How to become a Forest Officer. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
What does a Forest Officer do?
As a forest officer you would manage forests and woodland used for timber production, conservation or recreation.
Your tasks would vary depending on your particular job, but could include:
- planning programmes for planting and harvesting trees
- planning and supervising general maintenance work
- making sure health and safety regulations and procedures are followed
- arranging the sale of timber
- developing working relationships with neighbouring landowners, contractors and local authorities
- making sure wildlife and natural habitats are protected and conserved
- managing facilities such as visitor centres, nature trails, footpaths, campsites and car parks
- managing and training staff
- supervising self-employed contractors.
You would also have administrative duties, such as keeping records, writing reports and controlling budgets.
You would usually work between 37 and 42 hours a week, with overtime when necessary.
Although you would be office-based, you would also spend time outdoors in all weather conditions. As many forests are in remote areas, you may sometimes have to spend nights away from home.
How much does a Forest Officer earn?
Salaries can range from around £21,000 to around £33,000 a year.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
To become a forest officer you would usually need a foundation degree, HND or degree in forestry. Visit the UCAS website to search for suitable courses. Entry requirements for courses vary, so you should check with individual colleges or universities.
You may find it useful to gain work experience before applying for a course (this is essential for some courses). You may be able to get experience by volunteering with an organisation such as the Forestry Commission or the National Trust.
As an alternative to completing a qualification before looking for work, you may be able to start as a forest worker. You could then progress to more senior jobs with a combination of experience and part-time study or work-based qualifications. See the Forest Worker profile for more information.
Training and Development
Once you are employed in forestry, you may be able to work towards NVQ Level 2 in Forestry and Level 3 in Treework. Level 3 is relevant for supervisory posts. From January 2011 the NVQs will be replaced with new certificates/diplomas at levels 2 and 3.
For higher-level posts, you may need full membership of the Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF). As a member you will have access to opportunities for continuing professional development (CPD). See the ICF website for details.
When you have at least two years’ experience, you may be able to achieve chartered status by taking the ICF exams. You could also complete training through Forestry Training Services, the training division of the Forestry Commission.
If you want to develop your career at a higher level you could complete a postgraduate course in forestry (MSc, MPhil or PhD).
Skills and Knowledge
- an interest in environmental and conservation issues
- practical skills
- the ability to supervise others, and work as part of a team
- the ability and confidence to manage long-term projects
- strong written and spoken communication skills
- a good standard of maths
- working knowledge of IT.
You could find vacancies with the Forestry Commission or with private forestry companies, consultants and contractors, estates, charities, some statutory bodies and local authorities.
Most jobs are in rural areas in Scotland, Wales and northern England. Competition is strong.
Self-employment is common, and some forest managers also act as contractors, taking on forest workers to complete contracted work.
As a graduate, you could find research opportunities with universities and the Forestry Commission. With experience you may be able to move into consultancy work.
In the Forestry Commission you could have good prospects for promotion if you have experience across a broad range of work activities. In the private sector your prospects would vary depending on the size of the organisation.