In common parlance any person who has something to do with raising and managing forest timber resources is in some sense a forester. Foresters go back in history to individuals responsible for managing the harvest of trees on the property of castles and estates and for the management and disposition of the valuable timber asset. Their intuition, practical experience, and natural history knowledge contributed greatly to decision making.

In the twenty-first century, the field has changed, and for the most part a professional forester has a college education and academic credentials, ranging from an associate degree in forest technology to a graduate degree from a school of forestry with specialization in a particular subject area. In addition to the traditional implements of forestry such as shovels, axes, meter sticks, and cruising prisms (which allow the rapid estimation of the number of board feet of timber in a wood lot), foresters now depend on global positioning systems, computer models, and sophisticated research tools in their work. These are used to evaluate such properties of the forest as the quality of wood, the site conditions of the habitat, and fire susceptibility during dry seasons.

Many tasks carried out by foresters involve applications of silviculture , chemistry, plant physiology, and biotechnology. Some professional areas, such as forest and paper engineering and scientific resource management, require quantitative skills, while others, such as forest biochemistry, natural products chemistry, and forest ecology, depend on an extensive basic science background. The work environment can be a private practice as a consulting forester, or with industries, government, or academic institutions. While much of the work time is spent outdoors in forests, office and laboratory work is often involved as well. As is the case with virtually all professions, strong writing, verbal, and management skills all place an individual in a favorable position for advancement.

SEE ALSO Forest, Boreal ; Forest, Temperate ; Forest, Tropical

Dean Cocking


Wille, Christopher M., and Mark Rowh. Opportunities in Forestry Careers. Chicago: NTC/Contemporary Publishing Group, 1998.

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