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Foresters are those who want to find ways to protect forests and use them sustainably. (Sergiy Trofimov/Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Foresters are those who want to find ways to protect forests and use them sustainably. (Sergiy Trofimov/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

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Job: Forester

Salary: For people just starting out, expect an annual salary of about $40,000 to $50,000. That can grow to about $80,000 or $90,000 for someone with 10 to 15 years of experience. Foresters who move into other roles, such as the senior executive of a company, can earn a six-figure salary.

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Education: There are both college and university courses available for people who want to become foresters. A handful of universities across Canada offer a bachelor of science degree in forestry or related subjects such as environmental science. There are also a number of college programs that offer a more technical education. Robert Keen, chief executive officer of Trees Ontario, a not-for-profit tree-planting advocacy group, said that many professionals now mix their education by having diplomas and degrees from both.

The role: It’s not just cutting down trees. Foresters help to manage forests, including growing trees and and ensuring their selection works well with other plant and animal species The role involves identifying types and species of trees and figuring out how to best care for and maintain forests. “There’s a science to it,” Mr. Keen said.

By the numbers: Canada has about 397 million hectares of forest, which represents about 10 per cent of the world’s woodlands, according to the Canadian government. About 148 million hectares of forests in Canada are independently certified as being sustainably managed, amounting to 38 per cent of the world’s certified forest area.

Job prospects: Things are looking up. The forest industry suffered big setbacks during the recession, but business is improving and more attention is being paid to sustainable forestry practices in order to maintain trees for future generations. What’s more, there are a growing number of retirements on the horizon, which will open up jobs for younger people coming into the industry.

Challenges: Many foresters spend their days outdoors, which is great when the weather is warm and sunny, but less fun in the cold rain and snow. Still, Mr. Keen doesn’t even see that as much of a problem. “It’s part of the job. You just have to dress for it.”

Why they do it: These are the true tree huggers. A love for the outdoors and trees in particular are what lead people into this profession, Mr. Keen said. “These are people who want to take care of the environment and are passionate about it.” As they climb the ladder, some foresters may wind up spending more time in an office than outside. For instance, Mr. Keen’s office is based in downtown Toronto.

Misconceptions: They aren’t lumberjacks. Foresters don’t spend their days handling chainsaws dressed in red plaid jackets. To try to change this common misconception, Mr. Keen said the industry is discussing whether it should be referred to as environmental science instead of forestry. “Foresters are true ecologists with a long-term vision,” he said.

Give us the scoop: Are you a forester in Canada? Write a note in the comments area of this story or e-mail your comment to careerquestion@globeandmail.com and let us know what you would tell others who are interested in the profession.

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