Forestry Technicians


Education and Training Requirements

High School

The best way to enter this field is to graduate from a formal program in forest technology. Almost all forest technology programs require a high school diploma, and most require applicants to have taken two courses in advanced mathematics and one course in physics. Courses in chemistry, biology, earth sciences, and any other courses in natural resources are excellent choices. English and speech classes will help you to develop good writing and public speaking skills.

Postsecondary Training

Whether at a technical institute or a junior or community college, prospective technicians usually complete a two-year program to receive an associate's degree. The Society of American Foresters (SAF) accredits postsecondary degree-granting programs in forestry and natural resources. For a listing of accredited schools, visit the SAF's Web site, http://www.eforester.org/Main/Accreditation/Academic_Programs/Main/Accreditation/Academic_Programs.aspx?hkey=d76abd4e-2f8b-4f38-aa97-a3e3e7ef5111.

Since forestry technicians must learn both scientific theory and applied science practices, the technical program is a demanding one. It requires organized classroom study and considerable time in the laboratory or field. Students must learn about the kinds of trees and plants that grow in a forest, and how they relate to or affect other plants. Technicians also learn about measuring and calculating the amount of lumber in a tree. This is called mensuration, or forest measurements.

Students in forestry technician programs take mathematics, communications, botany, engineering, and technical forestry courses. The specific types of forestry courses taken vary, depending on the climate in a given locale and the nature of local forestry practice.

A typical first year's study in a two-year forestry program might include the following courses: elementary forest surveying, communication skills, technical mathematics, dendrology (tree identification), botany of forests, forest orientation, technical reporting, elementary forest measurements, applied silviculture (how plants relate to each other), forest soils, computer applications, and elementary business management.

A typical second year's courses might include the following: personnel management, forest business methods, timber harvesting, advanced forest surveying and map drafting, outdoor recreation and environmental control, wildlife ecology, elements of social science, forest products utilization, forest protection, forest insect and disease control, forest fire control, advanced forest measurements, and aerial photographic interpretation.

Since student technicians also need practical experience working in a forest to learn many of the aspects of their jobs, almost all forestry technician programs require actual work experience in forested areas. Some schools arrange summer jobs for students between the first and second years of study. Many forestry technician programs also own or use a small sawmill where students can learn the basic elements of sawmill operation.

A special feature of some programs is a second-year seminar that includes visits to tree nurseries, sawmills, paper mills, veneer mills, wallboard manufacturing plants, and furniture factories. These visits help students understand how forest products are processed, used, measured, and classified by levels of quality. They also give students a better understanding of different types of companies that employ forestry technicians.

Other Education or Training

The Society of American Foresters, Forest Stewards Guild, Society of Municipal Arborists, and state-level forestry associations offer continuing education workshops, field sessions, and webinars. Contact these organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

In some states, forestry technicians need to be licensed to perform certain duties. For example, those working with pesticides or chemicals must be trained and licensed in their use. Technicians who make surveys of land for legal public property records are also required to hold a license.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Aspiring forestry technicians can gain experience by participating in an internship or part-time job with a lumber company or conservation organization. They may perform tasks such as timber harvesting or tree planting.

Forestry technicians must have a genuine enthusiasm for outdoor work and the ability to work in often extreme weather conditions.

Because the job is often tough and physically demanding, technicians should have good health and stamina. In dealing with dangerous or emergency situations, such as forest fires, it is necessary that technicians be able to think clearly and act calmly and efficiently.

It is of great importance that technicians be able to work without supervision. Often working in rural and remote areas, they may be isolated from a supervisor and other workers for days or weeks at a time. To be successful in this career, you must be self-sufficient, resourceful, and able to tolerate solitude.

Despite the remoteness of most forestry work, effective communication skills are extremely important. Technicians must deal with other workers, members of the public who use the forest for recreation, and conservationists who protect fish, game, and plant life. Technicians may also supervise and coordinate the activities of laborers and fieldworkers. Communication skills are needed to prepare oral and written reports.

Forestry technicians must be able to apply both theoretical knowledge and specialized occupational skills. They need to be familiar with certain principles of engineering, biology, mathematics, and statistics and know how to use a computer.