Forest Worker Jobs
Forest workers perform a variety of tasks in an effort to conserve, maintain and reforest the natural trees and vegetation of the National Forest Service lands.
Although duties vary greatly depending on job position, ranging from hard manual labor to scientific research and resource management, all forest worker positions tend to be physically demanding. Forest workers must be in good physical condition and be able to work outdoors every day, in good or bad weather and isolated areas. It may be necessary to hike long distances through densely wooded areas while performing their job duties, and since tasks are often assigned to groups of workers, they must be able to work comfortably as part of a team.
Because so many forest worker tasks and duties take place outside, the lower level positions are typically seasonal, and students are often hired for short-term labor during the summer months. For those who like to work outside and don’t mind getting dirty, forest worker positions are an ideal way to combine a love of nature and the satisfaction of a job well-done.
FACT! Over a 50 year time span, a single tree will generate $31,250 worth of oxygen, provide $62,000 worth of air pollution control, recycle $37,500 worth of water, and control $31,250 worth of soil erosion.
Forest worker positions range from relatively unskilled directed manual labor tasks to highly trained scientific studies and resource management. Some of those positions are:
- Reforestation Crews, also known as tree planters, use digging and planting tools called dibbles to plant seedlings for planned reforestation of National Forest Service timberland areas.
- General Forest Worker duties involve the directed removal of diseased or undesirable trees with hand or power saws, spraying trees with insecticides and fungicides for insect control and disease protection, and the application of herbicides to eliminate undesirable competing vegetation. They sometimes work alongside fire prevention crews, assisting in clear cutting in an effort to reduce and prevent forest fires. Under the direction of foresters, forest workers may paint boundary lines, aid in the marking and measuring of tree populations, and keep tallies of examined trees.
- Foresters are the skilled technicians, administration, and management of this operational field. They use science and technology to ensure the proper development, conservation and maintenance of forests and rangelands, and their associated natural resources, including timber, soil, water, plant, wildlife, fish habitats and outdoor recreation areas. Foresters plan, initiate and conduct surveys and studies of forest resource management projects and programs. They identify problems or deficiencies, and develop workable solutions and improvement plans.
FACT! The planting of trees helps to improve our water quality by reducing run-off and soil erosion, which recharges our ground water supply. The United States currently plants an average of 1 million trees per year.
Education and Pay
A high school diploma is sufficient for general forest workers and reforestation crews, who typically develop their skills through on-the-job training directed by foresters or by more experienced workers. Field training programs in forest work and reforestation skills are also popular with high school students, who then use their experience to find summer jobs in the outdoors. Some vocational schools and community colleges offer two year degree programs in forest and wildlife management, conservation and forest harvesting, which can be useful for those people who want to bridge the gap between general forest workers and foresters. To actually be hired as a forester, more rigorous training is required.
To qualify for a forester position, applicants must have completed a bachelor’s or higher degree in forestry from an accredited institution, or in a related subject field including at least 24 semester units of forestry courses. In either case, the curriculum must have included coursework in forest biology, forest resource management and inventory and renewable resource management. Field experience is not always required, but it’s always a plus on your resume.
Beginning or inexperienced forest workers typically earn the minimum wage set by whichever state they are working in. Foresters qualify for grade 9 of the General Schedule (GS) category of the Federal Wage System. An entry level forester can expect to make about $20 per hour, with promotion and pay increases up to about $23 per hour within the first three or four years, and then a 3% pay increase every three years after that for satisfactory job performance. The salary tops out at about $25 to $30 per hour.
- Most forest workers develop their skills through on-the-job training.
- Seasonal demand for forest workers can vary by region and time of year.
- Forest worker positions require no specific training or education beyond a high school diploma or equivalency.
- Foresters are required to have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher in forestry, or in a related subject field including at least 24 semester units of forestry courses.
- Entry level forest workers can expect to make the state minimum hourly wage.
- Foresters typically start out at about $20 per hour.