There are essentially two paths into the wood industry. One leads to a
bachelor's degree in wood science, the other to a certificate or associate's
degree from a technical school or community college.
The path you take depends on what you want to do. If you want to
work hands-on with wood, like a cabinetmaker or carpenter, or operate machines
in a sawmill, train at a technical school in a one- or two-year program.
However, if you want to manage a sawmill or furniture company, select wood
for lumber companies or even work your way up into the top of the industry,
you'll need at least a bachelor's degree in wood science or forestry.
You may want to choose a school in the WoodLINKS cooperative program,
which works directly with industry to offer courses and training geared toward
industry needs. Another possibility is choosing one of the university programs
in the U.S. accredited by the Society of Wood Science and Technology.
Wood science programs have different names, such as wood industries, forest
products marketing or forestry. But all of them require lots of science,
math, business and communications courses as well as classes about wood
-- how it grows and behaves and how to process it, manufacture it and use
A typical day in a wood science program might include classes in tree
physiology, forest ecology, harvesting, management, wood grading and wood
mechanics, followed by an afternoon of lab exercises in the woods.
Some schools require field practica to let students get their feet wet
in the woods. At Auburn University, students spend all summer in an Alabama
forestry center before they can even start taking wood science courses in
Other schools have arranged co-ops with industry and require students
to spend several semesters actually working in a wood manufacturing company
while they're earning their degrees.
Interested high school students should be learning "all the math, science
and 'people skills' they can," says Kent Hanby of the school of forestry at
"The science should include biology, chemistry and physics," he
adds. "The math should take them to calculus and analysis."
Be sure to handle some wood before you start. "Take wood shop in
school," advises Sandy McKellar, the wood science student coordinator at a
There are the usual costs of tuition and books. In addition, many schools
require special equipment, such as drafting tools, work boots or a compass.
Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Woodworkers
For more information related to this field of study, see: Forest
and Conservation Workers
Discover fun facts and other information about forests
Find out about careers in the wood products industry
Do research on the different types of wood and more