Wood technology focuses on the conversion of raw timber to functional products such as plywood and paper. Wood technologists oversee this process, ensuring it meets the established quality standards. If you are a technically minded person who is interested in wood and trees, this could be your ideal career.
What Do Wood Technologists Do?
Their primary duties include:
- Acquiring timber from sellers
- Ensuring the acquired timber is stored safely and properly to keep it usable
- Coordinating the transportation of timber from storage facilities to processing plants
- Monitoring processing activities on the production floor
- Supervising and training logging workers and other wood specialists
- Checking the quality of finished products
- Coordinating the storage of finished products
- Conducting research on wood processing topics.
Wood technologists work on a shift system, since many wood processing plants operate on a 24-hour basis. They spend most of their workday on production floors coordinating production activities and advising production managers. To stay safe at work, they wear protective gear such as hard hats, ear muffs, and boots.
The job may involve some travelling to wood plantations to inspect timber harvesting activities. During this time, wood technologists may be exposed to unfavorable weather.
The median annual salary for wood technologists is $39,014, according to Salary.com. The following table highlights their salary ranges:
Lowest paid wood technologists
$34,930 - $36,876
Highest paid wood technologists
$43,988 - $48,516
To qualify for employment as a wood technologist, you need to earn a bachelor’s degree in wood science and technology or wood product engineering. These programs cover essential topics, such as:
- Wood chemistry
- Forest measurement and management
- Functional structure in woody plants
- Timber harvesting
- Timber and wood-fiber processing
- Pulp technology
- Wood composites
As part of the coursework, students also complete internships in industrial settings where they gain some valuable practical experience.
Some of the institutions offering this program include:
Technologists with an associate’s degree in either of these fields can also get the job, as long as they possess vast experience in timber harvesting or any other relevant field.
Wood technologists need the following skills, abilities, and interests:
- Strong practical skills
- An interest in forestry and science
- The ability to manage people
- Strong technical skills
- Good analytical and problem-solving skills
- Good math skills
- Knowledge of occupational health and safety practices
- Good computer skills
- Good research skills.
Like many jobs in production settings, it takes vast work experience and advanced credential to move a step ahead. As a wood technologist, you can follow the following advancement paths:
- Pursuing a master’s degree in wood science or material science and engineering
- Joining professional association such as the Wood Technology Society or the Society of Wood Science and Technology – This will give you access to industry publications, seminars, and conferences, as well as training workshops.
The employers of wood technologists include:
- Paper manufacturing plants
- Wood processing plants
- Saw mills
- Research facilities
With vast experience and a master’s degree, you can advance to become a materials scientist and later on, an industrial production manager. You can also move into full-time research or find senior conservation jobs at government agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service.
Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics does compile outlook data for wood technologists, you should not expect to have strong employment prospects. From the fact that only a few universities offer wood science programs, we can tell the demand for wood technologists is not high.
But if you are really interested in wood and trees, this should not deter you from becoming a wood technologist. According to Business Vibes, the US is one of the top producers of wood products, meaning the industry will create some job opportunities.