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Forestry Technician

Forestry Technician

Education and Training: High school plus training

Salary: Varies—see profile

Employment Outlook: Poor

Definition and Nature of the Work

Forestry technicians help professional foresters manage forest resources. They work for federal and state government agencies that manage public forest lands used for recreation and conservation purposes. Some technicians work for private companies engaged in logging and manufacturing paper and wood pulp products. Others work for companies in the mining, petroleum, and railroad industries. Beginners with no specialized training are sometimes called forestry aides. Forestry technicians do many kinds of work. Their duties vary with the needs of their employers.

Private logging companies harvest timber. Foresters and forestry technicians estimate the amount of timber in a forest. First they determine the number of trees that can be harvested. Then they calculate the amount of lumber or pulp-wood an average tree will produce. Foresters and technicians also mark trees so that logging crews will know which ones to cut. When the trees are cut down, technicians may use measuring devices called scale sticks to find the exact amount of lumber, pulpwood, or plywood each log will yield. Managers of wood processing plants use this information to make production schedules.

Forestry technicians also build roads through forest lands designated for harvest. They work on surveying teams that plan logging roads. They may use surveying equipment, such as transits and long metal tapes. They also keep accurate records of measurements, and sometimes they use slide rules and electronic calculators to determine distances and locations. Some technicians operate chain saws and road-building equipment, such as bulldozers and graders.

Many forestry technicians are involved in reforestation. They plant trees on land that has been logged or destroyed by fire or industrial use. Both government agencies and private companies hire forestry technicians to work on reforestation projects. Technicians may be in charge of the work crews that plant trees. Sometimes these crews plant grass or groundcover crops to prevent soil from being washed or blown away. Forestry technicians may assist foresters who check for evidence of harmful insects or tree diseases.

Technicians in government agencies may assist forest rangers and park superintendents during vacation seasons by marking trails for hikers. They may help to maintain buildings and equipment in recreational areas. If a forest fire breaks out, technicians usually operate fire-fighting equipment or supervise crews of volunteer firefighters.

Education and Training Requirements

To be a forestry technician, one to two years of training beyond high school is necessary. Many junior and community colleges offer two-year programs leading to an associate degree in forest technology. Necessary training can also be obtained at a four-year college. Training for forestry technicians generally includes courses in land surveying, timber cruising, forest protection, wildlife management, and logging.

Some technicians learn their skills on the job by working as forestry aides. However, those who have no specialized training may experience difficulty finding work.

Getting the Job

At schools that offer a program in forest technology, instructors or a school placement office may be helpful in finding jobs for prospective forestry technicians. One way to make contacts that lead to full-time jobs is to take a part-time or seasonal job in forestry or a related field. Each summer, state and federal government agencies hire seasonal aides. Experience in a work-study program or internship can also be helpful in finding a job.

To get a job with a state or federal agency, apply to take the necessary civil service test. Apply directly to companies in the forest production industry.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Experienced technicians can advance to positions that offer more responsibility and higher pay. With further education, they may become professional foresters.

The number of jobs for forestry technicians is expected to decline through the year 2012. There will be more qualified applicants than available openings, and applicants will face competition for jobs.

Working Conditions

Working conditions for forestry technicians vary with the kinds of work they do. Some technicians must live where they work. Others can commute to work each day from nearby towns and cities. Technicians work alone or in small crews with several aides, foresters, or other technicians. They may supervise small crews of temporary aides. Sometimes technicians travel deep into the wilderness, and they may be away from home for several days. Although forestry technicians work an average of forty hours a week, their hours are often irregular and vary with the seasons and the weather.

Where to Go for More Information

American Forests
P.O. Box 2000
Washington, DC 20013
(202) 737-1944

Society of American Foresters
5400 Grosvenor Ln.
Bethesda, MD 20814-2161
(301) 897-8720

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries vary depending on education, experience, geographical area, and size of the establishment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for a forest technician in 2004 was $13.14. For some technicians, the median salary can be $42,936 per year. Benefits generally include paid holidays and vacations and health insurance.

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