UMass Amherst Expert Sees Many Jobs for Conservation Grads

AMHERST, Mass. - William C. McComb, head of the department of natural resources conservation at the University of Massachusetts, says there will be an abundance of good jobs available in the next five years for people with college degrees in natural resources and conservation fields. McComb points out that this is an especially good time for women and minorities to be entering the field.

"People used to say that natural resources conservation was a ''fun'' major but provided no guarantee of a job after graduation. That''s not the case anymore," McComb says. "Because of demographics, most federal natural resources agencies expect a huge personnel turnover in the near future, creating job opportunities for recent graduates."

For example, says McComb, although overall staffing levels will be declining, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) reports it will be recruiting more than 2,000 employees to fill professional positions over the next five years. These jobs include positions in forestry, civil engineering, hydrology, telecommunications, soil science, and entomology. Those trained as fisheries, general, and wildlife biologists will be sought, as will landscape architects, archeologists, and training specialists. The service expects to fill nearly as many technical and clerical jobs over the same time period. Most vacancies will be in the forestry technician field, but the service reports it also will need biology and engineering technicians, as well as clerical and operations personnel.

"For the first time in many years, agencies will need to return to campuses to recruit," McComb says. "My colleagues around the country agree that there simply are not enough students in our degree programs to fill the jobs, especially minority students."

In addition to forest service vacancies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), National Parks Service, and Natural Resources Conservation Service will have similar demands on staffing, according to McComb. He points out that, as a result of the severity of last year''s wildfires, the USFS received over $1 billion to deal with fire issues in the West. They will need to hire about 4,000 people in the near future, he says.

McComb cautions that most jobs in this field will not be based in Massachusetts, but are scattered throughout the country, mostly in states with national forest lands. In the East, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania have designated national forests. Most jobs related to forest fires are in the West or the South.
To increase the number of applicants at her agency, Mamie Parker, director of the Hadley office of the USFWS, offers a weekly seminar on the UMass campus to introduce the agency to students. About 25 students are enrolled.

William C. McComb can be reached at 413/545-2665, or bmccomb@forwild.umass.edu.