Forester (Aus)

What they do

Foresters are responsible for managing the use of forests, ensuring there is a balance between conservation, recreational and commercial uses. They work in both natural forests and timber plantations, planning where and when to plant and harvest trees. As trees grow, foresters monitor their development, marking specific trees for harvesting to avoid overcrowding, and checking for signs of disease. An important part of a forester's work is managing the risk of bushfire, which in Western Australia may include arranging for periodic back burning to reduce the amount of flammable material on the forest floor. Foresters are also increasingly working with farmers to address issues of land degradation and salinity.

Working conditions

The bulk of native forests and timber plantations in Western Australia are in the South West and Great Southern regions. However, there are some opportunities for employment as a forester throughout other parts of the State. Foresters spend a lot of time working outdoors, in most weather conditions, though they occasionally work in offices. They will generally be required to drive through forests, over uneven terrain and unsealed roads, often in 4 wheel-drive vehicles. Most foresters start work early in the morning, usually working a standard 40-hour week, although weekend work may occasionally be required.

Tools and technologies

Foresters use a number of specialised tools when surveying trees, including angle gauges (to measure tree density in an area), clinometers (to measure a tree's height) and increment borers (to extract core sample from the trunk to calculate age). They also use infrared, satellite and aerial photography to measure and map the growth of a forest or plantation. Paint guns are used to mark trees for harvesting, property boundaries and the location of underground cables and pipes in preparation for harvesting operations. In some instances, particularly when harvesting is taking place, foresters may be required to wear hard hats, high-visibility clothing and safety boots.

How do I become one?

Education and training

To become a forester, you usually need to study a qualification in forest science and management, forestry, ecosystem science, forest and forest products or a related area.

There are no relevant courses for foresters available in Western Australia. There are relevant courses offered at universities, TAFE colleges and other registered training providers in the eastern states. The Southern Cross University’s Bachelor of Forest Science and Management can also be studied online.

Alternatively, you could study an undergraduate degree in Western Australia, majoring in environmental science, environmental management or a related area, before completing a postgraduate qualification at an eastern states’ university. Most universities in Western Australia offer relevant undergraduate courses.

Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.