Forestry Scientist or Silviculturist

Foresters plan and manage the growing, protection and harvesting of trees and help to manage their utilisation.

They can choose to enter one of the following areas of activity in forestry:

Management: The majority of foresters are placed at forests or plantations where they initially serve as assistants and later as managers. Their duties include raising of seedlings in a nursery and planting of trees. They also coordinate and assist with the pruning, thinning and felling of trees, the sawing of felled trees into logs and their loading. They burn firebreaks and protect the forests against fire and damage. They may have to maintain roads, erect buildings and maintain telephone lines.

Conservation: Conservation foresters are responsible for conserving the fauna and flora, as well as the soil and water resources. They also manage and plan recreational activities like hiking and picnicking in forest areas.

Research: Research foresters conduct research to ensure the preservation of trees and specialises in growth modelling, forest genetics, conservation and ecology.

Extension foresters advise farmers and educate the public about the importance of trees.

Areas of specialisation:

Silviculture involves tree breeding, forest tree seed, nursery practice, establishment and tending, forest nutrition and management of ectomycorrhizal fungi.

Forest Soil Science involves soil classification, soil manipulation and site evaluation.

Forestry Finance includes: project selection, land and plantation valuation, optimal financial rotations and inflation economics. Other areas of specialisation include growth and yield science, forest biometrics and the modelling of plantation development.

Forest Engineering is concerned with the environmental, social, physical and economic impacts of harvesting. This includes the management of the total supply chain from felling to mill delivery. The effect of harvesting methods and systems are analysed with regard to the impact on wood procurement cost and wood and fibre quality as well as ergonomics. Other factors are access development, forest road construction and network management.

Foresters work mostly out of doors and are sometimes subject to considerable stress, especially during fast-changing climatic conditions and due to the steep and mountainous nature of most state forests.

Personal Requirements

  • enjoy working outdoors
  • alert, careful and responsible workers
  • able to adjust to living in isolated and distant surroundings
  • physical fitness, strength and stamina
  • good coordination
  • able to communicate well with fellow foresters and labourers
  • practical and versatile
  • good observation skills and an enquiring mind

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

  • National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
  • National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course
Each institution has its own entry requirements.

What to Study

Degree: US and UV offer a 4-year BSc Forestry degree. B.Tech is available from NMMU. A course in Wood Science is also available at US.

Diploma: The Saasveld Faculty of Forestry (NMMU) offers the N.Dip. Forestry. The course consists of 2 years theoretical training and 2 6-month practical semesters with a forestry estate. The Faculty also offers a course in Wood Technology, as well as a MTech. and DTech Forestry. Bursaries are available at both training institutions.

A two-and-a-half year Diploma in Forestry is offered by Fort Cox College of Agriculture and Forestry, Ciskei.


  • forestry branch of the Department of Environment Affairs
  • Institute for Commercial Forestry Research
  • city councils
  • timber growing organisations
  • sawmills and timber preservation organisations
  • private forestry companies
  • such organisations as: SABS, SAPPI, Mondi Paper, Nampak Paper Ltd and Carlton Paper Corporation

Further Information

Faculty of Agricultural and Forestry Science
Stellenbosch University
Paul Sauer Building
Bosman Street
7599 Stellenbosch
Tel: (021) 808-3323

Getting Started

  • arrange to speak to foresters and ask permission to watch them at work
  • try to obtain vacation work at a tree nursery
  • arrange to visit a state forest or a state sawmill

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

Study Forestry at Stellenbosch University

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