Employment in the USDA Forest Service has moved to a new location at http://www.fs.fed.us/people/employ/

If you're looking for an opportunity to join a group of people with a proud tradition of excellence and achievement...

If you would enjoy the personal satisfaction of making a difference in some of the most challenging, varied work anywhere...

If you want a secure future with a variety of benefits...

If you like the idea of satisfying the needs and wishes of a vast clientel: the American people...

If you want to influence the future of the environment through forest stewardship...


  1. Agency Employment Overview
  2. National Forest System Employment Overview
  3. State and Private Forestry Employment Overview
  4. Research Employment Overview
  5. Operations Employment Overview
  6. Additional Employment Overview
  7. Types of Employment
  8. Civil Rights Activities
  9. Employment Opportunities for those with Federal status
  10. Employment Opportunities open to external candidates
  11. Employment Benefits
  12. How to get a Forest Service Job

(1) Agency Employment Overview

The USDA Forest Service is people. With approximately 30,000 permanent employees and a temporary work force which typically exceeds 15,000 workers in the summer, the Forest Service is one of the Government's major conservation organizations. The agency manages 191 million acres of federal lands, assists state and private landowners, conducts research, and works with international countries and organizations to build a safer, cleaner and more productive world. Employees are stationed at over 900 separate work locations. Most locations are in the national forests, but many employees work on college campuses, at research laboratories, or in office buildings in cities or towns.

The largest occupations are forestry technician (about 7,000 employees) and forester (about 5,000), but the agency employs over 200 separate occupations including accounting, aircraft pilots, archeology, civil engineering, clerical, computer, ecology, human resource development, hydrology, law enforcement, nursing, personnel, public affairs, soil conservation, surveying, teaching, wildlife biology, and many other occupations.

Historically, the agency's employment significantly increased in the 1960's and 1970's as the agency created positions in wildlife biology, law enforcement, archeology, landscape architecture, accounting, land management planning, job corps, soil science, personnel, and other areas. In the late 1980's and early 1990's, the agency created new positions in law enforcement, recreation, planning, and conservation and by October 1992 permanent employment was 35,085.

Since then, due to both reductions in the timber program and through many efforts to improve efficiency, the agency has significantly reduced the size of the permanent workforce. In August, 1996, the permanent workforce was 30,436 employees and the agency is projecting further reductions over the next couple years. By 1999, the agency is projecting a permanent workforce of approximately 29,000 permanent employees.

(2) National Forest System Employment Overview

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. All Forest Service employees share in the management, protection, and use of the Nation's 191 million acres of National Forest System lands that make up almost two thirds of the Nation's federally owned lands.

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

(3) State and Private Forestry Employment Overview

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. State and Private Forestry 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 heard of Smokey Bear or Woodsy Owl, you're familiar with our programs. Due to the amount of state and private 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.

(4) Research Employment Overview

Forest Service research is the largest natural resources research organization in the world. The agency has approximately 2,200 employees in research with over 800 of these being research scientists. They work in labratories, stations, universities, or locations throughout 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; and resources monitoring and inventory.

(5) Operations Employment Overview

Like all major organizations, there are many administrative responsibilities. The agency employs over 5,000 people in Operations which includes Civil Rights, Computer, Fiscal, Personnel, Procurement, and Program Planning. About one half of the positions are specialists and the other half is a mixture of technicians and clerical employees.

(6) Additional Employment Overview

The Forest Service has several other significant programs.

International Forestry. The agency has approximately 50 employees who work with the international community to share ideas, technology, and experiences.

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.

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.

Law Enforcement. The agency employs over 700 employees to police federal lands and property and who investigate criminal activities.

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.

(7) Types of Employment

Federal employment is confusing even to current employees.

Permanent versus Other. One way to categorize employment is to separate Permanent employment from Other employment. Most Federal employees are permanent employees. The Forest Service has approximately 30,000 permanent employees. Unlike most federal agencies, the Forest Service has many employees who are called "Other" or Non-Permanent. These include, but are not limited to, temporary, summer, seasonal, student employment programs, and term appointments. In the Forest Service, Other employment typically is about 3,000 employees in January and grows to over 15,000 employees in July. A person can be a Forester with a permanent appointment or a Forester with an Other appointment. Many Forest Service employees work with the agency as temporary employees prior to finding a permanent appointment.

Professional positions. Positions which typically require education or training equivalent to a bachelor's degree or higher with a major field of study in a specialized field. Examples include accountant, microbiologist, civil engineer, forester, geologist, and wildlife biologist. Usually, if you do not have formal education in the area, you can't be selected for the job. There are approximately 11,000 professional employees in the agency.

Administrative specialists. Positions which do not require a formal education is a specific field, but require training, experience, or education equivalent to a bachelor's degree. Examples include administrative officer, computer specialist, budget analyst, program manager, criminal investigator, and personnelist. There are approximately 4,000 administrative specialists in the agency.

Technician positions. These positions typically support professional or administrative workers. Formal education is not required but many associate (2~year) degree programs offer training in these areas. Technicians are found in every program area in the agency. Examples are accounting technician, forestry technician, engineering technician, budget assistants, and personnel assistants. There are approximately 11,000 technicians and assistants in the agency.

Clerical positions. These positions involve support work in office, business, or fiscal operations. These positions are found in every program area in the agency. There are approximately 3,000 employees in permanent clerical positions in the agency.

Wage system positions. These positions involve trade, craft, or labor work. Post~high school education generally is not required, but a specific knowledge or skill usually is required. Examples are equipment operators, maintenance mechanics, and automotive repair workers. There are about 1,000 wage system employees in the agency.

8. Civil Rights Activities

The Forest Service seeks to ensure equality and fairness in all Agency programs, and activities, including public access, grants, training and development, public service, contracting, data collection and analysis, technical assistance, and employment opportunities. The mission of the Agency's Civil Rights Program is to monitor and enforce compliance with the requirements of all Federal Civil Rights legislation, provide unformity and consistency for administering the Agency's Civil Rights program, related systems, and activities, and to provide national direction and leadership in support of the Agency's efforts to become a multicultural organization. The responsibility of this Program is to carry out the Agency's policy ensuring that no person is denied access to, participation in, or benefit of any program or activity on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, sex, religion, familial status, political affiliation, or disability. The Forest Service is an equal opportunity service provider and strives to be an employer of choice.

9. Employment opportunities for those with Federal Status

Current federal employees in permanent positions, or employees who have worked in a permanent Federal position for over 3 years typically have "federal status". This means they can apply for positions for which they qualify which are open only to those with federal status. Most of the vacancies require "Federal Status". If you do not have federal status, you are wasting your time if you apply or inquire about vacancies requiring federal status.

10. Employment opportunities open to external candidates

Most entry-level positions and vacancies accepting applications from the general public (applicants without "federal status") are advertised by local Forest or Research offices and are not posted on our nation-wide vacancy summary. There is no single location to apply to be considered for all vacancies in the Forest Service. Vacancies are posted in the office with the vacancy, the local state employment office, and the nearest OPM Employment Office. As a result, you must contact either the specific office at the location you wish to work, state employment offices, or OPM Job Information Centers to become aware of these opportunities. Most of these vacancies are not posted on this Home Page nor made known to the Washington Office.

(11) Employment Benefits

In addition to the personal satisfaction you can derive from your career field, Forest Service employment offers:

12. How to get a Forest Service job.

Over the next year we expect to hire about 500 new employees in to permanent positions. Most will be in clerical or technician positions and most vacancies at field locations are very competitive. It's normal for us to have over 25 applications for a position. In addition, since we hire over 15,000 temporary employees each year, many applicants for permanent jobs often already have years of experience working for the agency in temporary positions. (Even though we have 15,000 temporary employees, many return non-competitively every year. The actual number of temporary vacancies which are advertised probably varies from 5,000 to 10,000 positions annually.)

A majority of our new hires are selected either of four ways:

There are probably a hundred other ways employees are intially brought into the Forest Service, but the above four approaches are the most common.

Here's my advice:

As a final word, the Washington Office of the Forest Serivce is similar to any large organization with over 900 separate work locations. It is impossible for us to have knowledge of all vacancies. You would not contact the headquarters for McDonald's and ask which restaurants are hiring. The same applies for the Forest Service.

Title: Employment in the USDA Forest Service
Author: Tom Martin
phone:703,235,8102 x3016