forest officer

How to become forest officer

What does a forest officer do?

Forestry concerns the management and care of woodland, both for the commercial production of timber and for conservation and recreation purposes. A forest manager or officer is responsible for managing the forest and those people who work in and visit it. Annual programmes are planned to plant, manage and harvest trees, as well as arrange and negotiate the sale of the timber. Forest managers also plan and supervise general maintenance work, ensuring that strict health and safety regulations are followed.

Development of the forest as a centre for recreation involves laying out nature trails and protecting the forest’s wildlife. Good relations need to be maintained with neighbouring landowners and the public. Forest managers will also liaise with timber merchants and local authorities.

Budget planning and other administrative duties, such as report writing and issuing permits, are also part of the role. Some forest managers work in nurseries, which may lead to work in research projects. In the private sector roles are along more commercial lines and officers may specialise in the supervision of logging, marketing of timber and the provision of contracts services.

What's the working environment like for a forest officer?

In the Forestry Commission officers work around 42 hours a week. In local authorities they work about 37 hours. Overtime is worked when required. In the private sector forest managers must be willing to work hours as required, including evenings and weekends.

Time will be split between working in an office environment and outdoors in all weather conditions. Because many forests are in remote areas, it may be necessary to spend some time away from home. A driving licence is essential.

What does it take to become a forest officer?

Forest managers need to have:

  • an interest in environmental management
  • an enjoyment of the outdoors
  • practical skills
  • the ability to supervise others, and work as part of a team
  • the confidence to manage long-term projects
  • strong written and verbal communication skills
  • a good standard of numeracy
  • a basic knowledge of computers
  • a good level of fitness.

Experience in forestry is needed as well as a higher qualification in a related subject such as:

  • arboriculture
  • countryside management
  • forestry

Forest officer career opportunities

Employment opportunities can be found within 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.

Whilst the number of opportunities within this sector remains relatively stable, there is fierce competition for the vacancies that arise. Self-employment is common and some forest managers also act as contractors, taking on forest workers to complete contracted work.

Universities and the Forestry Commission may have research opportunities for graduates and there are some consultancy opportunities for forest officers with the relevant experience.

Within the Forestry Commission there are good prospects for promotion based on experience across a broad range of work activities. Forest officers are usually appointed initially as technical managers or supervisors. For higher-level posts, full membership of the Institute of Chartered Foresters may be required.

In the private sector there is no formal structure for promotion, and prospects vary depending on the size of the organisation. As competition arises from the limited number of vacancies, it may be necessary to begin as forest foreperson in order to gain experience. Geographical mobility is often necessary.

There may be opportunities to work abroad.

Further information

If you would like to learn more about becoming a forest officer that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Royal Forestry Society
102 High Street
HP23 4AF
Tel: 01442 822028

Forestry Commission
231 Corstorphine Road
EH12 7AT
Tel: 0131 334 0303

Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF)
7A St Colme Street
Tel: 0131 225 2705

Lantra House
Stoneleigh Park
Nr Coventry
Tel: 0845 707 8007

Lantra career advice sites:

National Trust






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