- Carter, D, 'Growing Forestry', 12 August 2010, (www.beehive.govt.nz).
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Long-term Skill Shortage List', accessed September 2011, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Manley, B, head of school, New Zealand School of Forestry,Careers New Zealand interview, September 2011.
- Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2011 Occupation Data', (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2011.
- Ministry for Primary Industries, 'Primary Growth Partnership', accessed September 2011,(www.mpi.govt.nz).
- Richardson, B, general manager science, Scion, Careers New Zealand interview, September 2011.
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Forestry Scientist - Job opportunities Alternative titles
Forestry scientists research forest growth, wood processing, conservation and different types of trees and how these can be used.
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Pay for forestry scientists at research institutions
- At the technician level (with a Bachelor's degree), pay starts at about $35,000 a year, moving up to about $75,000.
- With a Master's degree you can expect a starting salary of about $56,000 a year.
- With a PhD and some work experience, you usually earn between $72,000 and $98,000.
- With several years' experience and increased performance and responsibility, pay could rise to between $110,000 and $150,000 for principal scientists. However, only a few scientists achieve this level.
Pay for forestry scientists at universities
- Lecturers/postdoctoral teaching fellows usually earn between $70,000 and $87,000.
- Senior lecturers usually earn $89,000 to $106,000.
- Associate professors usually earn $117,000 to $133,000.
- Professors usually earn between $135,000 and $170,000.
What you will do
Forestry scientists may do some or all of the following:
- measure and analyse tree and forest growth
- develop new timber products or forestry technology
- investigate new species of trees that may be of commercial interest, and develop ways to breed them
- investigate damage to trees caused by diseases or animals
- study the impact of forestry on communities, and the impact of communities on forests
- study parts of the forestry industry, such as the transport of forest products or the exporting of wood and paper products
- provide technical advice about forestry matters and supervise technical and research staff
- write and publish reports on research findings.
At the technician level, the main tasks are to help scientists prepare and carry out a range of experiments and tests.
Skills and knowledge
Forestry scientists need to have:
- knowledge of environmental issues
- knowledge of the latest forestry research and equipment
- research skills, and skill in analysing and interpreting research results
- practical skills for performing experiments and operating scientific equipment.
- work regular business hours, but may be required to work long hours or weekends to make observations on projects
- work in laboratories and offices, with some local travel to forests.
What's the job really like?
Simeon Smaill - Forestry Scientist
Simeon always wanted a job with a good balance of indoor and outdoor work, and feels that’s what he’s got at Scion forestry research institute. A few times a month he'll be in the forest taking soil or foliage samples, or working on trials, but most days he is at his computer, writing papers about his experiments.
Working towards cost-effective ways of establishing new forests
Simeon’s work involves studying soil microbes, and how these affect trees' growth.“It’s not a new concept - for ages, when people wanted to grow something new in a particular place, they transported soil from places where the plant had been known to do well.
“It's amazing looking at how the microbes in the soil can determine how hardy the plant is, or how resistant it is to droughts and diseases. I spend quite a bit of time at the greenhouse watering and weeding the saplings, and taking measurements of their growth.
"After they reach a particular stage, I analyse them to see how the soil's characteristics affected their health. This will ultimately help us find the best and most cost-effective way of establishing new forests.”
To become a forestry scientist you need to have a degree in forestry science or engineering, or a related subject such as molecular biology, botany or plant physiology. Employers increasingly prefer you to also have a postgraduate qualification such as a Masters in science or engineering, majoring in forestry science.
At the technician level, a Bachelors degree in a related science subject is the minimum entry requirement.
A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further study. Maths, English, biology, chemistry and physics are preferred.
Forestry scientists need to be:
- skilled in planning and organising
- skilled in writing reports and publications
- skilled in maths, and have good computer skills
- enquiring and observant
- open-minded and hard-working
- patient and methodical, as some research may take a long time.
Useful experience for forestry scientists includes summer placements working as a technician while studying for a Master's degree. Working as a volunteer in ecology and conservation is also useful.
Experience driving four-wheel-drive and all-terrain vehicles may be useful when in the field.
View information on courses in the course database
Find out more about training
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years' training required
What are the chances of getting a job?
Forestry science is a small industry in New Zealand; however, there is still a shortage of qualified forestry scientists because universities are not producing enough graduates to meet demand.
As a result, the job appears on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list, which means the Government is actively encouraging skilled forestry scientists from overseas to work in New Zealand.
Government investment in forestry contributing to demand for forestry scientists
Under its Primary Growth Partnership scheme, the Government is investing increasing amounts in agriculture and forestry research and innovation to help drive economic growth. This scheme started off with $30 million allocated for 2009/10, increasing to to $70 million per year for 2012 and 2013.
Forestry scientists are needed to help with research projects funded by this and other schemes.
Types of employers
Forestry scientists can work for:
- Crown research institutes (CRIs), such as Scion and Landcare Research
- government agencies, such as the Department of Conservation and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
- private sector companies, such as environmental research institutes and firms doing forestry research.
Other vacancy websites
Progression and specialisations
Forestry scientists with a Bachelor's degree typically start work at the technician level. Technicians may progress into research scientist positions after getting a Masters or PhD in the relevant science area.
Once you have a PhD, you can apply for a postdoctoral fellowship at research organisations or universities. You may need to do two or three postdoctoral fellowships (usually lasting two or three years each) before getting a permanent scientist position.
After several years experience, scientists can progress into senior research scientist, team leader or management roles.
Forestry scientists may specialise in an area of forestry sciences such as biotechnology, forest technology, pulp and paper, wood processing or wood quality.
How many people are doing this job?
Updated 17 Jul 2015