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How to Become a Lumberjack

Geri Terzo
By Geri Terzo
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Someone who pursues a career as a lumberjack should exhibit a love for the outdoors, a drive for adventure, and an agility to respond to dangerous situations. Physical strength is also a requirement because, to become a lumberjack, you are going to not only need to cut down large trees but also handle the wood, slice it, and transport it to customers. While no formal education is required, there are different positions on a logging team that lead to senior roles that are only attainable with experience.

In order to become a lumberjack, you will either need to work for a lumber company or launch your own business. The former will grant you the advantage of learning the trade from other, more experienced loggers. Also, there is more safety in numbers when it comes to chopping wood. The tools and machinery that are used are extremely dangerous, and in the event of an emergency, having the backing of a logging team could make the difference between life and death.

You are going to have to live near forest habitats and possibly far from much civilization. There should be lumber companies in the areas where you can pursue employment. Be willing to take the most menial job to begin in order to work your way up to become a lumberjack.

The first jobs that you take on your path to become a lumberjack will not necessarily be the same roles you fill throughout your career. Chokermen, as they are called, are responsible for attaching large cables around trees after they are cut for transporting. Like most jobs relating to becoming a lumberjack, this role can be highly precarious because the thick, heavy cables that a chokerman handles can break when tightly wound.

Chopping down trees is another role in the lumber industry. You will likely be working out in the wilderness in the middle of a forest where trees will be centuries old and extend for as many feet or meters into the sky. Often, a tree's weight can reach into the tons.

A feller is the logger who cuts down the tree, and this is typically done with a hand tool, such as a chainsaw. The feller cuts the tree so that it falls in the direction that it was cut. To become a lumberjack, you need to be willing to put yourself in harm's way by cutting down trees.

Lastly, someone needs to chop the wood, load it into trucks, and transport it. The wood will need to be transported from the forest to the lumberyard and ultimately to customers. Chopping wood involves working with mechanical equipment that can be highly dangerous, and this is all part of pursuing a lumberjack career.

What Is a Lumberjack

While being a lumberjack may sound like an old-timey job from the past, modern lumberjacks remain an important profession in the lumber industry. Lumberjacks' main job is to cut down trees, whether that be to harvest the lumber or to clear an area for another reason. The job requires extensive time outside, and a person working as a lumberjack may need to relocate themselves to somewhere near the wilderness where they are working in order to be able to do the job. Lumberjacks often work for private logging companies harvesting wood for use in various products. They may also work for government organizations maintaining healthy forests.

What Happens in a Workday for a Lumberjack?

Where once most of the work was done by hand, today lumberjacks earn their living operating a variety of equipment to fell trees and harvest lumber. Hydraulic machines, motor vehicles, and heavy-duty chainsaws are just some of the many tools of the trade. A typical workday for a lumberjack involves going out into a forested area with a crew and taking down designated trees. This process will involve determining how best to fell the tree, cutting it down, and processing the lumber. Being a lumberjack is a job that requires a lot of physical exertion as well as precise use of different tools. Good health and physical fitness is a must for this career path.

Is the Job Dangerous?

Being a lumberjack can be a dangerous job. In order to stay safe, everyone working needs to receive proper training and instruction on the saws and other equipment they use on the job as well as maintain a constant awareness of their surroundings. Training is often done in the field, and certifications can be earned as part of the hiring process. Depending on the job, some areas that a lumberjack works may be remote and out of service for phones or similar forms of communication. Some lumberjacks work to help clean up burn areas after a forest fire in environments where the ground and surrounding trees may be unstable. The physical exertion of the job can take a toll, and many lumberjacks retire early to seek jobs that require less physical strain.

What Do Lumberjacks Wear

Lumberjacks are often portrayed as wearing red flannels and overalls, often with an ax slung over their shoulder. Modern lumberjacks' gear looks very different from this stereotypical image. Safety and durability are the main emphases of lumberjack wardrobes.

Safety Equipment

A typical lumberjack outfit includes a hardhat with a shield to protect the eyes and face. Ear protection is also important, as saws and other equipment expose the user to loud noises for long periods of time. A long sleeve shirt that is orange, yellow, or another bright color makes the wearer more visible to other members of the crew. Heavy-duty gloves are worn to protect the hands. Lumberjacks may also be provided with saw-resistant clothing, such as pants that can not be cut through with a chainsaw should it get out of control. Depending on the job, lumberjacks may need to hike out to a location or navigate difficult terrain. Sturdy boots are important, both for making walking easier and for protecting the feet.

How Much Do Lumberjacks Make

The average yearly salary for someone working as a lumberjack is just over $40,000 a year, though this can vary a lot depending on how long an individual has been in the industry and what the specific job title he or she has earned entails. On the higher end of the spectrum, loggers earn up to about $65,000 a year. Generally, a person hired as a logger will start with a relatively low salary and work their way to higher yearly earnings as they gain experience and move up the chain of command. While the demand for lumberjacks has decreased due to technological advancements that mean the logging industry requires less manpower, there are still positions open for skilled candidates.

Requirements to Get Hired

Education should not be a barrier to becoming a lumberjack. A high school diploma or less is usually acceptable for most companies. An understanding of how to use tools and machinery as well as physical strength and fitness are all traits that can help you get hired. If you do wish to pursue higher education, there are lumberjack-related jobs that require degrees in forestry or a similar subject. Forestry jobs requiring a degree often involve managing forests, determining which areas to harvest, and maintaining the health of tree farms or natural areas.

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