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Author Topic: Considering a career in Forestry.....  (Read 21732 times)

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Offline BrandonTN

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Considering a career in Forestry.....
« on: December 11, 2005, 03:05:39 PM »
Hello all!

I've been considering persuing forestry as a profession for a couple of years now, even though right now I am currently attending a graphic design school working for an associate degree.  I live in Nashville, TN, and I'm 24 years old.  I've previously done a little research on the forestry profession, but the interest is becoming stronger, and I'm seeking out information about it more and more these days. 
Working in a commercial printshop, and being around the graphic design work environment has  led me to believe if I stick soley w/ design, I will be not be satisfied/fullfilled.  I love the outdoors.  I've been an avid backpacker since I was 18, enjoying the Smoky Mountains here in TN.  I want a career that makes a positive impact on the world, in as many ways as possible.  In graphic design, sure, designing for people is a good thing, people have design needs, but in the long run does it make the world a better place?  The idea of taking care of the earth for future generations is something I want to be a part of.  In the back of my mind is always a voice saying:  "What are you doing to preserve the earth?  Which side are you on?"

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville has a Forestry program that I am interested in.  Tennessee is my home, and I'd like to study here if I can, and since the Smoky Mountains are nearby, I presume it must be a decent school to study Forestry at....am I wrong??


Some facts of who i am:
--After school, I'm willing to work virtually anywhere...I plan on traveling extensively for the sake of traveling one day anyway.
--Experiences are more important to me than money and materials.  As long as I have enough money to live comfortably(perhaps help support a family), and stay out of debt, I'll be satisfied.
--I'm willing to work hard at studying at school, and to remain a student after school....If my heart will be in it, I know I will have no problem staying on top of the latest scientific discoveries.
--And simply, I feel more at peace in the outdoors...and knowing that I'm doing my part to care for that will give me peace of mind, too.


I'm good w/ mathematics, though sketchy in Algebra.  I've never attempted any math beyond Algebra, and seriously doubt I can handle it...does that exclude me from being a good forester?
On the other hand, I'm very good at communication, especially written.  I read and write well, and am becoming more and more savvy w/ computers.

These are some of my basic attributes.  If some of you would give me some feedback on how practical a career in forestry could be for me, or give me general advice, I'd appreciate it! 
I discovered this board last night, and I am so glad I did.   So much information. 
Thanks for having me!

~Brandon
"The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well."- Ralph Emerson

Offline Tom

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Re: Considering a career in Forestry....advice wanted.
« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2005, 03:54:45 PM »
Brandon,

I want to answer with your statement
Quote
The idea of taking care of the earth for future generations is something I want to be a part of.  In the back of my mind is always a voice saying:  "What are you doing to preserve the earth?  Which side are you on?"
being the center of the conversation.

Forestry is a great occupation.  it isn't a "salvation of the earth" type job.  Those who approach the environment with the feeling that some people are destroyers and they are Saviour's usually end up being  the ones that are way out on a limb, to coin a phrase, and lose the reality that nature includes human beings as well as earth quakes.

Foresters want the best for a forest.  They care about the health of the wildlife, the stability of the land as well as the growth of the trees.  It doesn't stop there though.  They also are aware that the products of the forest can be used or wasted.  They are schooled to judge when those products can be harvested and the best means to go about it.

Here is where many, who have jumped on the conservation bandwagon, lose track of reality and become preservationists.  Keep an open mind as you learn what the forests provide for humanity and how fauna fits into the existence of life on our planet.  Never lose sight of the fact that Humans, although at the top of the food chain, are still a part of Nature and our use of what she provides doesn't make us destroyers.

You will also find that supporting a family is more than being able to help, and just staying out of debt is condemning them to a subsistence lifestyle, that may fit you, but, isn't conducive to their success.  It's something that youth overlooks in its exuberance to reach goals without having the experiences to guide them.  Most of us all entered life with the world's salvation as a goal, or at least the control of a country, large corporation or piece of equipment.  I mention the equipment because it is driving the Fire Truck that attracts us to that occupation long before we are aware that fireman also jeopardize themselves to pull victims from a burning building.  It's just a matter of experience and we all should give ourselves the learning room in life to have learning experiences before we judge our path as being the 'right' one for us or not.

Here you will meet Foresters, woodsmen and others with life experiences that will be helpful to you in discerning your goals.  Be aware of the pitfalls of following someone who is only following a dream. 

You are surrounded by good schools. The U. of Tennessee is definitely one, but, also within shouting distance are Clemson, The University of Georgia in Athens, Auburn and a myriad of smaller schools that provide good Agricultural backgrounds.  Big schools are tough.  It's like trying to make it in a big city without knowing anyone.  Make sure that you have some sort of network and community about you before you dive into a school where personal attention may be difficult to obtain.   

How practical a career in Forestry will be for you really depends on what you expect from life.  There are many aspects of the field that are careers in their own right.  Forestry uses Entomology, but Entomology is a field of its own.  So will you find Genetics, botany and, even to some extent, Veterinary Medicine.  Don't approach life, or school, with blinders and a narrow view.  Dabble in as much as your time will allow and Listen to those who have gone before you.
extinct

Offline crtreedude

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Re: Considering a career in Forestry....advice wanted.
« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2005, 04:19:20 PM »
Brandon,

You just got some serious words of wisdom from Tom. Conservation is a good thing, but becareful in realizing you don't have a right to destroy others livelyhood.

If you want to preserve nature - that takes money - lots of it. I can tell you that if you are wanting to save nature, get a really good job and buy land or contribute to that.  Preserving nature because someone is paying you to do it is just a job.  Someone has to pay for the preservation - or anything else for that matter.

Working in forestry might be an important contribution - but it isn't yours, it is those who are paying your salary. Trust me,  not everyone who works for me is even concerned about the environment - they are happy for the paycheck.

So, how did I end up here anyway?

Offline tnlogger

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Re: Considering a career in Forestry....advice wanted.
« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2005, 05:17:33 PM »
 first welcome to the forum Brandon
 take Tom's words to heart but get in touch with the local state forestry and talk to some of the foresters
Thay can give you a lot of very good info.
gene

Offline BrandonTN

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Re: Considering a career in Forestry....advice wanted.
« Reply #4 on: December 11, 2005, 07:48:00 PM »
Thanks, guys.  I'll try and slow down and breathe and take it one step at a time as I go about this. 
"The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well."- Ralph Emerson

Offline ellmoe

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Re: Considering a career in Forestry....advice wanted.
« Reply #5 on: December 11, 2005, 10:21:46 PM »
Brandon,

   Ditto what Tom said.  I have a degree in forestry and conservation and have worked for state government, private industry, and myself in this field. Most of the jobs will be in state government or the forest industry. You will find the salary in most of the governments jobs to be very low for the education and skill levels involved. To begin with, I found that not to be a problem, but once I realized that I like to eat regularly, my thoughts changed. :) The jobs will range from timber sales to recreation management on to enviromental regulation. Industial jobs will usually be involved in the havesting/prodution/procurement of timber. I think a "Park Service" type of job is more what you are looking for. If you go this route, please educate yourself on the difference between conservation (wise use) and preservation (lock everyone out and throw away the key). I encountered many people in my career that did not have a clue how "nature" works. Unfortunately, the jobs they gravitated to tended to be in enviromental regulation or "education". Well meaning they might be, "saving the earth" they are not.

    If you really have a passion for the outdoor field, look at volunteering with your state's forestry or wildlife agencies. You will gain some experience, make some contacts, and maybe this will help you determine if you really like this type of work.

   Also, take a look at the curriculm at the foretry school of your choice. You will find that science and math are stressed. Calculus and statistics will be required.

   Good luck.


   Mark
Thirty plus years in the sawmill/millwork business. A sore back and arthritic fingers to prove it!

Offline VT4stry

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Re: Considering a career in Forestry....advice wanted.
« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2005, 11:31:23 AM »
I've been in forestry for close to 30 years. I've worked on just about every side of the fence possible with the exception of being a tree hugger.

The field of forestry is multi-faceted. There are many types. Researchers, college professors, state and federal land managers, industrial, consulting foresters working with various landowners -  just to name a few. The "field" forester has one goal in mind - growing trees. Good ones also care about doing this properly, that is doing the least amount of damage to the environment as possible.

Government jobs are difficult to obtain and can be difficult ones to hold on to. I've been "bumped" out of mine twice while working for the Commonwealth of mASSachusetts. Not to mention the political factors.

Industrial foresters are faced with producing logs at the lowest cost possible, no matter what the weather. Competition is always nipping at your heals. And are always trying to please their employer AND the supplier.

Consulting can be successful - depending on the area and the attitude of landowers in that area. Some feel the forester is just another middleman picking their pockets.......until they find out the deal they made with the logger/sawmill wasn't so good and look at the mess they left me. That being said there are some excellent loggers and mills who care about their reputation.

All in all, it can be a difficult vocation to make a living at. It's good for a young person who doesn't need much, it can be more difficult as time goes on and the expectation of an increased salary, benefits, etc.... there aren't any rich foresters out there, not to mention the wear and tear on the body.

I've had great times and wouldn't trade them for anything. I've also had times when I was wondering if I had to pick up returnable bottles to make ends meet. I guess it all depends on what type of life style you can live with and what type of position you end up with and can hold on to.

Good luck with your decision.

Offline crtreedude

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Re: Considering a career in Forestry....advice wanted.
« Reply #7 on: December 12, 2005, 11:35:34 AM »
What was weird is that when I was in High School my dream job would have been to be a forest ranger. Out of the office - in the outdoors, etc. But, I saw that it was going to be really hard to get a job - it seems a lot of other folk had the same idea.

Roll the clock forward about 25 years and now I own a reforestation project. I have a full-time forestry engineer as well as workers, etc. What is weird about it was that I had forgotten my dream - until after I started the new company.

You can always keep the dream alive, but you might just shift around a bit. Oh, but I still working in an office most of the time.

So, how did I end up here anyway?

Offline Ron Wenrich

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Re: Considering a career in Forestry....advice wanted.
« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2005, 05:36:24 PM »
One nice thing about a degree, after you have it, no one can take it away from you.  It doesn't guarantee a job, but it does open up a lot of doors that are closed to others.

I got my degree 35 years ago.  I've worked as a mill hand, choker setter, log scaler, feller, procurement forester, consulting forester, utility forester and head sawyer.  Many of those positions don't require a BS degree.  But, it helped me do a better job.

Foresters aren't the ones that do too much work in the woods anymore.  That is relegated to technicians and starting foresters.  Foresters with experience usually get bumped up into the planning and administrative matters of the business.  Technicians usually don't move up the ladder without any education, no matter how much experience.  You can get an Associates degree in forestry.

There are several avenues you can take with a BS degree.  I know of a few loggers that have the degree, and they do outstanding work.  I also know a timber agent that has an Associates degree in forestry and a BA in business.

I went to school with one fellow that had a major in forestry and a minor in journalism.  That isn't something you see very often.  That can open up a few doors, especially if you like to write about the environment and travel.  The combinations are as many as you would like.

As for not getting rich, I don't know about that.  I've always managed to make as much as many other degreed people.  I've even made out better than most, considering that I don't put in those long 60 hour weeks for a salary anymore.  But, its the way I've built myself in the trade. 

The best thing to do is to figure out where you want to go and what you want to be, then figure out a way of getting there.  There are a lot of different paths.  None are wrong, as long as you're happy.   ;)

Never under estimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

Offline DMax

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Re: Considering a career in Forestry....advice wanted.
« Reply #9 on: December 12, 2005, 08:04:44 PM »
Brandon,
Have you considered a recreation degree at all? You can work outdoors, travel, work close to or far from home, and help people and the environment. Both UT and MTSU have rec programs. I am minoring in rec at MTSU. They have three tracs...theraputic rec, rec admin, and outdoor rec. I know many rec graduates who have gone on to run summer camps, work for county or city rec departments, work in therapudic horseback programs for disabled children, work for state/federal park/forest services. There is a wide variety of options. I am certainly not trying to talk you out of forestry, just trying to throw out another option that might coincide with your intrests/goals.

Also, I just remembered your graphic design degree. That gives you many more options. I also enjoy the Smokies, and I think about all of the promotional literature/pamphlets they produce.

Anyways, these guys have said some great things to you already. Where in Nashville are you? I am in Franklin.

David

Offline BrandonTN

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Re: Considering a career in Forestry....advice wanted.
« Reply #10 on: December 12, 2005, 11:26:09 PM »
So working for the government is not all it's cracked up to be?  ...what about benefits, or retirement w/ the gov't?

I like the idea of having a BS in forestry w/ an associate degree in graphic design.   Who design's the Forest Service's websites?  ;D 

So the forestry field is pretty wide... I really like that.  Tailor-made like.  It sounds challenging, in a self-motivating kind of way.  Being my own boss is very favorable to me.  And I dont mind working in an office.  I just dont want to be wishing 20 years from now I'd persued that forestry notion when I didn't....But the idea that there is not a clear-cut path in this profession is what turns me on.  I like the variety you guys speak of.


Hey David!  I live in Forest Hills in Nashville....pretty much on the Brentwood/Nashville border.  I'm renting a basement apartment from a widowed lady who lives in FL, and I'm working full time during the day at a printshop in Cool Springs, and going to class at night basically in Donelson. --> International Academy of Design and Technology.

Thanks again, guys!  I so appreciate your sharing of experience and wisdom w/ me. 
"The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well."- Ralph Emerson

Offline crtreedude

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Re: Considering a career in Forestry....advice wanted.
« Reply #11 on: December 13, 2005, 06:24:33 AM »
There are two approaches to take in life - you can decide I love something and study it and try to make a job out of it. I used to see this all the time in foreign autos (about 25 years ago when they were not so common) - a person would love cars, so he would get a job as a partsman or a mechanic... and grow to hate the things. Sometimes, the best way to kill a love for something is to make it your job. Not always, but I have seen it enough times to mention it.

The reason is that if you don't enjoy the "work" part of it, and think it is play - you will soon detest it. Because it IS work.

The other mode is to do something you are really good at that pays well. Then that will allow you the time to do your hobbies. Or, you can decide to live on less, which also gives you time to do the things you wish. I enjoy my work because I decided to enjoy it. It isn't always enjoyable if you know what I mean.

I really agree in cross-training. If you can do it - this opens up a lot of opportunities. I am not referring to time in a classroom either (though that is one way). Those who continue learning all their life never seem to find it hard to find a new job. Those who go to school, get a profession and never crack another book can find that their career moved past them... Not a good thing to find out when you are in your late forties to early fifties that no one wants you because you are out of date by a decade or more.

I am one of the ignorant ones as far as college education - I have none. I only own three businesses and starting a fourth right now.  ::)

just my dos colones
So, how did I end up here anyway?

Offline Modat22

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Re: Considering a career in Forestry....advice wanted.
« Reply #12 on: December 13, 2005, 11:41:13 AM »
I agree with Crtreedude. I've been a CAD man for 15 years and build repair computers and networks. I started off loving the work but now I get physically depressed when I start to think about a computer. Over the past year or so I've been trying to do some side line consulting work in a totally different field (electrostatic precipitators) for paper mills, concrete producers etc.
remember man that thy are dust.

Offline Texas Ranger

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Re: Considering a career in Forestry....advice wanted.
« Reply #13 on: December 13, 2005, 02:38:06 PM »
DMax, I have a friend on the soutwest side of Nashville, Belmead,  that was a technician for me for several years.  Talking with someone like him, who sees the underbelly of forestry (work) may be the best way to start.  Start out with the state people, there are those who like working for the state, I did for 15 years, and have been a consultant for 25. 

Money can be tight, jobs hard to find, and frustration levels that wander all over the chart.  But I would do nothing else for my life.

Oh, my tech friend was a preacher, really hard to train some one that has grand ideas that have little to do with the real world, so anticipate that what you see now may not be what you see in a few years. 
The Ranger, home of Texas Forestry

Offline Ron Scott

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Re: Considering a career in Forestry....advice wanted.
« Reply #14 on: December 13, 2005, 07:17:40 PM »
After 38 years with the USDA-Forest Service and 11 years as a consultant, I continue this career because of the exercise. ;) Also, where else can one get paid for walking and always seeing new areas. :D
~Ron

Offline Tillaway

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Re: Considering a career in Forestry....advice wanted.
« Reply #15 on: December 13, 2005, 10:02:07 PM »
I'm 6 years with the feds, 13 years working for forestry consulting firms, and now just over two years with the state.  I like the state so far... although the traveling was fun for a while.

Private pays the best, but you work lots of hours.  Government pay is all over and depends on agency or state, but you get to keep a normal life, except during fire season. ;) 

The best pay is the most risky, acquiring lands and managing them.  It helps to have access to someone with loads of dough, try multimillion dollar credit lines, to be successful.  You can buy smaller tracks but in this area, buying bulk pencils out the best.
Making Tillamook Bay safe for bait; one salmon at a time.

Offline Pullinchips

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Re: Considering a career in Forestry....advice wanted.
« Reply #16 on: December 14, 2005, 03:20:49 PM »
Tom put it very well.

As said before there are many aspects of the career, but if you tend to be a preservationist yau may be headed toward the wrong direction, unless you want to work for an agency like The Nature Conservancy.  Point is, forestry's main goal is to grow trees better and faster for the market.  To get the best growth for a good rate of return.  But that said MONEY is not all of it, healthy forests are part of it many people want trees to look at and hike in and some gov. agencys have them for many purposes, and harvesting is an element to ensure the overall forest health, if done at the correct times and the correct amount.  Nowadays as said before land development is a big part of it, your boss may buy a pristine tract of timber, clearcut it and then divide it off for tract houses.  If you can not be a part of this you may want to look into another aspect of the field if you cann't promote such practices. 

Also forestry is not the only career related to the outdorrs, as said before there is Parks and Recreation degrees available.  There are Wildlife biology degrees and agriculture degrees, and many others. 

All big schools are not big in all aspects. I currently atted Clemson. Although the Fresman classes are large once in the Forestry classes they are not so big that you get lost.  The forestry class that enter here at clemson is usually around 35 people. If you already have many core classes it is likely that at any state school you could start as a sophmore and finish in 3 years. There are many like minded people here as well as all other large schools in forestry.  There is generally a common background and list of activities shared by most. 

UT did not have a very large forestry program several years ago (or at least their forestry club was very small).  I do not know the enrolement but at conclave 2004 they only had a hand full of people there.  UGA is a very good school, as is any of the southern schools of forestry UT included.  I am not trying to start a who's school is better thread.

You mentioned math.  Forestry is very math and calculation orinted.  A strong understanding of statistics and algebra is required. At clemson we were required to take an elementary calculas class.  Other math related classes not in the department can be classes like soil science and Physics and chemistry.  These all depend on the school you attend and what their degree requires.  Although to be acredited by SAF (society of American
Foresters), they all require similar of the same curriculums to meet their standards.

I'm not an expert on the field and not tring to be.  I'm young, problaly half to a quater of these other guys here but these are just the things that i have seen in my experience.

-Nate
Graduate Assistant
Clemson University
Resident Forester
US Army Corps of Engineers: Savannah District

Clemson Forestry Grad 2004
MFR Clemson University 2006
Stihl MS 390

Offline crtreedude

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Re: Considering a career in Forestry....advice wanted.
« Reply #17 on: December 14, 2005, 03:48:03 PM »
Wadda ya mean, 1/2  to a 1/4 our age!

Let's see here, I am x and he is just graduating -oops, I think you are right!

So, how did I end up here anyway?

Offline BrandonTN

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Re: Considering a career in Forestry....advice wanted.
« Reply #18 on: December 14, 2005, 09:24:37 PM »
Thanks again, ctreedude, Tillaway, Ron, Texas Ranger

Quote
Forestry is very math and calculation orinted.  A strong understanding of statistics and algebra is required. At clemson we were required to take an elementary calculas class.

Thanks Pullinchips.  So, algebra is actually used outside test taking.  :o   
When I last attempted algebra, I had very little enthusiasm or ambition to study it(I was planning on being a writer at that time).  I gave it minimal effort....and because of that I've always written myself off as the "can't get it type."  Perhaps if I actually cracked a book on my own or w/ a tutor I might get it....  ? 
So, in everyday forestry work, algebra and calculus is used?

You also mentioned rec. degrees....I'm more interested in the science behind trees and forestry.  I have a genuine interest in trees. 
And no, I don't think I'm interested in preservation.  After reading this thread, my understanding of the difference in the two has changed...for the better.  Tom helped me realize that humans are a part of nature, and what we use is not "destroying."  I have a tendency to be too critical of our human consumption, but I see now that I need to work on seeing it as necessary, and not BAD.  And in a way, foresters do preserve the land by getting the most out of it, right?  If there were no foresters, we'd have no trees left at all.  So that's what I'm interested in.  Actually being of SERVICE to humanity via growing trees better.



On further reflection:

BEfore I write a rec degree off, mayube I should get a better understanding of what that entails.  UT has a Forestry Wildland Recreatoin degree...what is that exactly?
How is the job market in that field?
What sort of work is it?
Does it use algebra and/or calculus?
"The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well."- Ralph Emerson

Offline Ron Wenrich

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Re: Considering a career in Forestry....advice wanted.
« Reply #19 on: December 15, 2005, 05:56:20 AM »
I don't think there are a whole lot of private sector jobs for rec majors.  Most of those jobs tend to be at the government level, and some of those don't pay very well.

I didn't do that well in calculus.  I did OK in the other math courses and you will use statistics in many fields.  You will be taking samples, then constructing the current forest from your data.  Then, you will project what the future forest will be given certain input.  What that input is will be dependent on your interpretation of the data. 

I do take issue with money being the driving issue in forest management.  It may be in certain situations, may not be in others.  When you look only at the monetary value of the commodity, you lose the real value of the forest.  Trees have intrisic values that are hard to measure in dollars.  Aesthetic, wildlife, erosion control, and now carbon sequestration.  Too often the dollar value wins out, and we are all poorer.  This doesn't imply preservation, but wise use.
Never under estimate the power of stupid people in large groups.


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