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Salary for Natural Resource Workers

Updated on July 15, 2012

© 2012 by Aurelio Locsin.

Natural resource workers exploit harvest, gather, process and otherwise exploit products from the natural world. The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines the natural resources sector as consisting of occupations in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting. The sector does not include jobs with underground resources, which is part of the mining sector. Salaries vary by position and are accurate as of May 2011.


The mean salary for all 371,000 workers in the agricultural, forestry, fishing and hunting sector was $12.34 per hour or $25,680 per year. This was one of the lowest paid areas of the employment market, with wages at nearly half the $21.74 per hour or $45,230 per year average of all 128 million workers in the country. Jobs for natural resources workers are expected to decrease by over 130,000 from 2010 to 2020. At the same time, all employment in the U.S. will grow by about 20.4 million.

Highest Pay

The highest paying occupations for natural resources belonged to the 6,400 in management who averaged $42.77 per hour or $88,960 per year. Chief executives had the top-paying job in this category with means at $82.07 per hour or $170,710 per year. They were ultimately responsible for the success of their companies and their decisions affect employees, customers and suppliers. The lowest paying jobs belonged to farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers in charge of individual farms and ranches. They earned a mean $33.89 per hour or $70,490 per year.

Lowest Pay

The lowest paid natural resource occupations were those specific to farming, fishing and forestry, with means at $10.79 per hour or $22,450 per year. The 263,000 working here formed the largest occupational category within natural resources. First-line supervisors had the best pay at a mean $20.66 per hour or $42,970. They were responsible for managing teams of employees in performing tasks. The lowest paid workers were the unskilled farm workers and laborers who work with crops, nurseries and greenhouses. They made a mean $9.29 per hour or $19,330 per year. Other jobs in this category included skilled farm and ranch workers who made a mean $11.73 per hour or $24,390 per year, log fallers at $20.49 per hour or $42,610 per year and agricultural inspectors at a mean $17 per hour or $35,350 per year.


An example of a specific natural resource worker is a fisher who catches different types of marine life, primarily for human and animal consumption. Fishers learn their skills informally on the job, so they do not need any qualifications. However, those that intend to captain their own boats need a license, and those working on fish processing vessels may need a merchant mariner’s document. The U.S. Coast Guard issues these documents based on the individual’s medical and academic requirements. Jobs are expected to decline by 6 percent from 2010 to 2020, while in the same period all jobs in the U.S. will grow by 14 percent. Fishers earned a mean $14.53 per hour or $30,220 per year.


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    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from Northern California, USA

      Poor farmers! Of course the managers and upper level people get the higher salaries. What a huge difference between the two levels.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Very interesting hub, alocsin. I had no idea that these guys weren't paid that well and that even the top salary doesn't match a lot of other professions. In a way it's frustrating, too, because the forest is so precious and it's important that we employ good stewards of natural resources. In any case, this is a great compilation of information. Thanks!

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      I suppose the increased mechanization of many of these Natural resource workers jobs, will lead to more job losses as you mentioned above.

      The salary of the 6,400 in management who averaged $42.77 per hour or $88,960 per year, is quite a huge disparity with the salary for natural resource workers. I know where I would prefer to be working :)

      Voted up interesting and useful information.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Unfortunately, rajan jolly, it's one of those industries where the income gap is quite large.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Sadly, Brett, it's one of those industries where the income gap is very large. But it gives those on the lower positions something to look forward to.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Aurelio, the world over the lowest rung in the ladder - the labor who work the hardest and do the most laborious job get paid peanuts compared to the ones who are in the top rung.

      The disparity in incomes is too much to digest because without basic labor force all management is a big zero.

      This gap must be reduced.

      Thanks for sharing this info.

      Voted up, useful. Shared.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 5 years ago from Thailand

      While you expect some difference between employees and managers, this industry seems to have a HUGE gap!

      Shared, up and useful ... always helps to know what you could/should be earning ;-).

    • BJC profile image

      BJC 5 years ago from Florida

      Informative hub and I learned some things here. You are a very informed individual and thanks for sharing your knowledge!

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 5 years ago from United States

      Agriculture, fisheries and farming are the basic necessities of man's survival and it is sad that they get basic 10$ per hour only.

      you have put down the facts beautifully. A true but sad fact though!

      thanks alocsin

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Just as an aside, fpherj48, trains are a big hobby of mine and I've written a few hubs on model railroading.

      But you ask an interesting question. I don't think anyone would begrudge the very rich earning their stash if other people derived value or earnings from it. Witness how Mark Zuckerberg just earned billions from the Facebook IPO -- yet no one is complaining because he's produced something that millions use everyday. But, same as you, I don't understand how some of these Wall Street types earn their money because they don't seem to be producing anything other than profit for themselves.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      We rely upon these workers for the majority of our sources of food since we have moved away from being an agrarian form of society. Considering the hard labor involved and low pay, it is amazing that we have people still willing to do this kind of work. We need to appreciate them more! Most of the high cost of food must go to the middlemen in this equation of getting food from the source to our tables. Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 5 years ago

      Once again, a very Interesting Hub on a Subject, that most of us know little about. I was really surprised at some of the Salaries...But to work outdoor at something you love doing must be one of the perks...Otherwise why would they take these jobs?

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      We really don't hear much about this industry. It is important to the support of our country as it deal with a natural resource. The pay is lower than I expected, but perhaps the benefit of getting to work outdoors is a factor that the industry considers higher value.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      alocsin....Although we may know these facts to be the "way it is," I, for one, don't have to like makes me sad....sometimes angry.

      Since my ex started out with the RR in the '70s as a trackman and rose through the years to a Track Foreman & then a Superintendant...(now retired) I was able to "see" the reality, first hand. From a middle income wage to 6 figures....kind of drastic.

      Low man on the totem pole may "labor" much harder...but as the higher you rise, perhaps the labor is less, but the responsibility increases accordingly....thus, the higher rates of pay.

      Nothing in life is "Fair" it?

      The burning question in my mind is HOW on earth can it be justified that ONE human being (on Wallstreet) can possibly be worth millions/billions per year?? That's got to be criminal...doesn't it? Whose body, mind, education, talent, can POSSIBLY be THAT valuable?? I would seriously love to understand this.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I was not surprised to see management gets paid more than the workers who do the labour. Good information to know about the industry, thank-you for sharing this.

    • Pollyannalana profile image

      Pollyannalana 5 years ago from US

      Wow this is some very interesting facts here. More serious and need to know. Thank you.