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How Do I Get Started in Forestry Work?

A forestry technician might maintain hiking trails.
Many forestry students help plant trees during the summer.
Forestry workers manage forests and their natural resources.
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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2014
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People who love working outdoors are often interested in forestry work, a recognized scientific discipline that is also closely associated with environmental science. The primary goal of forestry is to manage forests and related natural resources. A forest ecosystem supports a vast array of animals, insects, plant life and has a critical role in managing water systems and soil resources. Although preservation of existing forests is a priority, the challenge in forestry work is how to balance conflicting priorities and ensure that any change is carefully managed. To get started in forestry work, there are four items that need to be considered: career path, education and training, gaining relevant work experience, and preparing for the particular challenges of forestry work.

There are two primary career paths to explore in forestry: forest preservation and scientific study, and the forestry industry. Forest preservation activities are centered on research and documenting the impact of human activity on the current forest ecosystem. Much of this work is government agency funded and involves a significant amount of research, writing, computer work, and meetings. The primary goal of this career is to have input into decisions that help to restore and preserve natural resources.

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The forest industry involves working in the actual forest canopy. Many positions are available with government agencies, lumber companies, or related forest based businesses. This work is primarily outside, interacting with workers, overseeing planting and forest management activities. The primary goal of this type of career is to actively participate in the management of the forest.

Forestry courses are available from at both the university and community college level. Both programs provide the training necessary to work in this industry. Typically, college graduates gravitate toward positions in the forest industry, and university graduate toward forest preservation, but this is not a rule by any means. Continuing education courses combined with work experience allows foresters to move between these two career streams.

Work experience in forestry can be gained only by physically moving to where the forest is. Many students participate in tree planting projects, or reforestation, in the summer months. These projects are completed in the various forest regions and provide the experience necessary to decide if this type of work is for you.

Forestry work has several challenges. The first is the requirement to relocate to physically remote areas. The amenities available are quite restricted when compared with city life or even life in a small, rural town. The ability to live off the land is very important in this career, as access to packaged food is limited and the costs are typically prohibitively high. Learn these skills in advance and practice them in anticipation of getting started in forestry work.

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