Training in the Woods: A career in the Indian Forest Service

Indian Forest Service Officer wading through water in a forest
Indian Forest Service logo

Want to manage the world without being confined to a cubicle? A forestry career can combine your academic and leadership skills with your love of the outdoors.

What’s this career about?

The core duty of an Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer is to protect and manage the country’s natural resources like forest flora and fauna, wildlife sanctuaries, tiger reserves and implement the National Forest Policy. The job combines both desk work as well as extensive field monitoring.

The work involves overseeing the maintenance and development of an area of forest or woodland; organizing the planting of trees, thinning and felling of trees, mining, oil and gas drilling operation; assessing the impacts of wildfires, insects, diseases and/or pollution on forests and develop strategies to control and prevent of forest fires, and protecting wildlife and natural habitats.

Besides this, the work entails a regular interaction with the local communities living near the forest area and helping in their rehabilitation, providing them protection from wild animals as well as educating them on the importance of forests and wildlife and their protection. They may also advise government and industry officials on forest management issues and assess new forest management applications.

Group of Indian Forest Service Offices are work

How do I get there?

Indian Forest Service (IFS) is one of the three All India Services, the other two being Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and Indian Police Service (IPS). The examination for this highly competitive job is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) (upsc.gov.in). Eligibility is graduation in science or engineering.

Selection procedure consists of three stages — preliminary, main examination and personality test. Candidates who qualify in the Civil Services (Preliminary) and meet the eligibility criteria of IFS are shortlisted for the IFS Main Examination. After clearing the main examination, the candidate is called for an interview.

The interview aims to assess the personal suitability of the candidate for the service. They must be conversant with the modern currents of thoughts and with new discoveries, as any well-educated youth. The candidate’s love for outdoor life and the desire to explore unknown places is also assessed.

This is followed by a medical test and an endurance test, which requires the selected male candidates to walk 25 kms in four hours, whereas female candidates have to walk 15 kms. Those candidates who are successful in all these phases of the examination are recruited for training. 

Initially, the candidates have to attend the common foundation course at Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie (lbsnaa.gov.in). On completion of this course, they go to Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy at Dehradun (ignfa.gov.in), for training on forest and wildlife management, soil conservation, surveying, etc. The officers are taught more than 56 subjects of life sciences during these two years. They need to travel to forests throughout India to know the entire spectrum of forests. They are also supposed to do field work and trek through several villages.

After completing training at the academy, candidates go through a year of on-the-job field training in the state to which he or she is assigned. Later, the officers are awarded a Master’s degree in Science (Forestry) from Forest Research Institute, Dehradun (fridu.edu.in). No fees are charged; rather trainees are paid a stipend during the training period. Also, the Government of India takes care of other expenses.

After completing all the trainings, the probationer starts as an Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF). They are assigned field work with a small staff. Within 4-5 years, they are promoted to the post of Deputy Conservators of Forests (DCF) in charge of districts/forest divisions. At higher levels, they spend less time outside and may be involved in decision-making and policy decisions. At the top is the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) who is the administrative head of the forest organization and a technical advisor to the Government.

What key skills do I need?

  • Love for outdoors and an interest in the preservation of the environment.
  • Physical hardiness.
  • Scientific curiosity to solve problems.
  • Effective oral and written communication skills.
  • Enjoy working outdoors and be prepared to spend time in isolated areas.
  • Good at making decisions and planning skills.
  • High level of organisational skills.
  • Aptitude for administrative work and project management.
Dr Abdul Qayum, IFS Officer
Dr Abdul Qayum, an IFS Officer built the ‘eForestFire-Himalayan Forest Fire Prediction’ to predict forest fires in Arunachal Pradesh. Thanks to him, forest fire incidences in Arunachal are down by 31% in just one year!

Pay package

Indian Forest Service officers are given official vehicles and accommodation. Their salary starts with around Rs 60,000 per month, which may go up to Rs 2.5 lakhs a month. After several years of experience, some foresters become consulting foresters, working alone or with a partner.

Employment profile

The Government of India is the only recruiter that offers different positions to eligible and qualified candidates in the Indian Forest Service. The Ministry of Environment and Forests provides employment in various departments including Environment and Ecology, Botanical Survey of India and the Botanical Gardens, the Zoological Survey of India, National Museum of Natural History, Wildlife Preservation departments, Wildlife projects, Central Ganges Authority, the National Wasteland Development boards, and the Indian Forest Service. 

Forests contribute significantly to economic development; these yield firewood, timber, fodder, industrial raw materials and other minor produce. Foresters will continue to be needed to help landowners manage their forested property. Specially trained personnel are needed to maintain and regenerate forest cover and forest resources.

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Dr Vibha Gupta
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Dr Vibha Gupta

Dr Vibha Gupta, a feature writer, is a Ph.D. in Mathematics from IIT Roorkee. Her book Careers: A Pathfinder and articles in various publications are an attempt to guide students in choosing a career according to their natural strengths, talents and skills.