Forest Worker

The Job and What's Involved

A forest worker, also known as a forest craftsperson in the Forestry Commission, cares for and manages woodland areas and forests. They play an important part in protecting ecological and animal habitats, and enhancing the future landscape of the UK.

The job involves carrying out practical activities to establish, maintain and preserve forested areas. Duties usually involve:

  • Conducting forest surveys and assessing tree density.
  • Carrying out tree safety inspections, marking out trees to be cut down.
  • Doing general groundwork to clear sites and undergrowth.
  • Planting new tree seedlings.
  • Digging or installing more efficient drainage systems.
  • Pruning and cutting back shrubs and other ground cover to promote the healthy growth of trees.
  • Using specialist tools to thin out dense wooded areas and fell trees.
  • Harvesting trees, stripping branches and cutting felled tree trunks into specific lengths.
  • Applying insecticides to kill insects and guard against disease, particularly on young trees.
  • Clearing footpaths and nature trails, and maintaining adjoining car parks.
  • Removing debris and litter.

To maintain recreational sites and enhance woodland areas for public use, forest workers may be required to erect fences and gates, and install footpath signs and public information notices.

Forest workers may also assist in the tackling of forest fires. They are often responsible for checking and maintaining basic fire-fighting equipment located near wooded areas.

Forest workers typically work 42 hours a week, Monday to Friday, although some overtime and weekend work may be necessary. Part-time and casual work is possible. Work can be seasonal and longer days may be necessary during peak times (typically early spring and autumn harvests).

Forest workers spend virtually all of their time working outdoors, in all weather conditions. The work can be physically challenging, with lots of lifting, climbing and walking through densely wooded areas.

It is potentially hazardous work, requiring the use of power tools and heavy machinery. Protective clothing, such as hard hats, goggles, boots and specialist clothing may need to be worn for certain tasks. Harnesses are used for climbing trees.

A driving licence may be useful.

The starting salary for a Forestry Commission apprentice craftsperson may be around £12,048 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

The UK tree and timber industry employs around 30,000 people, many as forest workers. The largest employer is the Forestry Commission. Private estates, local authorities, conservation organisations and charities, government agencies and forest management companies also employ forest workers. Most jobs are found in rural locations with large forested areas.

While there is strong competition for jobs, demand for new entrants is constant. Around 50 per cent of forest workers are self-employed. They are normally hired for specific contracts, such as planting or felling trees. Contracts are often short term, typically lasting about three months.

Organisations such as the National Trust, British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV) and local wildlife trusts welcome volunteers. Lists of organisations, voluntary environmental projects and jobs are advertised on Job vacancies are advertised in national and regional newspapers, and local Jobcentre Plus offices. The Forestry Commission publishes vacancies on its website,

Education and Training

There are no set academic qualifications required, although GCSE's/S grades in English, science and maths are useful.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Trees and Timber Apprenticeships may be available. These combine practical work experience with some classroom learning. In Scotland, it may be possible to do a Modern Apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact

An alterative entry route is via a forestry sector course. Some colleges may require one year's work experience. Academic entry requirements vary, so applicants should check with individual institutions. Relevant courses include:

  • BTEC Introductory Diploma in Land and Environment.
  • BTEC National Award, Certificate or Diploma in Forestry and Arboriculture.
  • BTEC National Award, Certificate or Diploma in Horticulture.
  • BTEC National Award, Certificate or Diploma in Land-based Technology.
  • Certificate in Forestry (available from the Scottish School of Forestry).

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Forest workers are encouraged to gain technical and professional qualifications for operating forest tools and machinery. These include:

  • Level 1 NVQ/SVQ in Landbased Operations.
  • Level 2 NVQ/SVQ in Environmental Conservation.
  • Level 2 NVQ/SVQ in Forestry.
  • Level 3 NVQ/SVQ in Treework.
  • Level 2 Certificate of Competence in Chainsaw and Related Operations.
  • Level 2 Certificate of Competence in All Terrain Vehicle Handling.
  • Level 2 Certificate of Competence in Forest Machine Operations.
  • Level 2 National Certificate in Environmental Conservation.

Certificates of Competence are awarded by the NPTC.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A forest worker should be:

  • Responsible and safety conscious.
  • Agile and physically fit.
  • Team focused, but also confident working independently.
  • Courteous and professional.
  • Tactful when dealing with members of the public, and enforcing bylaws and regulations.
  • Resourceful and mechanically minded.
  • Well organised.
  • Persistent and good at solving problems.
  • Self motivated.
  • Willing to work in all sorts of weather conditions.

Your Long Term Prospects

Promotional prospects vary. With large employers, such as the Forestry Commission, it may be possible to progress to senior forest worker or works supervisor. Forest workers with smaller organisations may have to change location or employer in order to progress.

Many experienced forest workers become self-employed and contract out their services. With further qualifications, it may be possible to advance to forest officer level.

Opportunities may arise to become a forest ranger with the Forestry Commission, or a private forestry body. Forest rangers work with wardens or conservation officers to look after wildlife.

Get Further Information

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

Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF),
7A St Colme Street, Edinburgh EH3 6AA
Tel: 0131 225 2705

Lantra, Lantra House, Stoneleigh Park,
near Coventry, Warwickshire CV8 2LG
Tel: 024 7669 6996
Websites: and

The Royal Forestry Society (RFS),
102 High Street, Tring, Hertfordshire HP23 4AF
Tel: 01442 822028

Royal Scottish Forestry Society

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