Logging workers harvest thousands of acres of forests each year. The timber they harvest provides the raw material for countless consumer and industrial products.

Duties

Logging workers typically do the following:

  • Cut down trees
  • Fasten cables around logs to be dragged by tractors
  • Operate machinery that drag logs to the landing or deck area
  • Separate logs by species and type of wood and load them onto trucks
  • Drive and maneuver feller–buncher tree harvesters to shear trees and cut logs into desired lengths
  • Grade logs according to characteristics such as knot size and straightness
  • Inspect equipment for safety, and perform necessary basic maintenance tasks, before using the equipment

The cutting and logging of timber is done by a logging crew. The following are examples of types of logging workers:

Fallers cut down trees with hand-held power chain saws.

Buckers work alongside fallers, trimming the tops and branches of felled trees and bucking (cutting) the logs into specific lengths.

Tree climbers use special equipment to scale tall trees and remove their limbs. They carry heavy tools and safety gear as they climb the trees, and are kept safe by a harness attached to a rope.

Choke setters fasten steel cables or chains, known as chokers, around logs to be skidded (dragged) by tractors or forwarded by the cable-yarding system to the landing or deck area, where the logs are separated by species and type of product.

Rigging slingers and chasers set up and dismantle the cables and guy wires of the yarding system.

Log sortersmarkersmoversand chippers sort, mark, and move logs on the basis of their species, size, and ownership. They also tend machines that chip up logs.

Logging equipment operators use tree harvesters to fell trees, shear off tree limbs, and cut trees into desired lengths. They drive tractors and operate self-propelled machines called skidders or forwarders, which drag or otherwise transport logs to a loading area.

Log graders and scalers inspect logs for defects and measure the logs to determine their volume. They estimate the value of logs or pulpwood. These workers often use hand-held data collection devices into which they enter data about trees.

A logging crew might consist of the following members:

  • one or two tree fallers or one or two logging equipment operators with a tree harvester to cut down trees
  • one bucker to cut logs
  • two choke setters with tractors to drag felled trees to the loading deck
  • one logging equipment operator to delimb, cut logs to length, and load the logs onto trucks

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Work Environment

Logging workers held about 53,600 jobs in 2018. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up logging workers was distributed as follows:

Logging equipment operators 36,900
Fallers 6,600
Logging workers, all other                                                            5,400
Log graders and scalers 4,700

The largest employers of logging workers were as follows:

Self-employed workers 27%
Sawmills and wood preservation 10
Support activities for agriculture and forestry                                1
Crop production 1

Logging is physically demanding and can be dangerous. Workers spend all their time outdoors, sometimes in poor weather and often in isolated areas. The increased use of enclosed machines has decreased some of the discomforts caused by bad weather and has generally made logging much safer.

Most logging work involves lifting, climbing, and other strenuous activities, although machinery has eliminated some heavy labor. Falling branches, vines, and rough terrain are constant hazards, as are dangers associated with felling trees and handling logs.

Chain saws and other power equipment can be dangerous; therefore, workers must be careful and must use proper safety measures and equipment, such as hardhats, safety clothing, hearing protection devices, and boots.

Injuries and Illnesses

Despite the industry’s strong emphasis on safety, logging workers sometimes get injured on the job. And although fatalities are uncommon, fallers experience one of the highest rates of occupational fatalities of all occupations. Most fatalities occur through contact with a machine or an object, such as a log.

Work Schedules

Workers sometimes commute long distances between their homes and logging sites. In more densely populated states, commuting distances are shorter. Logging work is often seasonal, and workers can find more employment opportunities during the warmer months because snow and cold weather adversely affect working conditions.

Education and Training

Most logging workers have a high school diploma. They get on-the-job training to become familiar with forest environments and to learn how to operate logging machinery.

Education

A high school diploma is enough for most logging worker jobs. Some vocational or technical schools and community colleges offer associate’s degrees or certificates in forest technology. This additional education may help workers get a job. Programs may include field trips to observe or participate in logging activities.

A few community colleges offer education programs for logging equipment operators.

Training

Many states have training programs for loggers. Although specific coursework may vary by state, programs usually include technical instruction or field training in a number of areas, including best management practices, environmental compliance, and reforestation.

Safety training is a vital part of logging workers’ instruction. Many state forestry or logging associations provide training sessions for logging equipment operators, whose jobs require more technical skill than other logging positions. Sessions take place in the field, where trainees have the opportunity to practice various logging techniques and use particular equipment.

Logging companies and trade associations offer training programs for workers who operate large, expensive machinery and equipment. These programs often culminate in a state-recognized safety certification from the logging company.

Personality and Interests

Logging workers typically have an interest in the Building, Thinking and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Thinking or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a logging worker, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Logging workers should also possess the following specific qualities:

Communication skills. Logging workers must communicate within a crew so they can cut and delimb trees efficiently and safely.

Decision-making skills. Logging workers must make quick, intelligent decisions when hazards arise.

Detail oriented. Logging workers must watch gauges, dials, and other indicators to determine whether their equipment and tools are working properly.

Physical stamina. Logging workers need to be able to perform laborious tasks repeatedly.

Physical strength. Logging workers must be able to handle heavy equipment.

Pay

The median annual wage for logging workers was $41,230 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,720, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $61,920.

Median annual wages for logging workers in May 2019 were as follows:

Fallers $44,650
Logging equipment operators                                       41,440
Logging workers, all other 39,780
Log graders and scalers 37,280

In May 2019, the median annual wages for logging workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Sawmills and wood preservation                                  $35,670

Workers sometimes commute long distances between their homes and logging sites. In more densely populated states, commuting distances are shorter. Logging work is often seasonal, and workers can find more employment opportunities during the warmer months because snow and cold weather adversely affect working conditions.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of logging workers is projected to decline 14 percent from 2018 to 2028. Much of the employment decline for these workers stems from declining employment in the logging industry.

Mechanization of logging operations and improvements in logging equipment have increased productivity, resulting in less demand for logging workers, especially those who work by hand. Despite the projected employment declines, some fallers will continue to be needed to fell trees on slopes that cannot be accessed by large machinery. Additionally, the need to prevent destructive wildfires by thinning susceptible forests may result in some new jobs.

Job Prospects

Despite projected employment declines, job opportunities should be good because of the need to replace workers who leave the occupation for retirement or for other jobs that are less physically demanding.

Employment of logging workers can be unsteady because changes in the level of construction, particularly residential construction, can cause short-term slowdowns in logging activities.

For More Information

For information about timber-cutting and logging careers, visit

Forest Resources Association

 

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