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Forestry Related Careers
Forestry Related Careers What kind of job can I get? Some jobs are obviously related to forests and trees. You might think of forest rangers, lumberjacks, and Christmas tree sellers. But the creation and management of forests, timber, parks, and tree and wood products requires people with a wide variety of skills to work together. Many people combine their love of the woods with other interests and abilities to do their part for the trees.
Accountant What do they do? Manage all aspects of financial recording and reporting and prepare tax returns for urban and rural forestry groups and woodland owners. Description: All accountants must adhere to generally accepted accounting principles. But because trees are living organisms, their value is in constant flux (either increasing or decreasing), and communicating the worth of forest assets at true market value is a real challenge. Creative financial reporting can be used as an edge when looking for funding and competing for grants. Education: Environmental literacy is a real plus for accountants working with trees and in urban forestry. Qualifications include a four-year college degree; CPA certification; and good leadership, team-building, management, and communication skills. This combination will go a long way in making the accountant an integral part of the forestry movement. Salary: Earnings are based on the size of the organization. Typically, a CPA managing assets in excess of $1 million can expect to earn in excess of $50, 000 annually.
Arborist What do they do? Provide tree services to homeowners, commercial property owners, and cities and towns. Description: A career as an arborist combines physical challenge with scientific know-how for those who have never lost their childhood love of climbing trees or milling about alone beneath a canopy of green branches. Often independent, arborists must also possess good people skills when meeting with clients. The job also requires extensive experience in tree work, including climbing, pruning, and removing trees. Education: A college degree in horticulture and/or arboriculture. Salary: $25, 000 to $35, 000
Christmas Tree Farmer Description: Being a successful Christmas tree farmer requires a lot of learning and knowledge of the crops you are planting. Twice a year the trees are shaped and trimmed to maintain their beauty and Christmas-tree appearance. Education: Christmas tree farming requires no special licenses or education, but a person has to be self-motivated and hard-working. It is also necessary to know how to farm the crops you will be handling and to have good business and public relations skills. Salary: The initial investment of the trees is expensive, because it takes three to four years to grow the first crop. After the start-up, a grower can make $30, 000 to $100, 000, depending on the number of acres planted and what the trees sell for.
Cooperative Extension Specialist What do they do? Communicate local applied research findings from major agricultural institutions to the general public for practical applications. Description: Cooperative extension specialists work on the cutting edge of university research, helping translate the latest scientific understanding for the general public in a variety of specialized fields, ranging from forestry to entomology and plant pathology. Public education and efforts to improve farm production take the form of informational newsletters, on-site visits, conducting meetings with farmers, administering 4 H youth programs, and providing information at fairs and conferences. Education: Specialists must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree, and many have masters or doctorates in their specialty fields. Cooperative extension programs also frequently hire college students during summers and offer opportunities for clerical and field support staff as well. Salary: Varies depending on specialty.
Forest Pathologist What do they do? Diagnose and recommend treatment for sick trees. Description: Forest pathologists, with all the dedication of a physician, work to isolate the causes of tree disease and find cures for even the most virulent illnesses that threaten forests. They have to understand botany, fungi, insects, ecology, and soil types; be well-rounded; and understand the environment in which trees grow. In addition to fieldwork, tree pathologists use computer modeling to study the progression of tree diseases. Education: Graduate degree. Salary: Varies. Most work for state or federal government.
Forester What do they do? Care for the land sustain the long-term health of forests. Description: For many foresters, the job keeps them in touch with the outdoors as they work in the field in a variety of specialties, from hydrology to wildlife management, to ensure the future of public forests. Once heavily focused on timber management, the role of the forester is shifting to ecosystem management as the logging industry continues to scale down. Despite this change, timber remains an important aspect of forestry and offers opportunities for those dedicated to preserving the forest. Education: Four-year degree. Salary: $24, 000 to $35, 000; varies regionally.
Garden Consultant What do they do? Plan environmentally sound yard and home gardens. Description: Many landscape and garden designers have transformed a personal passion for gardening into a career that sustains them. Practical experience, a wealth of knowledge, and an eye for beauty are the only requisites for a career as a garden designer, although an ability to market, network, and establish a client referral base is essential to a steady career. Education: No formal education, but talent, experience, and on-the-job training. Start-up costs are minimal. A strong background with a variety of plants and knowledge of irrigation systems, soil and climate requirements, and changing trends in gardening are essential. Salary: Can make $25 to $100 per hour.
GIS Professional/Technician What do they do? Use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology in resource-management and land-use planning. Description: Those working in forestry have a new tool to help them gauge the effects of environmental changes. GIS technology can re-create a forest inside a computer, where complex data can be sorted analyzed to provide different views into the future. Scientists using GIS technology can create accurate, threedimensional visual images or maps of forests and test various scenarios before they occur. It’s a good career for people who like technology but don’t want to sit in the back room programming. Education: An internship is the best way to get started. You have to know computers, database management systems, GIS, and programming languages and certain electives like real estate, forestry, and land use. Salary: $20, 000 to start; more with experience.
Grant Writer What do they do? Raise financial support from charitable institutions forestry projects. Description: As charitable organizations vie for the limited funds available from individuals, private philanthropic foundations, and corporate foundations, the role of the grant writer is becoming more critical to funding key projects. Discipline and the ability to work alone are key for the grant researcher and writer. Grant writers also must keep abreast of changing trends in the field and potential new sources of grants through additional reading and research. Organizational skills are paramount for the grant writer, who must organize thoughts into concise writing, keep track of grant application deadlines, and follow up on grants submitted. Education: Experience plus on-the-job training. Salary: A freelance grant writer can be paid a percentage of the funding requested.
High School Teacher What do they do? Teach high school students and educate them about the importance of forests. Description: High school teachers are the guardians of the future, encouraging young people to strive and reach their fullest potential. High school teachers in many subjects, from science to social studies, have the opportunity to involve their students with tree-planting projects. These projects give teachers the chance to cover shade tree identification, propagation, proper planting methods, and installation of irrigation systems. Education: Four-year degree plus teaching credentials. Salary: Varies regionally, starting at about $25, 000 and increasing to $40, 000 with experience.
Landscape Architect What do they do? Plan and design private, public, and commercial greenspace and create site plans for land use. Description: Landscape architects rely on their knowledge of construction, grading, drainage, irrigation, plant materials, and horticulture throughout an often solitary workday in the office that revolves around design and drawing. In their careers, landscape architects tackle a variety of projects, including designs for private residences, apartment buildings, schools, parks, golf courses, office buildings, and public road projects. A talent in art, a knack for graphics, and an eye for detail pave the way to architecture. In addition to traditional architectural studies, landscape architects also must have a good understanding of plants, the environment, and social trends. Education: Four-year degree, state license, and certification from the American Association of Landscape Architects. Salary: Ranges from $25, 000 to start up to about $75, 000.
Lawyer What do they do? Facilitate legal transactions and obtain remedies for negligence. Description: Attorneys who specialize in tree or green-industry law handle cases or contracts for a variety of related professionals, including contractors, arborists, landscape architects, and pest control advisers. While most attorneys have handled at least one tree case in their careers, few are able to make a career of it. The trend toward tree and green-industry law is increasing, but those who want to specialize in trees full-time will likely need to form their own practice. Handling cases in related areas such as construction and real estate law may also be necessary to round out a full-time practice. Education: Four-year degree followed by law school and state certification. Salary: Ranges from $50, 000 to $100, 000.
Lobbyist What do they do? Advance forestry and environmental issues in the legislature. Description: Lobbyists and citizen activists draft initiatives on common environmental issues, obtain public support and funding, and advance them through state and federal legislative bodies. People of assorted skills, backgrounds, and education levels are involved in this kind of work. Communication skills are key to getting messages across, particularly in writing. Anyone working in this field must have a good grasp of current events. Start as an intern to learn the administrative ropes, and be available to move into a fulltime position when the opportunity arises. Education: Four-year degree, usually in journalism, political science, or law. Many lobbyists have master’s degrees. Salary: Salaries with nonprofits start at $6. 50 per hour; with government agencies, about $9. 00. With experience, one can advance to $30, 000 per year.
Lumber Harvester What do they do? Turn logs into lumber. Description: Loggers and millers embrace this industry as a way of life because the work is done in the forests and requires extended periods of time away from home. Work is hard and very physical. It is all outside, although some areas of the mill are sheltered. It is highly intense and not without danger. Education: Logging is a very specialized field for which education and training is limited. Oregon State University continues to offer a degree in logging; however, most learn by experience. Salary: Sawmill operator $7 to $12 per hour, contractor $30, 000, logging supervisor $35, 000, general manager $35, 000, and forester $35, 000.
Nature Photographer What do they do? Capture the essence of trees in multiple media (canvas, film, computers, moving pictures, bronze, clay, glass, precious metals) and sell to end users for posters, books, magazines, jewels, clothes, cards, gifts. Description: A nature photographer is an artist who brings images to life. Whether trees are the principal focus of the artwork or part of the background, the nature photographer must be skilled in multimedia renditions. Except for magazine staff photographers, nature photographers work mostly freelance, and their creative and economic success is based on reputation. It helps to have a stock agent to promote your work and to develop a special niche where you can sell clip art to the market at large and get paid a commission each time your creations are used. Education: On-the-job training. A degree in photography or photojournalism can help. Salary: Earnings depend on reputation and range from entry-level positions with a magazine at $500 per week to $60, 000 or more annually for well-regarded photographers who regularly publish in National Geographic and other prominent magazines.
Nursery Owner/Manager What do they do? Propagate, purchase, care for, and sell potted trees, either wholesale or retail. Description: Nursery owners/managers oversee the daily operations of a plant nursery and provide a link between growers and wholesalers or the general public. They keep abreast of changing fads and trends in the tree industry and watch their inventories closely to avoid damaging the trees. Managers in retail nurseries may find themselves handling a variety of tasks, from ringing up customer sales and answering the phone to helping customers select appropriate trees. Wholesale nursery managers supply large quantities of trees to contractors, tree groups, and other organizations. Those seeking a career as a nursery manager need a wide range of knowledge of soils, tree species, diseases, and design ideas along with public relations and sales skills. Education: The entry-level position of laborer or worker requires little experience. The next level is sales, which requires some education and experience. Salary: In wholesale nurseries, pay ranges from $25, 000 to $40, 000. Large urban areas start nursery managers at $40, 000. A top-notch nursery may pay its managers about $70, 000.
Park Planner What do they do? Plan all aspects of public park use. Description: An interest in a variety of fields and a knack for understanding people are musts for park planners. Although much of their work is done alone at the drafting table or in the field, planners, who often work within government agencies, also work with others to coordinate and carry projects to completion. A solid understanding of tree species helps planners select the most appropriate and desirable species to fulfill a variety of needs, from shade to beauty. Education: Qualification and licensing depends on the employing organization. Typically, a four-year degree and experience are required. Salary: Starting mid-$30, 000 s; high of $40, 000 with experience.
Research Scientist What do they do? Seek ways to optimize the performance of trees by studying the effects of variable conditions on trees. Description: Research scientists often work behind the scenes in closely knit teams, pursuing new possibilities. In this elite field, questions often lead not to answers but to new questions, which in turn open up new directions that require further research. This field offers many opportunities for those driven to delve ever further in a quest to understand the complex workings of nature. Research scientists typically obtain Ph. D. s and find employment in a variety of settings, including academic research facilities at land grant universities, private corporations, and government research laboratories. Education: Post-graduate degree. Salary: Begins in the mid-$20, 000 s. Depending on research publications, the research facility, and tenure, salaries can advance to $60, 000 or more.
Silviculturist What do they do? Develop and manage forests by determining what to grow, where to grow it, how long to keep it, and when to cut it. Description: Like their counterparts the urban foresters, silviculturists devote their careers to the cultivation and care of forests. While urban foresters focus on single tree specimens, silviculturists look at stands of trees covering between 10 and 30 acres and determine the volume for commercial output, taking into account the factors of disease, soil, water, climate, and diversity of species. To enjoy this career, you need to like working in the woods with maps and compasses. Education: Minimum of a four-year degree from an approved forestry program.
Soil Scientist What do they do? Characterize soil types for optimal use and maximum productivity. A soil scientist studies the effects of tillage, fertilization, nutrient transformation, crop rotation, environmental consequence (water, gas, or heat), and industrial waste on soil. Description: There are two major categories of soil scientists: researchers and educators. Researchers work for government agencies, private landowners, large companies, or nonprofits studying topics such as the effects of grazing on national parks or population pressures on urban areas, pesticide use, water management (both surface and ground). They classify soils using chemical analysis, conduct experiments on plant growth, and develop new methods for maximizing the productivity of the land. Researchers also draft and submit permit proposals. Research soil scientists are often self-employed. As governments downsize, many cross over to the private sector. Much of their work used to involve surveying orchard and farmland soils for pesticides and other toxic elements, but the focus is shifting to studies involving water quality and wetland restoration. Generally, researchers will work on several projects simultaneously. Education: An advanced degree is required, as is certification from ARCPAC. The job also requires a lot of travel in the field. Salary: From the mid-$30, 000 s up.
Tree Trimmer What do they do? Provide tree care services that promote optimal growth and correct problems with minimal damage. Description: Contemporary tree trimmers regularly lift impossible weights and defy gravity. They climb and jump and walk on limbs. Using ropes, pulleys, and levers, they cut and lift big branches safely, without accident or injury. Work is varied and depends on training, experience, and the season. Wintertime tasks include routine pruning and removal of hazardous trees, particularly in storm recovery. Other seasons require cable bracing, installing lightning protection, mulching and fertilizing, planting, and staking. A successful tree trimmer needs climbing ability and agility and mechanical savvy to operate state-of-the-art heavy equipment, including spray rigs, ropes, ladders, pole and chain saws, log trucks, and wood chippers. Education: While tree trimmers can be effective with lots of on-the-job training, the trend is toward formal education in forest management, arboriculture, and/or pest management. A license is required to apply chemicals for pest control. Salary: Starts at $1, 800 per month and can rise to $2, 500 and beyond as knowledge, experience, education, and licensing are obtained.
Urban Forester What do they do? Care for urban forest ecosystems within metropolitan and surrounding areas for the benefit of residents of the area and the natural environment. Description: A career in urban forestry is an exciting opportunity for someone interested in the natural side of life. Urban forestry involves a good combination of natural and social sciences. Taking into account not only the health of specific trees but also the city ecosystem, urban foresters look for ways to improve and sustain the environment. They need a technical knowledge of biology and biological processes, including soils and irrigation systems, along with a general knowledge of forest ecology. Education: A four-year degree in forestry management or urban forestry. Salary: Starts in the low $40, 000 s and peaks at $60, 000. Need ability to work with groups, organizations, and political bodies.
Urban Planner What do they do? Envision, coordinate, and balance the very delicate and complex relationships of an urban setting and understand forecast the needs of a community and advise on the best way to pursue common goals. Description: A planner works on future issues and needs a vivid imagination, a good understanding of people in communities, and technical understanding of the flow of goods and services in a high-density population. Urban planners are generalists who come to their careers from different angles: civil engineering, landscape architecture, public administration, land use, transportation, urban studies, or biology. Education: A four-year college degree. Salary: A planning technician with a high school degree can start at $2, 500 per month. Other levels exist, like assistant planners at $3, 000+ per month, principal planners at $4, 000+, and department heads at $5, 000+.
Wildland Fire Manager What do they do? Prevent, suppress, contain, and control damage and injuries from fires. Description: Although fire managers do fight wildland fires and help save lives, property, and natural resources, much of their work tackles prevention through prescribed burning and other fire-management techniques. Successful fire management is a team effort that includes professionals such as timber managers and biologists along with the technical expertise of firefighters and fuels managers, along with those who work the educational front lines teaching children about fire safety. Education: Two-year degree plus advanced training. Work is physically and mentally demanding. Salary: About $25, 000 for six months, or from about $9 to $16 per hour.
Wildland Restoration Specialist What do they do? Return land to its original state by planting native trees and shrubs. Description: A strong background in biology and a knack for networking can help those interested in getting started in wildland restoration work. Days are spent propagating, taking cuttings, planting, weeding, working on irrigation systems, repairing fences, or simply letting Mother Nature work to reclaim the wildland. Most wildland restorers get started by volunteering or working at ridiculously low wages to get experience and by getting to know people already in the field. Education: Experience. Salary: varies
Meet Some People in the Field Jim Smith, Senior Research Technician, Weyerhaeuser Company Bob Eaton, Chief at the Division of Fire Management, U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service Kathryn Haber, Wilderness Therapy Guide for Summit Achievement Melanie R. Kirk, Urban and Community Forestry, Texas Cooperative Extension
Jim Smith, Senior Research Technician, Weyerhaeuser Co. What attracted you to your current field of study? My interests in logging, forestry, fisheries, wildlife, and the outdoors Have your expectations been met? I have far surpassed the expectations that I had while in college. What do you like best about the field? The variety in the work I have done and the challenges of working on new products in R & D environment. What are some personal challenges you have faced in your field? Field work in inclement weather conditions, uncertainty of employment because of cutbacks, and balancing heavy workloads. What does the future hold for your chosen field? As long as people use wood products, there will be a need forestry and wood technology people, especially in new product development. What things can students do to prepare for a career in this field? To get a good job in a major corporation, education is one of the keys to get your foot in the door. Once there, how you do your job will dictate how far you will go in it. In the wood products business, math, science, writing, and computer skills are all very important. Work ethic is the most important.
Bob Eaton, Chief of Fire Management, U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service What attracted you to your chosen field? I have always had an interest in nature and working in the natural resources field. I developed my love for the outdoors growing up as a Boy Scout and camping every month. What is the future outlook for your profession? I think the future is very bright for those individuals that gain as much knowledge as they can in the natural resources field and then learn how to articulate, collaborate, and coordinate the issues and concerns with all the partners involved. Issues are not just local in nature. As I learned from one of my NCSU professors years ago, "Everything is connected to everything", so when you make decisions affecting the natural resources, it spreads over many, many miles of the landscape. What does the future hold for your chosen field? There are more and more demands on the natural resources with increasing populations and with folks leaving the large metropolitan areas trying to get back to nature. This shift creates challenges for our future natural resource leaders who will have to learn to think outside the box to keep everything balanced. What advice would you give to students entering the field? Students need to get the basic foundation of a natural resources integrated academic curriculum. Communication skills (public speaking and writing) are an absolute necessity to advance in this field. Science is defined quantitatively, so the more math and statistics that you can take then the better prepared you will be. The last thing I would leave with potential students is: PASSION and hard work, hard work and more hard work. You got to have the passion to endure the long hours, low pay, hard work, harsh environmental conditions, etc.
Kathryn Haber, Wilderness Therapy Guide for Summit Achievement What attracted you to your chosen field? I have a passion for working and living in the woods. Going out into the woods has always been a form of therapy for me and I thought by working in Wilderness Therapy I could share my love for nature and how it has helped me with others. What do you like best about the field? I love this field of work for so many reasons. The outdoors is truly an amazing place for any type of kid. It pushes and affects people in different ways and I love watching the therapeutic process take place out there. What are some personal challenges you have faced in your field? Some personal challenges that I've faced in the Wilderness Therapy field is the schedule, I work an 8 day on and then 6 day off schedule which basically gives you a double life. When on shift you never know what's going to happen so some shifts are easy and then others are mentally draining. We get some tough kids that walk through the door and learning how to deal which each problem and deal with conflict can be difficult. What does the future hold for your chosen field? I see a lot of changes in Wilderness Therapy in the future. It is an ever changing industry, still fairly new but becoming more well-known. I feel like it'll become a more popular method for teen therapy. What things can students do to prepare for a career in this field? I think that taking classes in psychology and outdoor education can definitely be helpful. Also, being flexible, a quick decision maker, and able to take things in stride are traits important to longevity in this field.
Melanie R. Kirk, Urban and Community Forestry, Texas Coop Ext What do you like best about your chosen profession? The opportunity to educate people on the importance of trees in areas where people live, work, and play. What challenges face your profession? With the continued growth in urban populations it will become increasingly more difficult to convince the decision makers of our nation's municipal infrastructures to incorporate green into their developments. What is the future outlook for studies in natural resources? Studies in natural resources have become more interdisciplinary than in the past. As our nation becomes more urbanized natural resource professionals are forced to partner with non-traditional groups and state agencies like; City and Park Planners, Developers, Transportation Departments, and Engineers in order to stay relevant to those they serve. What advice would you give to students entering natural resources : In addition to the technical information that you are required to know, communication is the key to a successful career in urban forestry and natural resources as a whole. As a natural resource professional you will have to be comfortable and prepared to speak to people about what you do and it's importance… outreach is what we do. !