Advisers: Natural resources students’ job outlook is bright

by Beth Hornby

From creating new paper products to fighting forest fires, College of Natural Resources students have access to unique courses that make them fierce job competitors.

Although some students said they are pessimistic about finding jobs after graduation, several advisers said natural resources students will have many jobs available to them soon.

University graduate assistant Brian Reichert said he took the semester off from his fisheries and wildlife studies to work full time with birds as a wildlife technician. Although he plans to work with lizards after graduation, Reichert said he took the job to make him more competitive, because employers hire people with a variety of experiences.

“It’s a very competitive major and there are usually only seasonal jobs,” Reichert said. “When we start, they tell us not to become too specialized because if all of a sudden there are no jobs in your area, you need to switch over and start at ground zero.”

College of Natural Resources admissions counselor Grant Wilson said the students often have more opportunities than they realize.

“It’s not unusual, for instance, to see a law student combine their degree with environmental studies and go into environmental law,” Wilson said. “The possibilities are tremendous because it’s become more specific than just biology and ecology.”

Wilson said the University’s natural resources program has one of the country’s largest varieties of majors.

Forest resource student Jill Lien said she started her degree with forestry in mind, but she switched to urban forestry. Making the change was easy, she said, because many courses cross over.

“I’ve found some really good opportunities,” Lien said. “I think students generally need to be more focused when they search for jobs.”

College of Natural Resources director Bill Ganzlin said that despite budget shortfalls, many state agency positions will open soon.

“Over the next five years, there will be an intense need to fill in positions of people that are retiring,” Gazlin said.

But for now, he said, graduates might have to move across the country to get jobs.

Because industry changes are unpredictable, Gazlin said, students need to be open to different career routes. He said graduates frequently end up in careers they never imagined. The Peace Corps, for example, actively recruits natural resources students to work abroad.

While government agencies such as the state Department of Natural Resources and the federal Environmental Protection Agency are popular destinations for natural resources students, Gazlin said, students overlook nongovernmental organizations such as the Sierra Club and the Society of American Foresters.

Wood and paper science professor Ulrike Tschirner said her department is one of the most promising in the college. She said the department is expanding its curriculum so it can offer more courses for new paper product production.

“We have a history of placing students in jobs within the semester they graduate,” Tschirner said. “We want to attract companies like Cargill, Dupont and Dow Chemical to the new bioproducts we are engineering.” Bioproducts are chemicals

or materials made from natural resources.

The most important thing for students, Tschirner said, is to get a broad base of experience because they can never know for sure what sort of products with which they will work.