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Looking at a New Career in Forestry

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From: Tony T.
Philadelphia, PA
Hi Jay,

I’m 31, live in Philadelphia, have an Associate’s in Computer Networking, and have been working in the IT field for about 7 years. I have always held a passion for the outdoors and have always tried to get outdoors to camp and hike as much as I can. As the years go by I feel less like I am making a difference in the world from my tiny cubicle, I’m not a city person, and more even so, I want to be out in the elements doing something that I am passionate about. I have always had an interest in the earth sciences and the natural world. I am particularly interested in conservation and restoration of forests and determining what can be harvested for wood. I have looked into the Penn State Forestry Undergraduate degree program which is accredited by the SAF and I’m hoping to make this life changing decision soon. However, there is only so much I can find out from the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. By the time I graduate I will be 35 at least. Will anyone want to hire me at this age? Will it to be hard to find a job? I am willing to move to where the jobs are located. Have you encountered any other career changers similar in age, and have they had success in the field? Also, as I stated before I have an interest in the earth sciences. Would courses covering geology and meteorology be useful in this field as well?

I am also confused as to what the difference is between the BLS Handbook’s description of “Conservation Scientists and Foresters”, “Forest and Conservation Technicians”, and “Forest and Conservation Workers”. I gather that technicians and workers typically do not have a Bachelor’s and are usually managed by the scientists and foresters? Is it possible for a recent graduate to get a job a Conservation Scientist or Forester? I would assume that a recent graduate would have to work up to that level. My concern with this is that it looks like technicians and workers generally have much lower pay and since I am well into my IT career money is an issue. I saw your other posts about salaries and I know that you can’t give a specific number for entry level pay, but do you think that $35,000-$43,000/year is attainable just starting out in this field or should I lower my expectations? Any insight in that would be appreciated as well.

Thank you so much in advance!!!!


Extension Message
From: Jay Hayek
Extension Specialist, Forestry
Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences
Hi Tony:

Wow -- a lot of questions. I'll answer some, but not all of them (I'll explain below).

Obviously, I don't think your age will be a factor at all (you'll be 35 -- a prime age group from which employers are eager to select from due to their life experiences).

Will it be hard to find a job -- that, my friend, is the million dollar question! I guarantee that there will be forestry and associated natural resource jobs available when you graduate -- landing such a job, of course, will be your responsibility!

Coursework will be coordinated with your academic advisor and your coursework will coincide with the degree requirements at your academic institution. You will have ample opportunity to take some electives, including geology and meteorology -- both are very valuable to a professional forester!

Don't use the BLS website; instead, use the federal government's OPM website for details and specifics regarding professional job series titles:

Forestry Technician Series 462:

Forestry Series 460:

All other questions: Please contact a local Pennsylvania DCNR forester and ask to meet with them and have a one-on-one discussion about all your other questions and concerns as Web-based dialogue is not an ideal venue for planning your future!

PA DCNR Bureau of Forestry:

Best of luck...and believe me, you won't regret your decision as I absolutely love being a professional forester!

From: Tony Templeton
Philadelphia, PA
Hi Jay,

Thank you for your response and the incredibly useful links. I really appreciate your time!


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