students in forest settings

Unearth the Possibilities

Duke’s Master of Forestry (MF) program seeks to instill in students a foundation of sound, structured theory coupled with practical forest management skills, to enable its graduates to think critically, act purposefully and make forest management decisions for the broadest benefit of current and future generations.

SAF Accredited logo

The Master of Forestry (MF) is an important credential for a wide range of employment opportunities across public-sector, private-sector and nonprofit organizations dedicated to forest management, conservation, policy, finance and more.

Students interested in forestry can pursue the MF degree concurrently with the Nicholas School's Master of Environmental Management (MEM) degree or with degrees from other professional schools at Duke and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

The educational program leading to the Master of Forestry degree is accredited by the Society of American Foresters (SAF), the largest professional forestry organization in the United States. 

View Our Statement of Purpose

Our program considers forests as complex ecological, economic, and social systems requiring diverse approaches to management. Our educational approach begins with science as an active, continually advancing endeavor toward understanding forest systems as the fundamental basis for management. It emphasizes theory-based critical thinking and the innovative application of technology, including geospatial analysis, to allow more complete consideration of forest management from the stand to the landscape. 

Multidisciplinary perspectives, including those of economics, finance, policy, ethics, and community-based management, necessarily augment the consideration of ecological systems to inform managerial solutions to critical and complex forestry problems. By teaching basic principles and developing an understanding of forests as systems, our approach allows translation of knowledge across both time and space. It enables graduates to apply their learning across geographies and to adapt prescriptions to changing climate conditions, while incorporating evolving forest science, forest markets, and world views. We believe this approach is necessary to increase options available to forest managers and to inform choices thereof.

Our intentional community of teachers, students, alumni, staff, and external practitioners is tight-knit and contributes in outsized and distinctive ways to the broader culture of the Nicholas School of the Environment. In turn, our MF program benefits from diverse and complementary areas of study in the Nicholas School and other professional schools at Duke. Emanating from and still deeply embedded in the Duke Forest—one of the nation’s premier forestry and forest science teaching and research laboratories—our curriculum offers a special field-based, place-based pedagogy tailored to the interests of our students and built-upon by our graduates through the practice of life-long learning.


Make a Difference with Duke Environment

woman taking sample from tree in forest

Forests are managed for a broad variety of goods and services in an increasingly complicated context of changing climate, land-use pressures, global markets and conflicting cultural values. 

We expect graduates of the Duke MF program will:

  • Understand the concepts that underpin forestry.
  • Master the skills needed to practice forestry.
  • Be able to place forestry in a larger context of natural resource management, including its economic, social, cultural, and political contexts.
  • Be able to communicate effectively about forestry to a range of stakeholders.
  • Be life-long learners who are able to adopt new ideas and skills or adapt current ones to novel future applications.

Program Learning Outcomes

More specifically, upon graduation, our students will:

  1. Understand, in both theory and practice, forests as complex ecological, economic, and social systems and be able to identify associated implications for managing forests to supply a range of commercial and noncommercial values to their owners and society at large.
  2. Have a command of essential forest management skills and techniques, developed through pedagogies based on real-world situations and field experiences.
  3. Be highly proficient at using state-of-the-art technologies to measure and model forests at scales from trees to stands to landscapes.
  4. Be able to integrate process-based understanding of ecosystem functioning with place-based experience to predict outcomes of silvicultural practices in different settings, and to evaluate the potential and limitations of different silvicultural systems for managing geographically diverse forest ecosystems under both current and future conditions.
  5. Be able to: integrate understanding of ecosystem outputs with market insights to identify potential revenue streams for forests; evaluate existing and emerging nonmarket program opportunities as influenced by applicable policies, laws, and regulations; and develop and evaluate investment plans for optimizing sustainable investment returns that account for both revenues and forest management costs and achieve landowner objectives.
  6. Be able to develop, present, and discuss forest management scenarios with a range of objectives and constraints and project the scenarios’ environmental, economic, and social consequences.
  7. Have a core set of critical non-technical professional skills, including the abilities to communicate effectively in writing and orally to different forest stakeholder groups, to work as a member and a leader of a team, and to understand and uphold relevant professional codes of ethics.
  8. Have the foundational understanding necessary to adapt and expand beyond the specific knowledge and skills they learned at Duke as they pursue their professional interests and as forests’ societal role continues to evolve.