Job Search Resources

#1 Mistake College Students In Natural Resources Make That Hurts Their Career

As the Outreach, Recruitment, and Retention Program Specialist for the Northern Region of the US Forest Service it is my job is to get you a job. I get asked multiple times a day how to get a job with our agency and what tips I have to offer. Here's a brand new tip for college students in natural resources.

In my job for the US Forest Service, I review a lot of resumes and give out a lot of career advice to college students who ultimately want a job/career in natural resource management. The majority of the time, when I work with a college student on their resume and career I find something that appears to be a trend.

Most college students working on a degree in natural resources do not find work in natural resources during the summer or during semesters off. Many are continuing to work at restaurants or service oriented jobs, similar to what they did in high school. Some are volunteering, which is nice to see, but many are volunteering for organizations and projects not related to natural resources.

While having employment during college is good, because employers want to see candidates who can hold down a job, the type of employment matters. College students believe they can continue working at their local coffee shop and after graduating with a degree, land a job in natural resources. This is simply not the case. A degree in natural resources alone, even if it is a Bachelor's or Master's, won't likely land you a job. You need a degree AND experience, likely several seasons of experience, in order to be competitive for natural resource management jobs like those we fill in the Forest Service.

Region 1 of the Forest Service (Montana, North Idaho, and parts of the Dakotas) looks to fill around 800-1000 summer jobs in fire, trails, recreation, range, weeds, fisheries, wildlife, archeology, and many others each year. There are tremendous opportunities for students to find jobs in natural resource management in this agency, especially if the student is willing to take a position anywhere in the U.S. Simply put, there is little reason to not seek out these temporary/summer jobs while you are going to college for your degree in natural resources.

Permanent jobs in natural resource management are highly competitive. A Bachelor's degree will qualify college grads for many permanent positions, however the degree alone will not likely make them competitive for the position. This is the biggest reason why experience in natural resources is so important. College students need to start as early as possible in gaining this experience and building their resume.

Job experience in natural resource management doesn't have to be with the Forest Service as there are many other federal land management agencies as well as state agencies and other organizations that also provide great jobs too.

And lastly, it's important to find PAID employment. Volunteer work and unpaid internships are nice, however your competitive advantage for jobs will be greater with paid positions.

For more information or if you have questions, see the contact info below. To book some time with me to visit more about your resume, how to apply for jobs, or get career advice see:

Recent Graduates: What Employers Look For

The Thing Employers Look For When Hiring Recent Graduates - Business - The Atlantic

NRM Related Employment Survey

There were 34 NRM graduates responding to a summer 2014 survey asking if their employment was related or unrelated to their NRM degree.


Employment related to NRM degree: 85%; 12% unrelated; 3% not applicable (percentages rounded up)

Employer characteristics:

  1. Federal: 17.6%
  2. State, County, Municipal: 41.1%
  3. Non-Government Org: 5.8%
  4. Private: 26.4%
  5. Not applicable (unemployed): 2.9%