Approximately 13,900 forest and conservation technicians are employed in the United States. About 38 percent of all technicians work for state and local agencies. Others work for the federal government. In this work setting, most jobs are in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service, while others are in the Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management. Opportunities in the federal government also exist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
State governments also employ forestry technicians to provide services to private forestland owners and to manage state forestlands. Many state cooperative extension services and departments of natural resources have forestry positions. County and municipal governments may also have forestry positions.
There are also a number of employment opportunities in the private sector. Technicians work with companies that manage forestlands for lumber, pulpwood, and other products. Companies that use forest products and suppliers of forestry equipment and materials also hire forestry technicians. Other employers include private estates, tree service companies, and forestry consulting firms.
Graduates of technical forestry programs have the best prospects for entering this profession. Although a two-year degree is not a requirement, you will find it much more difficult to find a job without one.
Technicians who have graduated from a college program usually learn about employment leads from their school's career services office, instructors, or guidance staff members. Students who have worked in forestry part time or during summers may be hired on a permanent basis after graduation. Working seasonally may also be a good way to break into the field.
If you choose to pursue a career in the private sector, you should apply directly to companies that employ forestry technicians.
Forestry technicians can advance in a number of different ways. Technicians who are federal employees advance to higher grades and better salaries after attaining a certain number of years of experience. However, competition for advancement can be fierce.
Some advancement opportunities require additional schooling. For example, a forestry technician who wants to become a forester needs to complete a four-year degree program. Other forestry technicians advance by moving into research work. Following are potential positions to which a technician can advance.
Timber cruisers supervise crews in the measurement of trees for volume computations. They keep records, run statistical analyses of volumes, and mark timber for sale. They recommend logging methods and use aerial photographs to locate future timber harvesting areas.
Forest-fire control technicians maintain fire control supplies in a central area and report fires by radio-telephone. They recruit, train, and supervise forest-fire wardens and crews, sometimes dispatching and serving as crew leaders in fire suppression. They also conduct investigations into the causes of fires and educate communities in fire prevention.
Refuge managers supervise work crews in game and fish management. They help plant food plots for wildlife and other plants for habitat improvement. They patrol restricted areas, conduct census studies, and make maps.
Sawmill managers supervise sawmills, oversee crew and production schedules, and keep payroll records.
Kiln operators supervise and control the kiln schedules for correct drying of lumber. They run drying tests and submit reports on loads of drying lumber.
Forest recreation technicians supervise the operation and maintenance of outdoor recreation facilities. They are responsible not only for tactful enforcement of rules but also for fire watches.
Assistant logging superintendents control harvesting and loading operations for timber sales. They help maintain safety, keep payroll and supply records, and write technical reports for superintendents.
Forestry consultants fill an increasingly important role in forestry by providing forestry services to people whose property or business does not require a permanent, full-time forester.
Experienced forestry technicians may also build rewarding careers in research. Research technicians perform many varied functions, such as obtaining data for computer analysis, helping develop new chemical fire retardants, and designing machines to prepare forest soils for planting. Research technicians work for private industries, large cities, or state and federal government agencies.
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