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Limited or no background in forestry?

  • Click here for background coursework required and recommended.

This non-thesis Master’s degree program emphasizes the forest resources of North Carolina and the southern United States. Students pursuing a Master of Forestry (MF) may also address forestry problems throughout North America or leverage FER’s expertise in tropical pine species and many other international arenas. No minor is required.  This program was recently accredited by the Society of American Foresters and the curriculum has changed to reflect the accreditation. 

Our Master of Forestry curriculum (MF) is a professional degree, targeted at students who want to pursue careers in traditional forest management with private companies, federal and state governments, and non-profit organizations, but lack the necessary education requirements. The curriculum is accredited by the Society of American Foresters (SAF). Completion of our curriculum will allow graduates to take the SAF-Certified Forester examination and most state registration examinations, including North Carolina. Many employers of foresters expect employees to become certified or registered within a few years.


Heading off to do field work

The Master of Forestry curriculum is designed for students with undergraduate degrees in fields related to forest management, such as natural resources, hydrology, wildlife management and plant biology. It is an especially attractive curriculum for students with undergraduate degrees containing a forestry concentration from non-accredited programs. Graduates with a Bachelor’s degree in forest management from an SAF-accredited program are not eligible to apply for our MF.

Professional education in the Master of Forestry curriculum is accomplished by completing 40 credit hours, 39 hours of traditional course work and 1 hour for a project (FOR 630). All course work is prescribed; no elective courses exist. A research thesis is not required. Traditional course work is approximately balanced among four categories: Ecology and Biology, Measurement of Forest Resources, Management of Forest Resources, and Forest Resource Policy, Economics and Administration. Many courses have outdoor laboratories, where basic principles are applied to real world situations.

A wide variety of projects are allowed. Many students satisfy this requirement by writing a management plan for a suita

bly-large tract of land. The management plan goal may vary widely. Other students develop individual projects such as analysis of wood procurement systems, estimating growth and yield functions, assessing forest fire fighting systems, or analyzing effects of tree species introductions to the United States. Data for the project is normally collected in the summer, by electing FOR 630 (1 credit).

It is advisable, but not required, for MF students to attend part or all of forestry summer camp. (See the YouTube video on summer camp.) Summer camp provides significant training in forest ecology and practical forestry skills.

Table 1. Required courses (39 hours). Required courses are often offered only once each year, necessitating careful planning. The order shown below is recommended, but not required.  Course titles followed by an asterisk (*) contain out­door laboratories or assignments.

Fall Semester

FOR 501, Dendrology* – 3 credits

FOR 502, Forest Measurements – 1 credit

SSC 461, Soil Physical Properties and Plant Growth* – 3 credits

FOR 574, Forest Measurement, Modeling and Inventory* – 3 credits

Spring Semester

FOR 504, Practice of Silviculture – 3 credits

FOR 506, Silviculture Laboratory* – 1 credit

FOR 534, Forest Operations and Analysis* – 3 credits

GIS 510, Intro to GIS – 3 credits

Summer Session I or II FOR 630, Independent Study* – 1 credit


Fall Semester

NR 560, Renewable Natural Resources Administration and Policy – 3 credits or NR 571, Current Issues in Natural Resources Policy – 3 credits

PB 421, Plant Physiology – 3 credits

FOR 519, Forest Economics – 3 credits


Spring Semester

NR 500, Natural Resource Management – 3 credits

PB 565, Plant Community Ecology* – 4 credits

FOR 531, Wildland Fire Science* – 3 credits

It is possible to take fewer courses per semester, although the degree must be completed within six years of the first course taken towards this degree.  While some of these courses can be taken online, most of the program courses require students to attend on-campus classes.

Faculty who often work with MF students include Dr. Richard Braham, Dr. Joe Roise, Dr. Fred Cubbage, Dr. Jim McCarter, and Dr. Doug Frederick. You are encouraged to contact them directly (see the faculty webpage) about your specific plans and background as well as graduate opportunities with them. They will also be able to advise you on whether your undergraduate course work satisfies the  general education requirements.

Past students pursuing Master of Forestry degrees have explored a variety of topics, including:

  • Using remote sensing platforms to detect harvest activity
  • Recovery of Michaux’s sumac
  • Wood procurement and harvesting trends
  • Longleaf pine restoration
  • Biodiesel cost benefit analysis
  • Forest management plan development
  • Assessment of habitat quality

Graduates of this program have gone on to successful careers around the world, working within the industry, government, non-profit and academic sectors for both public and private organizations.