Logging Workers

Summary

logging workers image
Logging workers harvest thousands of acres of forests each year.
Quick Facts: Logging Workers
2014 Median Pay $35,160 per year
$16.90 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2014 53,700
Job Outlook, 2014-24 -4% (Decline)
Employment Change, 2014-24 -2,000

What Logging Workers Do

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

Work Environment

Logging is physically demanding and can be dangerous. Workers spend all their time outdoors, sometimes in poor weather and often in isolated areas.

How to Become a Logging Worker

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.

Pay

The median annual wage for logging workers was $35,160 in May 2014.

Job Outlook

Employment of logging workers is projected to decline 4 percent from 2014 to 2024. However, there will be a need to replace workers who retire or leave the occupation permanently.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for logging workers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of logging workers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about logging workers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Logging Workers Do

Logging workers
Loggers cut trees with hand-held power chain saws or mobile felling machines.

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 sorters, markers, movers, and 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 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

Work Environment

Logging workers
Workers spend their time outdoors, sometimes in poor weather and often in isolated areas.

Logging workers held about 53,700 jobs in 2014. About 1 out of 4 were self-employed.

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, protective-hearing devices, and boots.   

Injuries and Illnesses

Despite the industry’s strong emphasis on safety, logging workers have a high rate of fatal occupational injuries. 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.

How to Become a Logging Worker

Logging workers
Most logging workers have a high school diploma.

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 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. The training program often culminates with a state-recognized safety certification from the logging company.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Logging workers must communicate with other crew members so that they can cut and delimb trees efficiently and safely.

Decisionmaking 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

Logging Workers

Median annual wages, May 2014

Total, all occupations

$35,540

Logging workers

$35,160

Forest, conservation, and logging workers

$34,200

 

The median annual wage for logging workers was $35,160 in May 2014. 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 $22,370, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $52,340.

Median annual wages for logging workers in May 2014 were as follows:

Logging workers, all other $35,460
Log graders and scalers 35,430
Logging equipment operators 35,190
Fallers 34,490

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

Logging Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Total, all occupations

7%

Forest, conservation, and logging workers

-2%

Logging workers

-4%

 

Employment of logging workers is projected to decline 4 percent from 2014 to 2024. However, there will be a need to replace workers who retire or leave the occupation permanently.

Domestic timber producers continue to face competition from foreign producers.

In addition, efforts to conserve federal forest lands have yielded policies that 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.

Ongoing mechanization within the logging industry will spur demand for logging equipment operators because they will be increasingly needed to operate equipment. Mechanization of logging operations and improvements in logging equipment have increased productivity and made logging work safer, resulting in less demand for logging workers who work by hand. However, some fallers will continue to be needed to fell trees on slopes that cannot be accessed by large machinery.

During prolonged periods of inactivity, some workers may stay on the job to maintain or repair logging machinery and equipment while others receive unemployment benefits, seek work elsewhere, or retire.

Job Prospects

Job opportunities should be good because of the need to replace older 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.

Employment projections data for logging workers, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Logging workers

45-4020 53,700 51,700 -4 -2,000 [XLSX]

Fallers

45-4021 8,200 6,800 -17 -1,400 [XLSX]

Logging equipment operators

45-4022 37,300 37,100 0 -100 [XLSX]

Log graders and scalers

45-4023 3,700 3,700 -2 -100 [XLSX]

Logging workers, all other

45-4029 4,500 4,100 -7 -300 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of logging workers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2014 MEDIAN PAY
Conservation scientists and foresters

Conservation Scientists and Foresters

Conservation scientists and foresters manage the overall land quality of forests, parks, rangelands, and other natural resources.

Bachelor's degree $60,360
Construction equipment operators

Construction Equipment Operators

Construction equipment operators drive, maneuver, or control the heavy machinery used to construct roads, bridges, buildings, and other structures.

High school diploma or equivalent $42,900
Forest and conservation workers

Forest and Conservation Workers

Forest and conservation workers measure and improve the quality of forests. Under the supervision of foresters and forest and conservation technicians, they develop, maintain, and protect forests.

High school diploma or equivalent $27,160
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Logging Workers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/farming-fishing-and-forestry/logging-workers.htm (visited February 09, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015