How to become a Forest Worker. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
What does a Forest Worker do?
As a forest worker, you would help to develop, maintain and protect forests. Your duties would typically include:
- planting, pruning, thinning and felling trees
- removing weeds, clearing leaves and preparing ground for tree planting
- spraying to control weeds and insects
- cutting coppice (small bushes and trees)
- stripping branches and sawing timber
- putting up fences, digging drainage ditches and clearing trails
- building roads.
As a self-employed contractor you would also do the administrative tasks associated with running a business.
You would usually work around 39 hours a week. This may include some evenings, early starts and weekends.
If you are self-employed, your work would usually be seasonal, and may involve long days at peak times.
The job includes walking long distances, lifting and climbing. For some tasks you would need to wear protective clothing, such as safety helmets and goggles.
How much does a Forest Worker earn?
Salary and pay information:
- Starting salaries can be around £15,000 a year.
- Experienced workers can earn around £19,000.
- Supervisors can earn around £26,000.
Some employers provide accommodation.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
You do not need any particular qualifications to start as a forest worker, but you will have an advantage if you have relevant experience. A good way to get experience is to volunteer with organisations such as:
- the National Trust
- the Woodland Trust
- the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers.
To find out about opportunities for volunteering in your area, check do-it.org.uk, or look in Yellow Pages for local organisations that may need volunteers.
Agricultural colleges offer part- and full-time courses that you could attend before looking for work. Although they are not essential, you may find them useful to develop your knowledge. Relevant courses include:
- BTEC Level 2 Certificate/Diploma in Countryside and Environment
- Certificate/Diploma in Forestry and Arboriculture at levels 2 and 3.
Please check with colleges for their entry requirements.
You may be able to get into this job through an Apprenticeship scheme. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. To find out more about Apprenticeships, visit the Apprenticeships website.
Training and Development
If your job involves operating chainsaws or using pesticides, you will need certificates of competence from the National Proficiency Test Council (NPTC). Employers may organise and pay for these, or you can get details of providers from NPTC. If you have completed a relevant qualification before finding work the certificates may have been included.
Once you are employed at a basic level you may be able to take in-service training and college courses to help you progress to forest craftsperson (skilled worker), foreperson or manager.
To become a craftsperson, relevant qualifications include:
- BTEC Level 2 Diploma in Countryside and Environment
- Level 2 Certificate/Diploma in Forestry and Arboriculture.
To qualify as a foreperson you will usually need:
- Level 3 Certificate/Diploma in Forestry and Arboriculture.
To progress to management level you will usually need one of the following:
- BTEC HND in Forestry
- BSc or postgraduate degree in forestry.
Skills and Knowledge
- a high level of physical fitness
- an interest in working outdoors
- practical skills
- the ability to work alone and as part of a team
- awareness of health and safety
- good communication skills.
You would usually work on a contract-by-contract basis, rather than in direct employment. Employers include the Forestry Commission, private forestry companies, contractors and organisations like the National Trust, the Woodland Trust and county Wildlife Trusts.
With experience, you could progress to foreperson and then to supervisory or management level, usually after studying for further qualifications.