What is Forestry?

What is Forestry?

Photo of the view from the fire tower at Robinson Forest

What is Forestry?

Forestry is both a science and an art.

It is rooted in the basic sciences of biology, chemistry and mathematics and is performed with the applied sciences of ecology, silviculture, and management. While science guides the decisions of a forester, it does not make them for him or her. Foresters must apply their knowledge in a decision-making arena where good solutions are not always obvious, conflicting human interests must be considered, and conflicting opinions must be compromised. This need for experienced judgment, diplomacy and tact constitutes the art of forestry.

Forestry is a profession – not just a job or occupation.

It is a practice in the sense that medicine and law are practices. The education of forestry practitioners is accredited by a professional association (Society of American Foresters) and their professional conduct is guided and governed by a Code of Ethics. There is much more to being a forester than taking a few courses.

Forestry is guided by the principles of sustainability.

Sound forestry decisions consider the current and future health of the forest and strive to ensure that benefits will be available for future generations.

Forestry involves more resources than just trees.

Although trees are the predominant plant component of forests, foresters manage all of the resources found in forests. You will, therefore, find foresters concerned with trees, animals (both game and non-game), soils, water, insects, diseases (both tree and animal) and human beings.

Foresters manage for a broad spectrum of benefits that humans desire from their forests.

This includes the obvious things we take from forests – like wood and game species, but also includes less obvious things like water quality and quantity and benefits that have real value but are hard to measure – like wilderness, non-game and endangered species, recreation opportunities, clean air and biodiversity. The field of forestry can cover it all.

What can you do with a Forestry major?

The Forestry major offers a diverse career path in an outdoor office. Foresters are qualified to do almost any job that involves assessing, utilizing, protecting, preserving, restoring or re-establishing forests. Career opportunities are strong and are likely to remain so as the large, post-war baby boom generation retires. Foresters can find employment in both the public and private sectors of the economy. Also, many forestry graduates continue their education in graduate school.

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What Makes Us Unique?

The Forestry major is a professional degree program and is the only one in Kentucky accredited by the Society of American Foresters. Forestry students are trained to grow, manage, and protect healthy forest ecosystems. 

The Forestry major offers a diverse career path in an outdoor office. Experiences like our Spring Field Semester and UK Fire Cats offer students hands on opportunities in forestry. 

Spring Field Semester

During the spring semester of the junior year, forestry majors participate in a semester-long, field-oriented immersion into the practice and application of forestry, wildlife, and natural resource management techniques. The first half of the Spring Field Semester is spent traveling throughout Kentucky and the surrounding region to learn about different ecosystems, land uses, landownership types, and wood industry facilities. The second half of the semester is spent at the university’s 15,000-acre experimental forest in southeastern Kentucky to give students additional hands-on field experience.

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UK Fire Cats - Student Wildland Firefighter Organization

The UK Fire Cats is a program in partnership with the UK Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Kentucky Division of Forestry (KDF), and the U.S. Forest Service. UK Fire Cats are paid employees by the Kentucky Division of Forestry and are classified as “Emergency Firefighters.” UK Fire Cats are on-call to fight wildland fire on weekends during the fall and spring fire seasons. There are 21 slots available for UK Fire Cats.

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I want to work outside.

Top reasons to major in forestry

I want a career that can take me to new places and experience new things.

Top reasons to major in forestry

I want to make a difference in the world.

Top reasons to major in forestry

I want a career that uses new technologies.

Top reasons to major in forestry

I want a career with variety so I am not stuck doing the same thing year after year.

Top reasons to major in forestry


For questions or additional information on the undergraduate forestry program, contact Laura Lhotka, Forestry Academic Coordinator at 859-257-8718 or laura.lhotka@uky.edu. Also, email Laura if you would like to arrange an in-person visit or a Zoom meeting. Let us know how we can help!

Email Laura Lhotka

Contact Information

Thomas Poe Cooper Building 730 Rose Street Lexington, KY 40546-0073