USDA Forest Service Employment Information
go to FSJOBS home page

Overview - a brief intro

Descriptions of the kinds of jobs we have

How much we pay our employees and what kind of employee programs we have

How to see a vacancy announcement, how to get an application, where to submit an application

Frequently-asked questions about getting a job with the Forest Service

Special hiring emphasis Nov 2000-March 2001:  Fire Fighting and Fire-related jobs

In the early 1900's, the Congress and President Teddy Roosevelt formed the U.S.D.A. Forest Service along with two other land management agencies, the Park Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The law placed the Forest Service in the Department of Agriculture and the other two agencies in the Department of Interior. The view at the time was that the Forest Service grew trees and therefore better fit in the U.S.D.A.

The Forest Service was directed to manage mainly forested land and to support a multiple use/benefit strategy. The Forest Service not only grew trees, fought forest fires, and supported recreation, but sold timber, leased land for ski resorts, mining, oil, etc. for the benefit of the American taxpayer. The BLM was given a similar task, but was given mainly unforested land to manage. The Park Service was given land with special interest or historical value with the main goals of conservation and recreation.

Now, almost 100 years later, the missions of the 3 agencies have become very similar. All 3 agencies grow timber, protect wildlife, and support conservation and recreation. All 3 agencies work to bring in revenue into the U.S. Treasury. All 3 agencies have forests, rangeland, wilderness areas, campgrounds, and tourist attractions. Together all 3 agencies, along with states, fight forest fires.

Today, the Forest Service manages more land than the other 2 agencies and has the largest employment. The Forest Service has about 3 times more permanent employees than does the Park Service. In fact, the Forest Service manages about two-thirds of the total U.S. federally owned land.

It is natural to think of the National Forests when thinking about the Forest Service, but about 15 percent of Forest Service employees do not work directly for the National Forests. The 30,000 permanent employees of the Forest Service work in many varied program areas.

The Forest Service has several major programs/responsibilities which anyone who desires to work for the agency should understand. Some key employment areas are: 

  • National Forest System 
  • Research and Development 
  • State and Private Forestry (includes Fire
  • Operations (also known as administration) 
  • Program Development and Legislation 
  • Other Programs 
  • National Forest System (NFS)

    If you have ever visited our National Forests, or maybe just seen pictures of them, you may have experienced the overwhelming magnitude and beauty of the resources.  Either directly or indirectly, most Forest Service employees share in the management, protection, and use of the Nation's 191 million acres of NFS lands that make up almost two thirds of the Nation's federally owned lands.

    In the NFS there are many employment opportunities in Soils, Air, Water, Range, Wildlife, Fish, Wood, Recreation, Minerals, Wilderness, Lands, and Operations.

    The NFS has 9 regional offices, 118 Forest headquarters (called Forest Supervisor Offices), and approximately 590 ranger districts or grasslands. Basically each district ranger reports to a forest supervisor who reports to a regional forester who reports to the Chief. Most regions have 10 to 15 Forest Supervisor Offices, and most Forests have 4 to 10 ranger districts or grasslands. Approximately 85 percent of FS employees work in the NFS.

    State and Private Forestry (S&PF) and Fire

    If you like using your people skills to form partnerships with others, you may be interested in the State and Private Forestry branch of our organization. S&PF works in partnerships with individuals who own forest land and with State foresters, the managers of State forest lands to ensure effective protection and management of the over 700 million acres of forest land in the United States outside the boundaries of the National Forests. The Forest Service delivers technical and financial assistance to serve the needs of the entire forestry community.
      If you have heard of Smokey Bear or Woodsy Owl, you're familiar with our programs. Due to the amount of S&PF coordination required, the Fire Prevention, Forest Beautification, and Forest Health Protection (insect and disease control) Programs are in State and Private Forestry. We also have many additional cooperative forestry programs working in areas such as forest planning, urban forestry, rural development, and harvesting, processing, and marketing wood products. 
    The Forest Service fire program is a part of the S&PF area due to the coordination with other organizations and because the Forest Service also fights fires on non-Forest Service lands. Most Forest Service employees who fight fires have a primary responsibility other than fire. They may be clerks, foresters, wildlife biologists, computer specialists, contract specialists, etc. After becoming trained and certified to fight fires, they are called to fight fires when needed. A smaller number of permanent employees work full time with the fire program. The Forest Service also employs a large number of seasonal fire fighters who only work in the fire program during the fire season. A final category of fire fighters is called casual fire fighters. These individuals are hired usually on the site of a major fire and employment rarely exceeds 30 days. Even though fire is a S&PF program, most hiring is handled by NFS offices. Most seasonal and casual fire fighting employment opportunities occur in the western part of the United States.

    The Forest Service has the Northeastern Areas State and Private Forestry office in Radnor, Penn. This office coordinates S&PF programs in 20 northeastern states. However, in the rest of the United States most S&PF programs are located at National Forest System locations. In fact, many employees with S&PF responsiblities also have NFS responsibilities and therefore it is difficult to determine how many FS employees have S&PF responsibilities.

    Research and Development

    Forest Service Research and Development is the largest natural resources research organization in the world. The agency has approximately 2,100 employees in research with over 800 of these being research scientists. They work in laboratories, stations, universities, or other locations throughout the United States. A few work outside the United States.
    The Forest Service studies forest tree improvement, growth, and harvesting; forest economics; global change; protection of forests from fire, diseases, and pests; management and improvement of rangelands and wildlife habitats; forest recreation and wilderness management; urban forestry; forest engineering; resources monitoring and inventory; and many other areas.

    Research and Development is organized into 6 research stations and the Forest Products Laboratory. Many researchers work at these headquarters locations, but many others work at field laboratories, universities, and other locations.

    Operations (also known as Administration)

    Like all major organizations, there are many administrative responsibilities. The agency employs over 4,000 people in Operations which includes Civil Rights, Computer, Fiscal, Personnel, and Procurement. About one half of these positions are specialists and the other half are a mixture of technicians and clerical employees. These employees may be located at NFS, S&PF, or Research locations and usually are considered a part of the host organization. Within NFS, they may work at both regional office or forest locations. However, not all forests have operations units.

    Program Development and Legislation

    A segment of the organization is responsible for working with elected officials, interested parties, and FS managers to determine what work should be conducted (e.g. how much timber production, road construction, reforestation, etc.) and what resources (e.g. employment and dollars) are needed to accomplish this work. In addition, these individuals monitor and report to Congress and others our accomplishments. These employees typically are located at headquarters locations.

    Other Programs

    The Forest Service has several other significant programs.

    International Forestry. The agency has approximately 35 employees who work with the international community to share ideas, technology, and experiences. These individuals mainly work in the Washington Office.

    International Institute of Tropical Forestry. This institute, located in Puerto Rico, conducts research and information sharing concerning tropical forestry. The institute employs about 50 permanent employees--all in Puerto Rico.

    Job Corps Program. The agency employs approximately 900 employees who work in 18 residential Job Corps Centers located on Forest Service lands. These teachers, counselors, cooks, nurses, and others work to improve the enrollee's job qualifications for productive work through training in vocational skills, basic education, and social development. Normally, over 9,000 enrollees attend Forest Service Job Corps Centers annually and over 80 percent of the graduates are placed in jobs, enroll in schools (such as college), or join the military. Job Corps employees about 900 permanent employees.

    Law Enforcement. The agency employs over 600 employees to police federal lands and property and investigate criminal activities. They are mainly located at NFS locations, but are considered "detached Washington Office employees."

    Public Affairs. The agency has approximately 500 employees who work with the public and external organizations to respond to questions, give advice, and develop and distribute maps, pamphlets, photos, etc. They typically are located at headquarters offices and are considered a part of the host organization.

    return to Overview page