Logging workers held about 43,900 jobs in 2012.
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.
Chainsaws and other power equipment can be dangerous; therefore, workers must be careful and must use proper safety measures and equipment, such as hard hats, safety clothing, hearing protection, and boots.
Injuries and Illnesses
Despite the strong emphasis on safety, logging workers have a high rate of fatal occupational injuries. Most fatal occupational injuries occur due to contact with a machine or an object.
Workers sometimes commute long distances between their homes and logging sites. When workers are far away from their homes, they are given accommodations near logging sites. In more densely populated states, commuting distances are shorter. Logging work is often seasonal; workers can find more employment opportunities during the warmer months because snow and rain adversely affect working conditions.
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.
A high school diploma is enough for most logging workers. Some vocational and technical schools and community colleges offer courses leading to a 2-year technical degree in forest harvesting. This degree may help workers get a job. Courses may include field trips to observe or participate in logging activities.
A few community colleges offer education programs for equipment operators.
Many states have training programs for loggers. Although specific coursework may vary by state, most 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 skill and experience than other logging positions. Sessions take place in the field, where trainees have the opportunity to practice various logging techniques.
Logging companies and trade associations offer training programs for workers who operate large, expensive machinery and equipment. The training program often culminates with a safety certification for the logging company.
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.
The median annual wage for logging workers was $33,630 in May 2012. 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 $21,310, and the top 10 percent earned more than $49,950.
The median annual wages for logging worker occupations in May 2012 were as follows:
- $35,250 for fallers
- $34,260 for all other logging workers
- $33,380 for logging equipment operators
- $32,880 for log graders and scalers
Workers sometimes commute long distances between their homes and logging sites. When workers are far away from their homes, they are given accommodations near logging sites. In more densely populated states, commuting distances are shorter. Logging work is often seasonal; workers can find more employment opportunities during the warmer months since snow and rain adversely affect working conditions.
Employment of logging workers is projected to decline 9 percent from 2012 to 2022. Logging workers may have good job prospects, particularly as more workers reach retirement age or leave the occupation permanently and need to be replaced.
In an effort to conserve federal forestlands, policies limit the logging industry’s ability to cultivate raw forest material. However, federal legislation designed to prevent destructive wildfires by thinning susceptible forests may result in some additional jobs.
Domestic timber producers continue to face increasing competition from foreign producers.
Increased mechanization of logging operations and improvements in logging equipment will result in less demand for timber-cutting and logging workers who work by hand. Employment of logging equipment operators will be less affected and should rise, because they will be needed to operate logging equipment.
During prolonged periods of inactivity, some workers may stay on the job to maintain or repair logging machinery and equipment, while others take unemployment or seek work elsewhere.
Job opportunities should be good because of the need to replace older workers who leave the occupation for retirement or 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 information about timber-cutting and logging careers and links to state associations, visit