Exploring this Job
There are a number of ways you can learn more about a career in forest technology. High school counselors and librarians may be able to provide you with materials and information on the career. Community and technical colleges that have forestry science programs offer information on education and careers at their Web sites. For information about what the actual day-to-day work is like, you might visit a park or public land area and talk with forestry technicians about the specifics of their jobs.
For even more hands-on information, you might consider getting a summer or part-time job in forestry-related work, such as timber harvesting, clearing, or planting operations. State forestry departments, federal agencies, private companies, or environmental groups are all potential sources of summer or part-time work. For information on land management agencies, environmental organizations, and other groups concerned with the environment, check out Conservation Directory 2017: The Guide to Worldwide Environmental Organizations (Carrel Books, 2016).
Forestry technicians perform duties that require scientific training and skill, frequently doing work that was once performed by professional foresters. Most are employed in forestland management and administration; they may be involved in timber production, recreation, wildlife forage, water regulation, preservation for scientific studies and special uses, or a combination of these areas.
While not all forestry technicians perform the same types of duties, their day-to-day work includes general activities for managing and harvesting a forest. The first major step in the cycle is planting trees to replace those that have been cut down, harvested, or lost to disease or fire. Technicians tend and care for maturing trees by thinning them to obtain the best growth, spraying them with pesticides when necessary, and protecting them from fire or other damage. Periodic measuring or scaling of trees to determine the amount of lumber they will produce is necessary in planning for harvesting and marketing.
Harvesting and marketing the trees is the last step. In preparing for harvesting, access roads for logging machinery and trucks are planned, surveyed, and built, sometimes with the use of aerial photography. Technicians must understand the land surveys and be able to interpret aerial photographs. After harvesting is complete, the land is reconditioned and the cycle begins again.
The work of a forestry technician is more complicated than it was just a few decades ago. Equipment and methods used to detect, prevent, and fight tree diseases and parasites have developed rapidly, as has the machinery used for harvesting, with powerful log handlers and loaders now being commonly used.
A forestry technician's work includes many different kinds of activities. In addition to the various duties required for each step of the tree-growing cycle, each forest area is managed with a particular objective, which affects the specific duties of the technician. Because the management plan for each area differs, the nature of technicians' jobs varies considerably.
Forestry technicians employed by the federal government may specialize in a specific area of forestry. More often, however, they work as assistants to professional foresters in research connected with watershed management, timber management, wildlife management, forest genetics, fire control, disease and insect control, recreational development, and other matters. Many communities also employ forestry technicians for urban forestry work, managing their municipal watersheds, and in their parks and recreation development programs.
Some forestry technicians are employed by private industry, where they "cruise" timber (measure the volume of standing trees to determine their lumber content), survey logging roads, prepare maps and charts, and mark trees for cutting or thinning.
Following are descriptions of specialized positions that are held by forestry technicians. These positions may be found within federal or state agencies or the private forestry industry. Each requires a different mix of skills and abilities.
Information and education technicians write news releases and act as public relations specialists in nature centers.
Survey assistants locate and mark boundary lines. They also assist in the clearing of forests and construction of logging roads, prepare maps of surveys, and work on land appraisal and acquisition problems for private, state, and federal employers.
Biological aides work in insect and disease prevention and control. They record and analyze data, run experiments under supervision, and prepare maps to show damage done to forests by parasites.
Technical research assistants gather and analyze field data to assist scientists in basic and applied research problems that relate to timber, watershed, and wildlife management.
Sawmill buyers purchase high-grade logs for milling and furniture manufacture.
Pulp buyers purchase pulp logs for use in paper mills and other pulp and paper companies.
Lumber inspectors and/or graders grade and calculate the volume of hardwood and softwood lumber at mills or in retail and wholesale yards.
Tree-nursery management assistants help operate and manage tree nurseries. They keep records, hire temporary personnel, and supervise tree production during planting season. These technicians may also run seed tests and analyze data, operate and maintain equipment, and help supervise forest planting-stock production.
Wildlife technicians conduct fieldwork for various game commissions and federal agencies engaged in fish and game preservation and management. They capture, tag, and track animals with radio collars to establish territories and animal survival records. Wildlife technicians also help take wildlife censuses and maintain daily crew records.