Choosing GCSE and A Level Options

Thinking of forestry as a possible career?

Choosing your options

Lots of people will offer you advice when selecting your GCSE’s or A-levels – your school, your family, your friends and their advice is really useful. However, don’t forget that the most important person in this decision process is you. Like any choice you make in life, the only person that can make it a success is you! The best advice you can give yourself is to select the subjects that you want to study as it will be you that has to complete the work and study for the exam.

Selecting subjects for the forestry sector

  • Biology – Is the scientific study of life in which learners investigate living organisms and the process of life. Forestry is the process of managing individual living organisms (trees) and whole communities/ecosystems (woodlands). Studying Biology would provide learners with a knowledge and understanding of woodland management and ecological considerations within forest/woodland that would be valuable within a wide range of forestry careers.
  • Business Studies – Is for learners who would like to gain an understanding and the skills required for running a business, such as managing money and employing staff. The majority of organisations within the forestry sector are small (5 – 10 staff) companies, with many working independently as self-employed contractors. Business studies would be a good subject for learners who would like to work self-employed or start their own company in the forestry sector.
  • Chemistry – Is the scientific study of the earth’s chemicals and their relationships and reactions. The chemical composition of soils is important when understanding the growth and survival of plants (trees) within soil. The use of chemicals to improve growth rates, manage pests and diseases are both key components within the field of forestry. Learners with a knowledge of chemistry would be valuable within many forestry sectors but ideally within the tree growing (nurseries) and plant health (forest research) sectors.
  • Design and Technology – Is for learners with the creative skills who want to design, create and manufacture products from different resistant materials. The wood processing and wood based products sectors are large scale employers that demand a skilled and knowledgeable work force. Learners considering a career in wood processing (saw mill) or wood products (carpentry) sectors would gain valuable knowledge and skills required for understanding and working with wood.
  • English – Many learners will view the forestry sector as a very practically skilled sector suited for those from a less academic back ground. However, many forestry sector jobs and careers require very strong written and verbal skills. Writing forest management plans and funding applications is an essential skill for any forest manager and require good written English. Those who would like to work in forest research would be expected to publish their work and present (verbally) at conferences and seminars.
  • Engineering – The study of engine powered machines provides learners with the skills and knowledge to understand how engines work and maintenance requirements. Developments in the forestry sector have made the sector very heavily reliant on engine powered machinery from hand held chainsaws to large scale harvesting equipment. The need for foresters with knowledge and skills specific to the maintenance of forestry equipment is sure to increase as the need for the equipment increases.
  • Environmental Science (2016) – Environmental Science provides learners with the opportunity to study the hands-on elements of environmental science. Learners who are considering careers within forestry and woodland management that link to the ecology and wildlife values of woodland management on a global scale would find this subject valuable. Rising awareness off the effects human impacts have on natural environments has provided a career opportunity for those who would like to work on improving our understanding of the impacts of forestry and woodland management have on the environment as a whole.
  • Maths – Is the science that deals with shape, time, quantity and arrangement. Maths for many is a difficult subject but is important in everything you do. Learners considering a career in forestry should be aware of the value of strong mathematical skills to the sector. The ability to complete accurate counts, record measurements and calculate volumes are all highly valued skills within commercial forestry, wood processing and woodland management.
  • Geography – is a multidiscipline subject that includes physical, human and environmental geography. The subject deals with many environmental topics that are linked to forestry, including, ecosystems, weather, waterways, energy, natural hazards and conservation. Forestry requires an understanding of the role woodlands play within the landscape on a national and global scale and geography will provide that area of knowledge.
  • ICT and Computer Science – provides learners with the knowledge and the skills required to be able to understand how technology and computers work and how they are operated. Forestry continues to become more sustainable and commercially viable. This development has been driven by advances in technology. The machinery used within the wood processing sector is largely computer operated, as are many of the large forestry machines.
  • Languages – While not directly linked to a career in forestry learners should be aware that forestry is a global industry with opportunities all around the world. Languages including French and German may prove valuable for anybody wishing to pursue an international career in forestry. In many other countries forestry can provide excellent learning and career opportunities that become more accessible for those who can communicate in other languages.
  • Leisure and Tourism – Learners will gain a knowledge of business, marketing, customer service, retail and hospitality. Forestry recreation is a multimillion pound industry that continues to grow in the UK and is a large sector employer. The range of jobs in the forestry recreation sector is wide and varied and provide plenty of opportunities.
  • Physical Educations – provides learners with an understanding of personal health and physical wellbeing while at the same time providing opportunities to develop their own physical fitness. On the ground forestry jobs often require an individual to have a certain level of physical fitness to be able to carry out physically demanding tasks. The ability to walk long distances over difficult terrain, lift and carry weight and work long hours outdoors are often required.

Additional Qualifications

If you are considering a career in forestry, you may want to undertake additional qualifications that could assist you in gaining a better appreciation of forestry and the forestry sector. While additional qualifications do not guarantee employment, they may help you build a CV that is attractive to potential employers.

  • Duke of Edinburgh
  • Scouts – Forestry Badge and Knots Badge