Forestry Degree Programs

No two online forestry degree programs are the same. Each offers different combinations of education philosophy, subject focus, program format, curriculum requirements and other elements. The key is to find the online programs that best fit your professional goals, personal needs and study preferences. A great way to begin your program search is with our list of the best online forestry degree programs. We’ve chosen online programs based on several important factors: affordability, financial aid availability, accreditation, and course delivery format. Learn more about our top picks for 2022.

About the ranking

Methodology for the STEPS Best Online Programs in 2022

Generate List of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least one program in subject area offered partially or fully online.

Assign Impact of Data Points

After generating the list of eligible schools, the STEPS data team then assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of affordability, support services, and online program availability. Online program availability and overall affordability received the heaviest weightings.

Online Program Availability

  • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education. When unable to verify this number, a star-based system was used to signify the number of programs relative to peers.

Affordability

  • Cost:
    Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid:
    Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

Support Services

  • Academic Counseling:
    Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement:
    Existence of this service on campus or online.

About Our Data

All STEPS rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2021

1
Michigan State University

East Lansing, Michigan

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 16:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$$
Institutional Financial Aid 51%
Online Students 1,413
2
University of Missouri-Columbia

Columbia, Missouri

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 18:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 82%
Online Students 18,312

Program that might interest you:

Top 5 Reasons to Enroll in Online Forestry Courses & Programs

1

Broaden your career opportunities in the natural resources field.
A forestry degree or certificate allows you to pursue a broad range of related occupations, including forest ranger, forest management technician, wetlands specialist, conservation specialist, environmental biologist, and many, many more.

2

Complete your forestry education while still working.
Schools offering online forestry degrees and certificates design their programs with the convenience and flexibility that allows you to complete your studies while maintaining your current employment.

3

Study at a potentially lower cost than on-campus programs.
Online forestry programs sometimes feature lower tuition costs than their on-campus counterparts. You can take the money saved and use it for major expenses like housing and transportation.

4

Earn respected professional certifications.
Possessing a certification, like the Society of American Forester’s (SAF) Certified Forester or Candidate Certified Forester, demonstrates a high level of professional competence. Both SAF certifications require a college degree from a SAF-accredited degree program.

5

Fulfill your continuing education requirements remotely.
Online continuing education programs and courses, like those offered by the (SAF), allow certified and state licensed forestry professionals to conveniently fulfill their continuing education requirements from the comfort of their own homes or offices.

Understanding Your Options for Forestry Education Online

There are seven types of forestry postsecondary education: the career diploma, associate and bachelor’s undergraduate degrees, master’s and doctoral graduate degrees, and undergraduate and graduate certificates. Each targets specific academic and career needs for students and has unique admissions requirements. All forestry degree and certificate types have some level of distance learning available. Here’s a look at the options:

Online Forestry Education at a Glance

Program
Type
Total Credits
(Semester)
Time to
Complete
Availability
Online
Career Diploma in ForestryDo not award credits typically4 to 6 months full-time

Up to 1 year or longer part-time
Fully-online with asynchronous/self-paced study.
Undergraduate Forestry Certificate18-331 year full-time,
although some programs allow more time for completion.
Fully-online coursework delivered asynchronously.
Associate Degree in Forestry60-652 years full-time

Part-time options with longer completion times are common.
Programs may be entirely online or include some online/on-campus coursework and/or other in-person components.
Bachelor’s Degree in Forestry1804 years full-time.

2 to 3 years for some accelerated programs.

5 years or more for part-time programs.
On-campus, with some online coursework for some forestry-specific programs. Fully-online or partially-online for related majors.
Graduate Certificate in Forestry 12-191 to 2 years full-time.

Part-time study options up to 3 years are common.
Most certificate programs are 100% online, while others include hybrid coursework or other in-person components.
Master’s Degree in Forestry302 to 3 years full-time.

Part-time completion times up to 7 years are common.
Programs may be 100% online, mostly online, or mostly on-campus. Some programs include additional in-person components.
PhD in Forestry40-80 (including didactic coursework, research, and dissertation)Up to 7 or 8 years total, full-time or part-time, to complete all coursework and dissertation.On-campus programs are the most common, although some may include online courses. In-person research and dissertation presentations are typically required.

Forestry Diploma Online Options

Earning a career diploma in forestry qualifies graduates for entry-level positions in the wildlife and forestry conservation field. Diploma programs offer introductory courses in wildlife, forests, rangeland, fish, and parks management, as well as conservation and wildlife law enforcement. Graduates typically find jobs as forestry technicians and culturalists, and as tree farm and nursery laborers.

Online forestry career diploma programs can normally be completed entirely online via asynchronous coursework. Programs can be completed in as little as four to six months, but most programs are self-paced, allowing students ample time for completion. Program length and study flexibility make online forestry diplomas a great choice for those interested in entering the job market quickly but without the time or resources to take on a full degree program.

Undergraduate Online Forestry Certificate Programs

Undergraduate certificates in forestry and related subjects are designed to prepare students for entry-level jobs in a range of occupations with federal, state, and municipal public agencies, as well as private businesses and nonprofit organizations. Curriculums often mirror the major-subject coursework of an associate degree program minus that degree’s general education requirements.

Online undergraduate forestry certificate programs are available from both two-year and four-year schools. Credit requirements vary by program, but most are designed to be completed with one year of full-time study. Programs are typically offered in a fully-online format with asynchronous coursework. Titles for online certificate programs include:

  • Public Lands Management
  • Urban Forest Management

Online Associate Degrees in Forestry

Associate degrees in forestry serve two basic functions for students. First, they prepare students for entry-level positions in forestry, environmental science, natural resources, and other related fields. Second, they allow students interested in obtaining a bachelor’s degree in forestry (or closely-related field) to complete much of their general education and foundational major-subject coursework in a convenient and affordable associate program prior to transferring to a bachelor’s degree program.

Titles for associate degrees currently offered online include:

  • AAS in Natural Resource Management
  • AAS in Urban Forest Management
  • AS in Natural Resources

Specializations, such as environmental science, natural resources, and earth science, may be also be available.

Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Forestry

To qualify for most forestry jobs, you will likely need to earn a bachelor’s degree. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a bachelor’s degree in forestry or related field – like environmental science, rangeland management, or agricultural science – is typically required for a career as a forester or conservation scientist.

Unfortunately, online bachelor’s degree programs in forestry are extremely rare. In fact, fully-online bachelor’s degree programs specifically in forestry are practically nonexistent in the U.S. There are, however, online bachelor’s programs in forestry-related major subjects, such as natural resources, environmental science, environmental studies, and geosciences. You will also find traditional on-campus programs that feature general education and even some major-subject coursework that can be completed online.

Examples of forestry-related online bachelor’s degree titles include:

  • BS in Natural Resources (some with forestry-related specializations, such as urban forest landscapes, wildland fire ecology, and ecological restoration)
  • BS in Environmental Science
  • BS in Geosicences with Natural Resources and Conservation concentration
  • BS in Rangeland Science
  • BS in Agricultural Sciences

Graduate Online Forestry Certificate Programs

Online forestry degree options grow substantially when you reach the graduate level. This is particularly true for graduate-level certificates. Online graduate certificates in forestry are designed to provide training to forestry professionals seeking to expand their knowledge base in a specialized area. They’re also an excellent option for professionals working in fields such as environmental science, agriculture, and natural resources, who are interested in expanding their career opportunities to include positions in forestry.

Online graduate certificate programs in forestry are available from public and private colleges alike. Titles for online graduate certificates in forestry and closely-related subjects include:

  • Ecological Restoration
  • Environmental Assessment
  • Forests and Climate Change
  • Forest Health & Resilience
  • Military Land Sustainability
  • Renewable Energy Assessment & Development
  • Restoration Ecology
  • Sustainable Natural Resources
  • Urban Forestry

Online Master’s Degrees in Forestry

Online master’s degrees in forestry are quite popular and are designed primarily for mid-level professionals who are looking to pursue leadership and management positions in their areas of practice. Programs highlight knowledge and training in a range of subjects, including forest management, forest economics, and natural resource law and policy.

Some online programs require completion of a thesis or capstone project, which may include an in-person component. Final oral examinations which sometimes require an on-campus appearance may also be part of the degree program. Degree title examples include:

  • MS in Forestry
  • Master of Forestry (MF)
  • Master of Natural Resource Stewardship (MNRS) with optional Forest Science specialization
  • Master of Natural Resources (MNR) with Natural Resource Management and Professional Forester track and Urban Forestry minor options.
  • Master of Environmental Assessment

Learn more about online forestry degrees at the master’s level.

PhD in Forestry Online Programs

Online PhD programs in forestry are rare, but traditional on-campus programs are available from public and private colleges throughout the nation and more online programs may be offered in the future.

Forestry PhD programs teach students advanced skills and deep subject knowledge. The curriculum often covers both high-level topics and specialized areas such as forest management, forest economics, restoration ecology, biotechnology, silviculture, hydrology, and natural resource and environmental policy. Degree programs feature intensive coursework and research leading to the writing, presentation, and defense of a dissertation. PhD degrees in forestry prepare graduates for top-tier forestry careers, as well as research and teaching positions in postsecondary academia.

Examples of forestry-related PhD degree titles (on-campus and online) include:

  • PhD in Natural Resources (online program)
  • PhD in Forestry and Environmental Resources
  • PhD in Forest Science
  • PhD in Rangeland Ecosystem Science
  • PhD in Wildlife Sciences

Degree Spotlight: Online Master’s in Forestry

Master’s degrees in forestry are geared toward providing the knowledge and skills needed for advanced practice and leadership roles in forestry research, management, policy, teaching, outreach, and more. Most students enrolled in these programs are working adults who must fit their degree studies into already busy job and life schedules. Colleges and universities know this and design their online programs with the working student in mind. Below is a comprehensive look at the elements and features you can expect to find in your online master’s degree forestry program.

Practical Forestry Skills Gained in an Online Master’s

Students in forestry master’s degree programs gain a wide variety of skills that can be applied to their professional practice, including:

  • Assessment of ecosystems and their health
  • Planning, implementing, managing, and optimizing of forest operations
  • Forest ecology and fire management
  • Analysis of applicable legal and policy issues
  • Monitoring and inventorying
  • Urban forestry and greenspace planning and management
  • Scarcity and biodiversity
  • Forest mensuration and mapping
  • Environmental impact assessment

Common Online Forestry Courses in a Master’s Program

Forestry master’s degree curriculums feature advanced coursework covering a wide range of issues and topics that apply the concepts and practices of the biological, physical, and social sciences to the forestry field. Below are descriptions of courses offered by online forestry-related master’s degree programs:

Carbon Sequestration in Forests

Carbon sequestration refers to the processes used to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Through lectures, discussions, and simulation modeling, students in this course learn about the various methods for controlling the sequestration of carbon in forests and wood products.

Ecology of Managed Forests

This course provides an overview of the underlying concepts surrounding the sustainable management of forests with a focus on such topics as insects, pathogens, and natural disturbance events. Included is a review of the evolution of silviculture and its relationship to timber and non-timber resource usage.

Fire Ecology

Fire ecology covers the origins of wildland fire and its effects on the surrounding environment. This course examines those effects, specifically in regard to native plant and animal species, including their adaptive behaviors, as well as the relationship between fire ecology and sustainable forest management.

Forest Policy

Students learn about governmental and non-governmental policies affecting forest land management. Topics discussed include biological diversity and ecosystem health, meeting sustainability goals, political and economic considerations, and the development of new policies to meet future business and environmental challenges.

Forest Resource Economics

This course teaches students the fundamentals of forest resource valuation, and covers a number of related topics such as risk assessment, property rights, regulatory policy, and the marketing of timber products.

Graduation Requirements to Earn a Forestry Master’s Degree

Besides standard coursework, online forestry master’s programs often include one or more additional graduation components, some of which require on-campus or other in-person appearances by the student.

Thesis

Some programs require completion of a research-based written thesis. Thesis requirements themselves include a given number of coursework credits and research hours. Students must also present an in-person defense of their thesis, although some programs allow the defense to be presented online.

Capstone Project

A capstone project differs from the thesis in that it focuses on the identification of a real-world problem and development of practical solutions to solve it, and is presentation-based. Presentations and defenses are typically made in-person.

Final Written or Oral Examinations

Final examinations may or may not be part of a master’s degree program. In most cases, oral exams will be administered on-campus and may be combined with an in-person thesis defense or capstone project presentation.

Admissions Criteria for Forestry Master’s Programs

Specific admissions requirements for forestry master’s programs vary from program to program. However, there are a number of requirements common to most.

  • Undergraduate degree: Programs typically require applicants hold a bachelor’s degree in forestry or closely-related major. Some also accept students with bachelor’s degrees in other fields, usually in combination with substantial work experience in a forestry-related occupation.
  • Undergraduate GPA: Applicants must submit certified transcripts for prior undergraduate coursework that indicate they meet a stated minimum cumulative grade point average.
  • GRE test scores: Programs may require applicants to submit a test score for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Programs may or may not have a set score minimum.
  • Prior experience: Prior work experience in forestry or a closely-related field is required by some programs. Length and nature (paid, volunteer, etc.) of that experience varies by program.
  • TOEFL/IELTS score: Non-native English speakers may be required to demonstrate English language proficiency by taking either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam.

By the Numbers: Tuition Costs for a Master’s in Forestry Online

Cost is always a major factor in choosing any college degree or certificate program, online forestry programs included. The chart below provides examples of tuition costs (as of summer 2019) for five online forestry master’s programs. These figures show tuition costs only, however. Total program costs will likely include additional fees.

School NameNo. of CreditsCost/CreditEst. Total Tuition Cost
Colorado State University30$705$21,150
Mississippi State University30$489$14,670
Oregon State University45$560$25,200
University of Florida30$565$16,950
University of Missouri30$368$11,028

Need some help paying for your online forestry degree or certificate? Check out our financial aid and scholarships guides for helpful ways to save on college.

Checking Accreditation for Forestry Degrees Online

Accreditation is the process used to confirm that colleges and universities – and their degree and certificate programs – meet or exceed stated minimum quality academic standards.

There are two types of postsecondary education accreditation: institutional and programmatic. Institutional accreditation is conferred on colleges and universities by both regional and national accreditation agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Education. Programmatic accreditation of forestry degree programs in the U.S. is administered by the Society of American Foresters.

Proper accreditation is crucial, and prospective students should seek out only those degree programs with both institutional and programmatic accreditation. Students can determine the accreditation status of schools and programs they’re considering by visiting specific degree program websites or by visiting the websites of the accrediting agencies listed by the U.S. Department of Education.

What Can You Do with an Online Forestry Degree?

Getting an online forestry degree can lead to many rewarding career paths. Some of the most common careers are listed below, along with salary and career outlook information for each. Information and data were taken from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and O*NET websites.