Forestry Technician: Job Description, Duties and Requirements
Forestry technicians protect, maintain, and gather data on millions of acres of natural habitat in America--such as forests, grasslands, and mountains. Forestry technicians perform a variety of duties, including fire suppression, data collection, regulation enforcement, and trail repair. Entry-level positions require only a high school diploma, while senior-level positions demand specialized training or a bachelor's degree.
According to the U.S. Forest Service (www.fs.fed.us), there are upward of 200 million acres of forests, lakes, mountains, and grassland requiring research, maintenance, and protection. And it is the responsibility of forestry technicians to perform these services. There are a variety forestry positions available with job acquisition criteria ranging from a high school diploma to a bachelor's degree. Work experience or a combination of experience and education may meet the requirements of certain positions.
A forestry technician is an outdoor career, and certain positions require working in relative isolation while others demand constant contact with the public. The solitary positions are more scientific and include functions such as the collection, testing, and analysis of plant and animal samples. This data is used in insect and disease control, wildlife research, resource management, and environmental impact studies. Public positions for a forestry technician are located in campgrounds and developed recreational areas. These positions handle issuing special use permits, law enforcement, fire prevention, and community education.
Duties for forestry technicians with specialized training or higher education include analyzing forests for disease, growth conditions, and insect infestations. They must also track wildlife movement, interpret aerial photographs (to determine types of timber and habitat), inventory sites, and prescribe correct fire-management activities. Urban forestry, a nontraditional position in urban areas, studies individual trees in city settings.
Duties for forestry technicians without specialized training or higher education include measuring timber, performing road construction, and providing visitors to campgrounds and recreational areas with information pertaining to fire, safety, and sanitation regulations. They also clean and repair existing trails or construct new trails. Certain tasks--such as gathering data on disease and insect damage to trees as well as water and soil quality--are always performed under the supervision of a senior forestry technician.
Entry-level forestry technician positions require, at minimum, a high school degree or its equivalent. Most employers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), are looking for applicants with at minimum of two years of postsecondary education. A vocational institute provides more technical training, but a community college offers a better general education--and credits can transfer to a university toward obtaining a bachelor's degree. In addition to a two-year degree, junior colleges sometimes offer a one-year certificate program. At the university level, a prospective forestry technician should pursue a bachelor's degree in a field of natural sciences.
The BLS reports that job growth for forest technicians is projected to decline by four percent during the years spanning from 2012 to 2022. The median salary for forestry technicians as of May 2012 was $33,920 a year. The BLS also states that approximately 74% of forestry technician positions are held with the federal government in the U.S. Forest Service (www.bls.gov).
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