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Author Topic: Prospective Forestry Student with questions  (Read 4179 times)

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Offline locustoak

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Prospective Forestry Student with questions
« on: July 16, 2009, 09:31:03 PM »
I've been thinking about going to school and getting a degree in forestry.  I really enjoy trees and working in the woods, but I'm very uncertain about going that route in the current economy.  I'm also interested in a couple other things,  so the answers to these questions will help me to decide if I should pursue a major in forestry or something else.

1.  I was wondering what the current job market looks like?  I know most people here say it's bad, but is it a local thing?  I'm in the midwest.  And does the future look bright?
2.  What exactly does a forester do?  Do you mainly talk with the landowner about managing the land, the logging companies and sawmills,  and mark trees?  Or does a forester do much of the "dirty work" - thinning and planting?
3. Does it pay good?

Any comments are appreciated! Thanks.

Offline Texas Ranger

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Re: Prospective Forestry Student with questions
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2009, 11:46:31 PM »
I've been thinking about going to school and getting a degree in forestry.  I really enjoy trees and working in the woods, but I'm very uncertain about going that route in the current economy.  I'm also interested in a couple other things,  so the answers to these questions will help me to decide if I should pursue a major in forestry or something else.

1.  I was wondering what the current job market looks like?  I know most people here say it's bad, but is it a local thing?  I'm in the midwest.  And does the future look bright?
2.  What exactly does a forester do?  Do you mainly talk with the landowner about managing the land, the logging companies and sawmills,  and mark trees?  Or does a forester do much of the "dirty work" - thinning and planting?
3. Does it pay good?

Any comments are appreciated! Thanks.

Job market in forestry like everything else, poor.  I don't see it being local, mills are off, loggers off, product not selling.  Does not look good.  Forestry is going through a shake up on where we stand in the environmental equation.

We do all of that, and what part you take on is what you have an interest in doing.  I am a consultant, I get a bit of all of it, company hands can be specialized, or general, gubment hands usually get specialized and politicized all at the same time.

Pay depends.  Starting out, no, low end, here in Texas foresters are on a par with teachers.  A lot of paying your dues in forestry for the first few years.  An honest, ethical forester can do alright as a consultant, a dishonest, unethical forester can do better as a consultant, at the expense of the client.  IF you are a self starter, going the consulting route can be very satisfying, but if you need structured environment you need to work for the company or gubment.
The Ranger, home of Texas Forestry

Offline Jasperfield

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Re: Prospective Forestry Student with questions
« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2009, 12:22:54 AM »
locustoak,

Welcome! After a while you'll find this site is a refuge of sane-thinking folks. We say what we think and don't easily take offence.

We don't know much about you; but you've posted wanting answers / responses, etc. And, presuming you're way under 40... I'm going to be frank (not Frank). And to wit:

Currently, we don't have an economy in the sense of a stable, predictable, forward outlook. The "economy" to which you refer no longer exists.

Today is the middle of July and nothing is going on!

How many log trucks, concrete trucks, Lowe's trucks, Home Depot trucks, dump trucks, A-frame glass trucks, Wells-Fargo trucks, Electric Utility trucks, etc., did you see on the highway today?

How about all the Lawn Mowing trucks? Did you see any of the large beer trucks?

How about those long, wide, low-boys carrying extra-wide boats from coast-to-coast?

And... Did you see any contract haulers carrying the shiney new Caterpillar/Volvo/Baker/Wood-Mizer/Payeur/CMS/Blueox/Timberwolf/Blockbuster/Baker/Peterson/TimberKing/MenomineeSaw/Norwood/TruckPartCity/BlueOx/Egimann/Logrite equipment?

The "shutting down" of the economy is not a local thing. It's nationwide.

You ask if the "future is bright". The future is always bright, albeit, not immediately so.

The future is ours. J.R. Ewing said: "...you're not given control...You take it."

And, yes, Foresters do thin, plant, grub, grovel, etc. But, once you get your mind in the right place it's not "dirty work".

My dad used to say: "The money is in doing the things that other people can't do, or they don't want to do."

He was right.





Offline WDH

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Re: Prospective Forestry Student with questions
« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2009, 12:29:29 AM »
Even though things are currently bleak, in fact you could say more bleak forestry wise than anytime in the last 100 years or more, I believe that the future of forestry is bright because the world really needs forestry.  We are at the pit of the cycle, which in fact is a good time to begin your field of study since when you acquire a degree and enter the real world, things will probably have turned around for the better. 

Biofuels and biomass for energy are going to play a big part in the future.  Forests will play a key role.  So, you have to think ahead, not just look at what you see now which is very discouraging.  We need new young professionals to take forestry to the next level.  If it is a passion for you, then I encourage you to pursue it.  If you only want to make a lot of money easy, then don't go the forestry route.  That takes passion.  If you only want to benefit from the toil of others, get a business degree and become a Wall Street Analyst  :).

You are asking good questions.  There are a number of people here on this forum that may help you come up with some answers.
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Offline locustoak

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Re: Prospective Forestry Student with questions
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2009, 12:01:02 PM »
Thanks for your help everyone.  I enjoy taking care of my parents woodlot.  I've been removing many of the bad trees, thinning it out, and will be planting trees as soon as I get some seeds.  My goal is to someday own a few hundred acres of woodland here in the Midwest, whether or not I become a forester.  I may pursue another field of study, and keep forestry as just a hobby if I can buy my own land.  I really enjoy walking through the woods and looking at the trees.  I can already Identify almost all the trees in the woods.

The biggest problem I have is spending so much money on an education, but then if I graduate and I can't get a job in this field, It would have been a waste of time and then I'd have to do a lot of work to pay off the school loans.  Although I do have a little experience in this area - I spent 2 years at a sawmill working the kilns, stocking bins, and running the planer and ripsaw. 

Also another downside for me in this field is I am a shy person so I don't like working with people.  And my back isn't in very good shape.  I'm only 23 and my back has gone out twice.  So I really don't want to be doing much manual labor.

Offline Clark

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Re: Prospective Forestry Student with questions
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2009, 01:44:17 PM »
If you want to become one, I think you are on the right track to one day being a forester.  Enjoying being outside when the weather is nice and not minding when the weather is poor is a prereq. for most entry-level forestry positions.  It sounds like that won't be a problem for you.

One thing that getting your forestry degree allows you to do is direct the people doing the dirty work.  I enjoy playing the part of a logger or a tree planter...but only for a couple of days!  There is no way I want a permanent, full-time job as a logger or tree planter though.  You can get a degree and pursue those options, but you can also find jobs where you are doing the prep. work and supervision for logging, tree planting, etc.

The exact responsibilities of a forester depend on who they work for.  Typically, performing inventory and/or timber cruising, marking riparian or clear-cut boundaries, marking trees for individual or group selection, writing up logging contracts, contacting landowners or contractors...the list goes on.  I wouldn't describe forestry as a job requiring lots of manual labor but it does require one to be in shape and stay on his feet all day.

Clark
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Offline Texas Ranger

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Re: Prospective Forestry Student with questions
« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2009, 02:40:36 PM »
I have known a few shy foresters, they usually end up working for the other fellow, i.e., not in leadership.  A forester is/has got to be a people person, on the job, getting the job, directing the job, finding clients, etc. 

As far as wasting the money, no education is a waste of money.  A lot of foresters start out in forestry and move on to another vocation, lawyer, preacher, etc, education IS.
The Ranger, home of Texas Forestry

Offline WDH

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Re: Prospective Forestry Student with questions
« Reply #7 on: July 19, 2009, 10:12:06 AM »
I agree with TR. 

Locustoak, you are not wasting your money on an education.  It can open many avenues for you, even if you are shy.  You may as well be shy educated rather than shy uneducated :).
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Offline park ranger

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Re: Prospective Forestry Student with questions
« Reply #8 on: July 23, 2009, 02:54:21 AM »
I work as a park ranger in a state park and most of the other rangers I know also have a forestry education.  I also work with lots of other people with forestry backgrounds and they do all sorts of other jobs.  The degree seems to open the door in the natural resource area.  I've worked as a fire fighter, lookout tower, survey aide on highways, survey crew on a boat and that doesn't count the jobs I didn't take.  In the time you spend in school the job market might open up.  There are great jobs that a foresty degree will help you get. Good luck

Offline fkarcha

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Re: Prospective Forestry Student with questions
« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2009, 01:00:37 PM »
If you're interest in finding out what a forester actually does, why do you peruse the job postings on www.forestryusa.com and www.canadian-forests.com.  The job descriptions should tell you what a forester does.

Offline locustoak

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Re: Prospective Forestry Student with questions
« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2009, 07:50:51 PM »
Thanks again for your help, everyone!   I'm definately going back to school as I can't stand my current job.  The plan right now is to major in Geology, since I'm interested in that as well, and it puts me outside.  I hope to attend a school that has a forestry program, so if I decide to switch majors, I can.   :P

I'm still open for comments.  The more opinions/advice, the better.

Offline scottmphoto

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Re: Prospective Forestry Student with questions
« Reply #11 on: August 26, 2009, 04:59:50 PM »
   While I'm not strictly in forestry, I am a Parks & Rec major (38-years old) with an emphasis in Natural Resources and according to what I see here in Arkansas, the job outlook is fairly good...depending on exactly what you're looking for. We have city, county, state and federal parks. There is state and federal game and fish, BLM...etc. Lots of places, depending on where you're willing to start out with.

Offline tyb525

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Re: Prospective Forestry Student with questions
« Reply #12 on: August 26, 2009, 09:00:33 PM »
Locustoak, I too am looking at becoming a forester or having a career in the forestry/timber/wood processing industry. 
LT10G10, Stihl 038 Magnum, many woodworking tools. Currently a farm service applicator, trying to find time to saw!

Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: Prospective Forestry Student with questions
« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2009, 04:43:41 AM »
The last few years I've done mostly pre-commercial thinning. I have run my own crews and I am now working for someone else doing pretty much exactly the same tasks. Thinning is hard work, let no one tell ya different. But, in our local economy it also pays  2-3 times more if your willing to work. I'm not only cutting brush, I spend as much time marking out the job sites with a GPS and flagging tape for a crew of over 20 men. I also meet with woodlot owners and ask if they need any thinning done as well.  Most woodlot owners I meet say thin all you find since they get it done on government subsidy at pretty much no cost. Right now I'm working on a private woodlot near home. I also have a pile of maps the boss just sent for 2 weeks of marking out. It kind of gives ya a break. This work is seasonal but I don't have any debt over my head or anyone to support. The biggest annual bills I get is those darn insurance notices. I guess I'm insurance poor. :D
Move'n on.

Offline Phorester

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Re: Prospective Forestry Student with questions
« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2009, 09:53:26 AM »
As you're finding out, there is a lot of different jobs within the forestry profession.  Some may only do one thing - a procurement forester for a sawmill or bigger forest products industry (paper company for example) probably does nothing except buy trees for his employer.  But part of that would be to mark the trees to be cut, develop timber volumes, lay out the sale area, which involves locating skid trails, stream crossings, log deck location, haul roads, get necessary permits, supervise the logging crews, etc. 

Consulting foresters may concentrate only on selling timber for their clients for a comission of the sale price.  They would then mark the trees to be cut, develop timber volumes, sale prospectus, lay out the sale, locate haul roads, skid trails, etc.  Some consultants get into specialized services like planting crews or thining crews.

Research foresters do research.  Some forestry graduates go into teaching.  Some get into engineering and design logging equipment, fire fighting equipment, etc. Some get into forest fire fighting.  Some get into environmental cousulting, environmental lawyers, etc. 

My job is with a State forestry agency.  The VDOF offers a lot of services to landowners.  In my job I write forest management plans, look at sick yard trees and diagnose the insect or disease problem, give talks, teach forestry seminars and fire fighting courses, help county governments with their comprehensive plans, do prescribed burns, run bulldozers, occasionally fly in helicopters and airplanes, use ATVs, fight fires, do criminal investigation on fires and the resulting court work, lots more.  I like my job because it has a lot of variety, I can pretty much set my own schedule, I have the backing of a forest pathology lab within our department, I have a truck and the forestry and firefighting equipment I need, mechanics to take care of the vehicles and rolling stock, other foresters to discuss problems and ideas with, etc.  There are downsides, too.  Gov't bureaucracy can be downright stupid, inflexible, aggravating, and inhibiting.  Working with the public is sometimes not a picnic.

But every job will have both good and bad.  As long as the good outweighs the bad in your mind, then you have to realize that you  have a good job.

Get a basic 4 year degree.  While doing that, you will probably see the opportunities available and find the area within the profession you want to persue.

Remember that you will not be looking for a job for at least 4 years, so the economy then will be different than now (hopefully).  As has already been said, get the basic 4 year education.  It will lead you to a career and also prepare you for life, no matter what career you choose.
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Offline locustoak

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Re: Prospective Forestry Student with questions
« Reply #15 on: August 27, 2009, 07:57:40 PM »
Thanks again for the help everyone!  This week I started college at Purdue University.  For now I'm majoring in Natural Resources and Environmental science.  I decided to go with that since forestry is sorta in the drain right now.  If I want to I can concentrate on the forestry side of things or even add a minor in urban forestry.  I'm going to talk with my professors and advisors and see what they say about things.   I allready have 2 years of college under my belt - just general classes.  I should be able to knock this degree out in 2 or 2 1/2 years.  It looks to me like the economy will be worse in 2 years than it is now, so I will have to make some tough decisions in the future.

Since I'm typing this, does anyone know how to get involved in the state DNR, or any other government agency that deals with natural resources?  Even if it's just volunteer work for a couple hours on the weekend would be fine with me.  I'm trying to find a way to get some "experience."  I think that would help me best on deciding what avenue I want to take in the natural resources.

Online beenthere

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Re: Prospective Forestry Student with questions
« Reply #16 on: August 27, 2009, 08:14:27 PM »
Good luck to you at Purdue.

For getting in touch with the Indiana DNR, you may have already done that by posting here.  :)

Onewithwood would be my first suggestion. Send him a personal message (PM) and see if he will give you some names.

Or call the DNR number and ask to talk with a Forester there. That would be a good beginning.
Find and join the local SAF chapter, and find out when their meetings are. Try to attend them. Hopefully these meetings have a good attendance of members and area foresters. Get to know them, and let them know of your interests, ambitions, and ask for suggestions.

Keep in touch here as well.  :)
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Offline WDH

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Re: Prospective Forestry Student with questions
« Reply #17 on: August 28, 2009, 09:56:57 AM »
Focus on finding an Internship for the upcoming summer.  Companies come to the Forestry Schools in the South (I went to the University of Georgia) and interview beginning in January.  Purdue is a very respected school in this field, and I suspect that Internships will be offered to students.  Find out if there are any companies coming to interview by staying in contact with your school and sign up for the interviews.  Experience and initiative is critical in competing for a full time job after you graduate. 

Also, focus on your grades.  Make A's, not C's.  That says a lot about your commitment and drive.  Also get involved outside of class in clubs and other extra-curricular activites.  Show that you have leadership ability.  Good luck!
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Offline woodtroll

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Re: Prospective Forestry Student with questions
« Reply #18 on: August 28, 2009, 10:03:04 AM »
I would add if you can't work with a DNR for which ever state, start looking at summer work with the FS. They will train you and pay you for forestry work over the summer.

Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: Prospective Forestry Student with questions
« Reply #19 on: August 29, 2009, 05:59:35 AM »
Ditto to what WDH said. Also, our school had an employment centre where jobs were posted on the boards and interviews for those jobs were held right there to. I always had a summer job in forestry. I worked for a forest company in my first year, then Forestry Canada, then our local woodlot owner association for the remaining 3 summers. Some  interviews were kind of odd, it was like taking a Psychology test to measure and count trees.  Give me an axe. :D :D
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