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Getting a Late Start in Forestry

Started by menna_forest92, August 17, 2023, 09:48:32 AM

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Newly added member here. Thanks for letting me join. I am 31 years old, female, 6 months into my forestry work.
I have a BA in Biology, currently an MS in Biology student (studying forest ecology) in Virginia. 

This type of ecology/biology is very very very very interesting to me!!! 

However, I recognized after some searching that forest ecology falls under the umbrella of forestry. So here I am. I wanted some advice from women and men alike in the field.

I'm finishing my MS in Bio thesis in 2025, would like to work in forest inventory. While working Mon-Thu (as that is my understanding of the FIA's schedule), I want to venture out and get my second set of degrees in Forestry (BS and PhD) in Oregon 😻.

I've lived all over the place: New York, Virginia, Italy, Maryland etc.
It's definitely possible, a big time commitment and a costly endeavor. But I'm in love with this field. I also am enamored with trees.

But what is y'all's take on getting a PhD at ~45, in Forestry nonetheless. I've checked my knees, hips and made sure I don't have any debilitating genetic diseases. So far so good. But Idk, I've read some posts here with people working well into their 70s in forestry. I'm pretty darn excited if that is my case!

Thanks for reading me, and I hope to hear from you soon!

Texas Ranger

Good luck, you seem to have a plan and a goal.  I don't know about that 70 thing, seems a little short sighted.  And welcome to the most successful forest board on the web.
The Ranger, home of Texas Forestry



In your ideal world, what do you want to be doing once you have completed your education? He's what I did. (Now this began many, many years ago. Your experience may/will be different.)

I grew up in N.Carolina with Boy Scouts, hunting, fishing, hiking and camping. Both set of Gparents lived on farms, so at an early age, I learned the difference between priming a pump and priming tobacco (yes, "priming" is method of harvesting tobacco). In school I liked biology and chemistry, and both fed back in to hiking, hunting, fishing and farming. So, with the idea of "do what you enjoy"--long story short--I got a B.S. in Wildlife Biology. I was told from the beginning that to stand a chance of getting a job as a biologist, I would have to get an M.S., and I did.

That's probably where I should have stopped, education-wise. Had I landed a job--and that was no certainty--I would likely have worked with wildlife/resource/forestry--MANAGEMENT. I would have writing management plans, deal with hunters and fishermen, forest owners...mostly out in the woods and fields and in the community doing what I did as a kid, walking and talking, reading and writing about hunting, finshing, the outdoors...and getting paid to boot.

But I did not get a management job straight away, and by this time I had a family. I could not take off to Alaska to count caribou one summer and then trap problem bears in Yellowstone the next summer. What I could do was to stay in school and work on a Ph.D while getting paid as a research assistant and to teach. Fast-forward to completed Ph.D. Now I am considered less of a manager and more of a scientist/reseacher (but not quite done yet, because there's often post-doc work).

I do not regret getting my Ph.D., but it did put me in a different category when applying for work. There are of course exceptions, but the Ph.D. will direct you (maybe limit you) to teaching and research. The former also means advising students; the latter means (constantly) applying for research money.

The gov. agencies do hire Ph.D. and working with the Forest Service, State Fish and Wildlife or NPS would put you closer to the management boots on the ground--but these boots may not necessarily be yours. To land such a Ph.D/scientist position, you will have to have a proven research track record, so after you complete your Ph.D, you will have to "prove youself" with post-doc work and/or various short(er) term projects (all of which may be very cool, but with an uncertain future).

That was where I was when I jumped ship. Though I worked on a lot of cool stuff, I had a family, I was nearing 40 and I had very few fulltime, permanent job prospects without uprooting the family and moving (maybe repeatedly). So for the last 20 years, I have not worked as a biologist--professionally, but I still hunt, fish, hike and manage the family acreage in N.C.

This is my experience. Yours will be different. But again, where do you want to be once you complete your education (and how old wil you be when you get there)?


You summed that up very, very well. 
south central Wisconsin
It may be that my sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others


Praise The Lord


I agree with twar, formal education is over-rated unless it is required for what you want to do. A BS should be plenty to give you the foundation to gain the "real" education, which is on-the-job.

Foresters live long because they are active - normally they are walking the woods 3+ days per week. If you choose a research or desk job, you'll have to get your exercise some other way.
Kubota M7060 & B2401, Metavic log trailer, Cat E70B, Cat D5C, 750 Grizzly ATV, Wallenstein FX110, 84" Landpride rotary hog, Classic Edge 750, Stihl 170, 261, 462

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