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Auburn to launch new online Forest Business and Investment master’s degree

By July 28, 2021November 19th, 2021No Comments

The Auburn University Board of Trustees recently approved a new Master of Science degree program within the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences designed for working professionals seeking business expertise for career advancement within the forest industry.

Industry growth driving demand for business, finance and investment expertise

Recent business reports suggest most segments of the forest industry are poised for continual growth well into the next decade.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, employment in business and financial operations is projected to grow 5% from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average of all occupations. Owing partly to the increased usage of data and market research to understand consumer and product demand, the need for market strategists is driving industry to seek out this expertise.

The BLS estimates the wage premium for an employee who holds a master’s degree within the business and financial sectors to be between 40 – 90% depending on occupation. Further, over 20% of financial managers hold an advanced degree.

Couple the industry growth and employment outlook with the wage premium for graduate education, particularly in business and finance, and the short-term investment of time and money to attain a master’s degree is anticipated to pay dividends for forestry professionals.

An online business degree created for the forest industry

Auburn University’s new forest business and investment Master of Science degree is the first online business degree created to serve the unique needs of the forest industry, one of the largest industries in Alabama and the country, and a significant component of the nation’s economy.

The forest industry, which represents 4.5% of the U.S. manufacturing GDP, encompasses a wide range of businesses such as forest land management firms, financial institutions including banks, creditors, insurance companies, large individual and institutional forest landowners, publicly-traded timberland REITs, product manufacturers and distributors, harvesting contractors, forestry suppliers and forestry consultants.

Due to the complexities of this resource industry, forest businesses require a workforce skilled in forestry technical skills, business techniques and financial decision-making to maximize their return to investors.

Often, professionals have either expertise in forestry or expertise in business, but rarely both.

“To gain the required business acumen, many forestry professionals have historically sought an MBA,” said Janaki Alavalapati, dean of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.

“However, a traditional MBA does not typically provide the background and understanding of the forestry-based skills and applications that forest investment and finance companies need to function effectively in the forest business and investment sector.”

Collaboratively taught with Auburn University’s Raymond J. Harbert College of Business, the new online program will build upon a student’s forestry knowledge while providing expertise in business, finance and investments specific to the forest industry.

Students who lack significant forestry knowledge will also gain forest industry-specific skills through a blended curriculum of forestry, business, finance and investments.

Taught online for the convenience of the working professional – and their employers

To gain this business expertise, forestry professionals have typically relied upon in-person graduate degree programs which represent a hardship for those who would like to maintain their day-to-day lifestyle.

“Traditional programs are appropriate for some individuals, but it is often impractical for working professionals to disrupt their work and home life to relocate to a major university for their graduate education,” said Marc A. Walley, president of Forest Investment Associates.

“We’re excited that our employees and other professionals within the forestry sector will have the opportunity to gain industry-specific business knowledge and skills with a degree from a top ranked university such as Auburn – and just as importantly – that they can remain productive during the process.”

Built-in flexibility for a wide range of careers

Auburn’s forest business and investments Master of Science degree, or FBI, requires 31 credit hours, 16 to 19 from the degree core and an additional 12 to 15 elective credit hours chosen from curricula such as finance, business administration, supply chain management, accounting and agricultural economics.

Core classes required include forest valuation and economics, forest operations and wood supply chain management, forest finance, accounting and taxation, financial analysis, forest statistics and a forest business and investments seminar. Students who do not have a forestry background or forestry degree will also need to take forest growth, silviculture and management.

While earning their degree, students can also advance their careers with a professional graduate certificate in forest finance and investment or supply chain management with a combination of four of the required supply chain and business courses.

To further customize their learning experience, students have the flexibility to slow or accelerate their coursework to complete their degree at their own pace.

Unlike traditional graduate programs, enrollment for the online degree does not require completion of the GRE exam or a thesis. The Auburn University Graduate School does require a 2.75 GPA. However, exceptions are permitted if sufficient justification is provided to the school’s Graduate Program Office.

Official enrollment for the new degree will begin the spring semester of 2022.

At that time, students may enroll twice per year to begin their coursework in the spring or fall semesters. However, application materials must be received no later than 45 days before the first day of class.

Tuition for the master’s degree is approximately $900 per credit hour and financial assistance may be available for students who apply.

For guidance regarding curriculum choices, admissions policies and deadlines, students can learn more online or contact Dr. Jessica Daniel at or 334-844-1077 to submit a request for information about our online programs.

Specific questions concerning the forest business and investments degree and courses can be addressed by Dr. Adam Maggard at or 334-844-2401.

Quick Facts

  • Non-thesis (no research, courses only)
  • Convenient, online courses
  • 31 credit hours required
  • No GRE required
  • Learn from expert faculty and industry leaders
  • Enrollment open spring and fall!

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