A professional who practises forestry, the science of managing forests, is called a forester. Foresters are involved in a large range of activities covering ecological restoration, timber harvesting and day-to-day management of protected areas. They look after regular activities in the forests including conservation, outdoor recreation, extraction of raw materials, aesthetics and hunting. With gradual rise in global pollution over the years, ensuring carbon sequestration, air quality and maintaining a proper biodiversity have all come under the jurisdiction of foresters.
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A forester's job profile covers everything from the creation of original Timber Harvest Plans (THPs) to the protection of natural resources and enforcement of forestry laws.
Foresters can also specialize in certain specific areas that harness their expertise. Timber foresting and conservation foresting are a couple of the most common areas of specialization for foresters. Timber foresters work for the timber companies. This means that they look after the farms and forests privately owned by the timber companies. Their job responsibility includes taking final call on harvesting trees, monitoring ecological impact of harvesting timber, determining whether to approve a Timber Harvest Plan (THP), keeping track of yields and marking trees for harvest.
On the other hand, the conservation foresters generally tend to focus a lot more on global ecosystems and proper watershed preservation in the forested regions. The primary job responsibilities of the conservation foresters cover conducting periodic survey of regional animals and plants and keeping track of human activity in the forests. Conservation foresters might work as timber foresters at times and support timber harvesting. However, their top priority is always to try and create sufficient protected areas in the forests so that visitors can freely enjoy nature.
For people looking forward to pursue a career in forestry, a full time bachelor's degree in forestry is a basic educational requirement. However, professional expertise with appropriate technical education may sometimes substitute for a full time forestry degree. With the rise in job competition in recent years, people with only expertise will find it difficult to climb high in the industry.
Different universities in different countries might have their own curriculum structure and requirements. In the US for example, almost 50 forestry programs are accredited by Society of American Foresters (SAF), which is the US governing authority for curriculum standards. Only degrees from the SAF accredited educational institutions enjoy creditability and recognition in the industrial sectors. The SAF approved forestry curriculums lay special stress on communication skills, science, mathematics and computer, in addition to the technical forestry subjects. Just having an interest in forestry may not be sufficient to help one find a solid footing in the industry. Students need to go through an extensive training curriculum to be able to develop scientific skills to a desired extent.
Apart from the normal curriculum, students will also need to complete a field session in a co-operative study-work program with either a state or private agency or in a camp organized and operated by the college. Being purely an outdoor job, practical trainings are always counted to be an integral part of the studies. In fact, most of the colleges encourage students to try and take summer jobs in timber companies to gain a good working experience and knowledge in forestry and conservation work.
A forester may have an office of their own but in general they have to spend most of their time in remote outdoor places. This always leads them to challenging locations and sometimes they have to deal with turbulent weather conditions. As understandable, the job profile of the foresters is physically demanding and requires sincere hard work and dedication as woodlands in most cases are difficult to access and it can take several hours to reach work sites.
Foresters who have to spend a lot of time in the forest generally work for longer periods on a trot and take some days off in between work periods. On the other hand, the conservation foresters working for state and federal agencies work around 40 hours every week though hours may not always be fixed like that of the normal 9 to 5 working schedule. In times of natural calamities, forest fires and similar emergencies, foresters might have to work even in odd hours to bring the situation under control.
Market surveys and latest statistics clearly suggest that forestry has been gradually emerging as one of the popular career choices for many new pass-outs from different countries around the world. One of the reasons for this increasing prospects in this industry is the growing demand for timber in every corner of the world. According to the latest statistics offered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics USA, the median annual salary of foresters was $54,540 in May 2010 and the standard median pay for foresters in US in 2010 was $27.60 per hour. This amounts to $57,420 per year. As many as 34,900 jobs were generated in forestry in the US despite the job outlook standing at 5% below average.
Employment rates for foresters are expected to rise by at least 5% from 2010-2020.