Case study

Forest management and stewardship forester — Emma Gray

Find out how Emma's degree and work experience gave her the skills she needed to embark on a managerial career in forestry

How did you get your job?

I got my forestry management job with Forestry and Land Scotland (in the South Region - West) by having an MSc in forestry and a few years' work experience, gained in the private sector.

I applied through Civil Service Jobs and attended an interview as part of the process.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

My forestry degree at the University of Aberdeen provided a broad base of knowledge in a number of relevant subjects, including soil science, forest measurement, forest economics, silviculture, forest ecology and wood science.

This prepared me for the role of forester with a good range of industry-specific skills that I have further developed with experience in the role.

What are your main work activities?

My role is a managerial one, the crux of which is work planning, risk assessing and contract management. I am approximately 70% office based and 30% outdoors.

The type of work varies seasonally with more outdoor work being undertaken in the summer and less in the winter. In addition to managing a beat consisting of approximately 14,000ha of forest and outdoor recreational facilities, I manage a small team consisting of forest workers and work site supervisors.

One morning I could be working within a forest block assessing an area for restocking, then the next, identifying areas (with my worksite supervisor) where pruning work is required, in preparation for a mountain bike event, and then later having a contractual meeting to discuss objectives and constraints regarding watercourses and European protected species.

Financing and budgets are also part of the manager role, particularly in the private sector. Again, there are certain times of the year where these tasks take precedence.

Health and safety is always imperative and I assess this for myself and my team before any works are undertaken.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

The forestry management and stewardship manager role was introduced at the same time that the new Forestry and Land Scotland agency was formed, so is still relatively new. I have taken on environmental and recreation work in addition to the current restocking programme, the aim being a beat forester system (harvesting is still separate) where there is ownership across the forest blocks.

I'm aiming to further develop my role by achieving chartered status and hope to either work in forestry and climate change mitigation, or to contribute by promoting the industry and teaching the future foresters.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I enjoy the variation of work within my role and the opportunities it has given me to meet different kinds of people.

Multipurpose forestry means working with many different types of woodlands and handling a variety of management issues and requirements. This can mean, for example, working in the very commercial Sitka spruce, managing visitor areas and restoring ancient woodland.

I enjoy working in an industry that is green and sustainable and which is at the forefront of tackling climate change. The forests provide habitat to a multitude of species, amenity to people and many jobs to the rural community. They also, by being harvested in an environmentally responsible manner according to the legal forestry standard - supply the timber and non-timber forest product markets.I enjoy the variation of work within my role and the opportunities it has given me to meet different kinds of people.

Multipurpose forestry means working with many different types of woodlands and handling a variety of management issues and requirements. This can mean, for example, working in the very commercial Sitka spruce, managing visitor areas and restoring ancient woodland.

I enjoy working in an industry that is green and sustainable and which is at the forefront of tackling climate change. The forests provide habitat to a multitude of species, amenity to people and many jobs to the rural community. They also, by being harvested in an environmentally responsible manner according to the legal forestry standard - supply the timber and non-timber forest product markets.

What are the most challenging aspects of your forestry work?

A large element of my work lies in forest establishment after harvesting works. There are many factors involved to ensure successful growth and density of the next rotation. The challenges include pine weevil (a small beetle that can decimate hectares of young trees), young tree supplies, uncertain weather conditions, biological competition and work force availability.

In addition, the forest industry is experiencing the significant challenge of an aging workforce. With some posed to retire in the next few years, there is the looming shortage of workforce and loss of experience/knowledge.

What are your top tips for choosing a Masters?

Your choice of Masters degree ultimately depends on your needs and aspirations. For example, it could be to make a career change or to progress in your current career.

Look at the content of the course to see if it's relevant to you. What opportunities would this give you and is there any accreditation towards professional qualification such as chartered status.

You may also wish to check institution statistics such as student satisfaction.

Any words of advice for someone wanting to get into this job?

Attain a formal academic qualification in forestry or a related subject at HND level or above and gain some experience in activities such as tree planting, chainsaw operation and site supervision.

Having some experience of managerial tasks, such as budgeting, contracts and people management is also helpful. However, most organisations in forestry are keen to develop people as managers, providing they have the relevant qualifications and work experience.

Working in forestry involves crossing difficult terrain in all weather conditions in often remote areas - particularly so in the early part of your career. Although, this is physically challenging it teaches you to understand what you will soon come to manage.

Find out more

How would you rate this page?

On a scale where 1 is dislike and 5 is like

success feedback

Thank you for rating the page