This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Forestry scientists research forest growth, wood processing, conservation and different types of trees and how these can be used.
Forestry scientists with Bachelor's degrees usually earn
$35K-$75K per year
Forestry scientists with postgraduate degrees usually earn
$56K-$98K per year
Current job prospects
How many people are doing this job?
Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
Pay for forestry scientists at research institutions
- Those with a Bachelor's degree usually earn between $35,000 and $75,000 a year.
- Those with postgraduate degrees usually earn between $56,000 and $98,000.
- Those with several years' experience and increased performance and responsibility may earn between $110,000 and $150,000. However, only a small number of forestry scientists achieve this level.
Pay for forestry scientists at universities
- Lecturers/postdoctoral teaching fellows usually earn between $70,000 and $87,000 a year.
- Senior lecturers usually earn between $89,000 and $106,000.
- Associate professors usually earn between $117,000 and $133,000.
- Professors usually earn between $135,000 and $170,000.
- MoreBusiness.com website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website - information on minimum pay rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
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 tree 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 transport of forest products or export 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 need 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 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 Bachelor's 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:
- good at planning and organising
- skilled in writing reports and publications
- skilled at maths
- 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.
Find out more about training
- 0800 526 1800 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.competenz.org.nz
- New Zealand School of Forestry
- 03 364 2109 - www.fore.canterbury.ac.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Forestry science is a small industry in New Zealand. However, qualified forestry scientists are in shortage as the number of graduates coming through is insufficient.
As a result, the job appears on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled forestry scientists from overseas to work in New Zealand.
Government investment contributing to demand for forestry scientists
Under its Primary Growth Partnership scheme, the Government began increasing investment in agriculture and forestry research and innovation to help drive economic growth from 2009. Further initiatives were started, including, in 2015, those designed to encourage sustainable forestry programmes and the creation of permanent forests.
Forestry scientists are needed to help with research projects funded by these schemes.
Types of employers varied
Forestry scientists can work for:
- Crown research institutes 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.
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Long-term Skill Shortage List', accessed December 2015, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Manley, B, head of school, New Zealand School of Forestry, Careers New Zealand interview, September 2011.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
- Ministry for Primary Industries, 'Afforestation Grant Scheme', accessed December 2015, (www.mpi.govt.nz).
- Ministry for Primary Industries, 'Permanent Forest Sink Initiative', accessed December 2015,(www.mpi.govt.nz).
- Ministry for Primary Industries, 'Primary Growth Partnership', accessed December 2015, (www.mpi.govt.nz).
Progression and specialisations
Forestry scientists with Bachelor's degrees typically start as technicians, sometimes progressing into research scientist roles after getting a Master's degree or PhD in the relevant science area.
Forestry scientists with PhDs can apply for postdoctoral fellowships at research organisations or universities. This may require two or three postdoctoral fellowships (taking two or three years each) before securing 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 different fields such as:
- forest technology
- pulp and paper
- wood processing
- wood quality
- ecosystems and climate.
Last updated 25 January 2017