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Forestry, MS, PhD

USU is the only university in the state with a college devoted to the study of natural resources, and it is the only university in the state and one of only a few in the region with degree programs in forestry.

Forestry is a land management degree focused on the integration of biological, social, and physical sciences and their application to the management of forest ecosystems. While studying forest ecosystem management, students can focus on a variety of related areas, including forest ecology, economics, social sciences, natural resource policy, wildlife species and their impact on forest ecosystems, hydrological dimensions, recreational dimensions, and more.

Each student works with their graduate committee to create an individualized plan of study that supports their area of research interests. Students are able to take courses in other areas and departments, gaining an interdisciplinary education in forestry and related aspects.

Career Options

  • U.S. Forest Service
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • National Park Service
  • Other federal land management agencies
  • State natural resource and forestry agencies
  • Forest industry
  • Forest land management
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Native American tribes
  • Faculty and research positions with universities

Admissions Requirements

Students with undergraduate degrees in natural resources or sciences are preferred.

To be accepted to the program, it is recommended that applicants first contact a specific faculty member with whom they are interested in working. If the faculty member is accepting graduate students and agrees to work with the student, the student can then apply by completing the following application requirements:

Application Requirements:

  • Complete the online application
  • Pay the $55 application fee
  • The GRE is not a requirement of this degree program, but a GRE score at or above the 40th percentile may be required by the faculty advisor.
  • Have a 3.0 or higher GPA on your last 60 semester or 90 quarter credits
  • Provide transcripts of all college/university credits
  • Provide three contacts for letters of recommendation

International students have additional admissions requirements.

Admissions Deadlines

Applications for graduate programs are accepted year-round. However, chances for acceptance are best if students apply from October through January of each academic year. It is also encouraged that students begin in the fall if possible.

Master's Degree Plan Option(s)

Students can receive the MS by pursuing one of two options:

  • In the Plan A option, students complete graduate-level coursework and must write a thesis.
  • The Plan B option requires the production of a paper and is expected to reflect equivalent scholarship standards as a thesis.

Financial Assistance

The Department of Wildland Resources provides funding for all of its graduate students through research assistantships, available through professors having contracts, grants, or other awards.

A variety of additional funding opportunities are available, including fellowships, scholarships, tuition awards, and travel support. Additionally, students may be eligible for subsidized health insurance through qualifying assistantships.

Program Requirements

Wildland Resources Department

MS Degree in Forestry, Ecology, Range Science, Wildlife Biology

The MS degree is offered for students motivated toward a management or administrative career in natural resources. The MS may be obtained through either a Plan A (research thesis) or Plan B (nonthesis) program. The Plan A option requires a thesis based on original research conducted by the student. From 6-15 semester credits of thesis research are required. The semesters during which a student registers for thesis credit should correspond as closely as possible to the
semesters in which the thesis work is done and faculty supervision is provided. The Plan B option is recommended for professional forestry managers who do not plan on research careers. The Plan B option requires the production of a paper. At least 2 credits of thesis research are required, but no more than 3 credits of thesis credit can be included on the Program of Study. For a master’s degree, the minimum number of credits required is 30 semester credits. At least 24 semester credits for a master’s degree must be from a committee-approved and an SGS approved Program of Study from Utah State University.

With committee approval, graduate credits may be transferred from accredited graduate schools, provided the minimum residency requirement (including thesis and dissertation credit) at USU is met. Only 12 semester credits may be transferred into a graduate program at USU. Transfer credit, which must not have been used for any other degree, will be shown on official USU transcripts at completion of the degree.

Wildland Resources Department

PhD Degree in Forestry, Ecology, Range Science, Wildlife Biology

The PhD degree is intended for students seeking a research or academic career.  Comprehensive exams (both oral and written) are required in the doctoral program.

For a PhD, the minimum number of credits required is 30 credits with a master’s degree in a related field; 60 credits are required otherwise.  A minimum of 12 dissertation credits is required for a post-master’s doctorate and a minimum of 18 for a non-master’s doctorate.  The semesters during which a student registers for dissertation credit should correspond as closely as possible to the semesters in which the dissertation work is done and faculty supervision is provided.  Doctoral students must meet an academic residency requirement which ensures that the doctoral student experience includes at least one period of concentrated attention to study, research, and interaction with faculty.  This period of immersion in the culture of students’ departments is an important part of their preparation for future work in academic communities.  The residency requirement for doctoral studies consists of the following: At least 33 USU semester credits from an approved Program of Study are required for a 60 credit PhD and 18 USU credits for a 30 credit doctoral student.  At least three semesters, two of which must be consecutive, of full-time registration in residency at USU are required.

With committee approval, graduate credits may be transferred from accredited graduate schools, provided the minimum residency requirement (including thesis and dissertation credit) at USU is met.  Only 12 semester credits may be transferred into a graduate program at USU.  Transfer credit, which must not have been used for any other degree, will be shown on official USU transcripts at completion of the degree.

PhD Qualifying Exams:

PhD students must pass a comprehensive examination. This exam is used to assess whether a student is prepared to successfully conduct independent research. The assessment depends upon the student’s knowledge in his or her area of concentration and in supporting areas, understanding of philosophical perspectives on scholarship, and ability to communicate this knowledge effectively.

It is recommended that the comprehensive exam be taken by the end of the student’s second academic year, and it must be passed no later than one year prior to defending the dissertation and before candidacy will be recommended.


Marsha Bailey

Wildland Resources Staff Assistant III
Office: NR 206
Phone: (435) 797-2503

Professional Organizations, Honor Societies, and Clubs

Society of American Foresters: SAF is the national scientific and educational organization representing the forestry profession in the United States. Founded in 1900, it is the largest professional society for foresters in the world. SAF aims to advance the science, education, technology, and practice of forestry; to enhance the competency of its members; to establish professional excellence; and to use the knowledge, skills, and conservation ethic of the profession to ensure the continued health and use of forest ecosystems. SAF members include natural resource professionals in public and private settings, researchers, CEOs, administrators, educators, and students.

Labs, Centers, Research

Center for Integrated BioSystems: The CIB leads a progressive, interdisciplinary effort in research, core services, and education serving agriculture and life sciences. The CIB is where the first hybrid animal, a mule, was cloned, and was named one of “30 Awesome College Labs” by Popular Science magazine. The CIB has a research program with several active projects in diverse areas of life science that encompass plant, animal, and microbe functional genomics.

Rocky Mountain Research Station: The Rocky Mountain Research Station is one of five regional units that make up the US Forest Service Research and Development organization — the most extensive natural resources research organization in the world. It maintains 14 research locations throughout a 12-state territory encompassing the Great Basin, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and parts of the Great Plains. One of these is the Logan Forestry Sciences Laboratory, which is situated on the campus of Utah State University and houses scientists who are actively involved in USU's graduate forestry program.

T.W. Daniel Experimental Forest: The T.W. Daniel Experimental Forest is located in the Cache Valley National Forest and is dedicated for the use of USU College of Natural Resources students. This property houses a cabin that serves as a base of operations for research, teaching, and road-building in the student forest. Since the 1950s, the 18x18-square-foot cabin has been restored by USU’s forestry club for the use of student outings.

Utah Botanical Center: The UBC, located in Kaysville, Utah, is home to research and demonstration projects focused on sustainable living in the Intermountain West. Studies of water conservation, horticulture, water quality enhancement, wetland ecology, integrated pest management, urban forestry, agriculture, fish and wildlife, highway enhancement, and storm-water management combine to make the center a living laboratory.