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Author Topic: California Forestry Schools  (Read 1939 times)

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Offline southpaw185

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California Forestry Schools
« on: February 18, 2016, 09:58:39 am »
Hey everyone.  I'm a long time lurker making my first post in regards to an important educational decision in my very near future.  I am a community college student from Southern California who is looking to transfer to a 4-year university and I am having some trouble determining what I should be looking for when choosing a school.  I have been accepted to many schools (limiting my choices to SAF accredited programs as recommended by others on the forum) including Oregon State University, Humboldt State University, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Northern Arizona University, and Colorado State University.  I am currently in my early 30s and will likely be paying for my education via loans so I have effectively ruled out any out-of-state schools due to cost, which brings me to my dilemma:

Cal Poly or Humboldt?

I have heard much about Humboldt's program via internet sources and know that they are very respectable, but I have yet to hear much about Cal Poly's forestry program.  I know that the school itself is very well-respected but I am worried that not all majors are created equal.  Does anybody have any experience or knowledge regarding Cal Poly and their natural resources department?

Secondly, I have heard that school choice is very likely to determine the location of one's job.  My wife and I desire to live in the PNW (ideally just east of the cascades if we're being picky, hah).  Should my decision regarding where to attend college be determined by where I ultimately want to live?    I hear a lot of people say that the job forces mobility of one's living situation.  As a Forester, does one truly have a say in where they live?

I appreciate everybody's input and if you have any advice or questions I would love to hear them.  Thanks again!

Offline beenthere

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Re: California Forestry Schools
« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2016, 11:06:53 am »
Welcome to the Forestry Forum.
I'd suggest you visit the departments in both schools.. and talk to the professors at each.

Then look at making some contacts with the local or regional SAF (Society of American Foresters) and talk with employed or retired members, and possibly attend a chapter meeting.
Likely you can meet for lunch with some forestry type in either private or public sector jobs who will give you some good tips for your questions. But the main point, rub some elbows at both the professional and the educators' level .
south central Wisconsin
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Offline southpaw185

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Re: California Forestry Schools
« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2016, 02:28:20 pm »
Thanks beenthere for your reply.  Its actually been difficult to get in touch with professors at both schools due to their busy schedules.  A lot of schools act as if they don't want to speak to you whatsoever until you're officially enrolled (given them money, hah).  I'll definitely keep trying though!

That being said, I did recently join my local SAF within the past few months and it is a great idea to start developing connections and friendships with other local members.  Living in San Diego, I am not necessarily in an area that the field of forestry is very prevalent, however I'm going to look into it and know I'll find someone willing to let me buy them lunch, hah.

Thanks again!

Online clearcut

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Re: California Forestry Schools
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2016, 12:33:24 am »
Any of the schools you list could provide you with a decent forestry education. Though you are reasonably worried, you simply cannot make a bad choice, from an educational standpoint, from any of the schools that you listed.

A big part of the college experience is the people that you meet. That includes the faculty, fellow students, alumni, and visitors to the program like lecturers, speakers, visiting professors and so forth. These are the people that you need to network with to get that first job, and possibly future work.

So ask yourself, and the colleges that you are considering, where do their alumni get work following graduation - USFS/ government, Private Industrial, Private Non-Industrial (consulting), and how does that match where you want to end up and what do you want to do. Alumni are often the best sources of upcoming job information. Forestry is a relatively small industry. Personal connections are hugely important.

Look at the types of visitors to campus. Do industry leaders give lectures or attend events? Even a quick one-on-one with an industry or government leader can get your foot in the door for an interview or notification of an upcoming position.

My very general impression is that HSU graduates tend to go into industry and consulting positions in California and Oregon, and Cal Poly graduates tend to go into government, non-profit type positions, or continue their education. MANY exceptions on both sides.

HSU graduates 56% of all Registered Professional Foresters working in California, Cal Poly is 6%, UC Berkeley (Go Bears!) is 7%, and out of state 31%. (2001-2012 HSU).

From a strictly quality of life standpoint, Cal Poly has nicer weather and is closer to "civilization". Humboldt is foggy and far away.

Best of luck!

Offline SLawyer Dave

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Re: California Forestry Schools
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2016, 12:42:11 pm »
I've taken courses sponsored by both universities, (though not in forestry).  Both are excellent schools.  If you were to ask 100 graduate school administrators, which school was better "respected", the majority would probably say Cal Poly.  However, in the area of Forestry, Humboldt seems to clearly have the edge.  Oregon and Humboldt always seem to be the top two programs here on the West Coast.  The other thing to keep in mind is "networking".  As Clearcut posted, HSU has by far the most working foresters here in California.  HSU and UoO probably have the most foresters working here on the West Coast.   That means the professors you are going to be learning from, have contacts, former students, and industry connections throughout the region that Cal Poly likely doesn't have. 

When you are a fresh graduate, filled with book learning, but short on experience, these kinds of industry connections can be the most valuable asset you possess.  Having one of your professors make a personal referral, writing a letter of reference, or passing your name along to industry contacts, is a HUGE benefit in getting that first job.  So if your goal is to go to a 4 year school and graduate with a BS in Forestry and go to work in the industry or government, then I believe HSU is probably your best bet.  If you want to go on to do graduate work, then Cal Poly is a great choice.

The other thing to think about is that HSU is located in the small town of Arcata.  Arcata is remote, cold and foggy during the winter, and it rains a lot.  My wife would HATE it there.  She likes visiting during the summer, when it is one of the most beautiful areas on the West Coast, but the winters are cold and depressing, (unless you like cold and foggy).  Coming from Southern California, you are probably in for a huge culture shock.  The upside is that Arcata and the surrounding area are very friendly, laid back, and accommodating.  People know their neighbors, life seems a little less hectic, traffic is not the issue, and generally people seem happier.  If you and your wife want to live in the PNW, then Arcata is a pretty good immersion into the more rural and forestry based way of life that you are going to find in logging communities. 

Cal Poly is probably going to be a lot less of a culture shock to you and your wife, as it still has somewhat of a "southern California" feel to me, (which is why I don't like the area).  =)  Living costs tend to be much higher across the board than Arcata also.  So again, based on costs of both tuition and necessary living expenses, I believe HSU is going to be substantially cheaper in the long run.

Good luck to you.

Offline southpaw185

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Re: California Forestry Schools
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2016, 06:27:47 pm »
Thanks everyone for the great insight!

@clearcut
I think that it is very wise to point out the importance of connections within the field of forestry.  It has always seemed to me that HSU is more grounded in the industry as a whole than most other western schools.  The statistic that you posted clearly supports the fact that an undergraduate degree from Humboldt will earn someone a larger network of connections than a school with a smaller program.  Also, with Cal Poly's great quality of life benefits comes great rental housing cost, hah.

@SLawyer Dave
I think that you've hit the nail on the head as to why I seem to be having such a difficult time with my decision.  Nearly everyone I know from southern California speaks of Cal Poly as if it is the holy grail of state schools and points to Humboldt's reputation for turning out undergrads that earn low salaries.  This, however, does not seem a relevant statistic when speaking strictly of a forestry major.

Overall, I would be going to Oregon State University if I was able to pay in-state prices, however, with their high out-of-state rates, my wallet said no.  Part of me wants a bit of culture shock as I am not the biggest fan of Southern California culture.  My wife is definitely a little bit wary of Humboldt County (we visited just recently).  This is mostly due to all of the hearsay regarding the theft and drug problems commonly referenced in any discussion that I've had with those who have never actually been to the area.

Does Cal Poly's lack of a nearby forest seem as if it would make the hands-on learning portion of the degree any more difficult?  They own an area called the Swanton Pacific Range, however it is nearly 3 hours away from the school whereas Humboldt State is basically among the redwoods.

Does anybody have any opinions regarding the different concentrations offered at either school?  I know that it ultimately comes down to where one's interest lies, but it makes sense that a specific concentration might have a higher demand or be more useful overall.  The concentrations offered at either school are as follows:

Cal Poly: Watershed Management & Hydrology, Wildlife Biology, or Wildland Fire & Fuels Management

HSU: Forest Hydrology, Forest Operations, Forest Resource Conservation, Forest Soils, or Wildland Fire Management

I am also planning on exploring a minor in GIS.  Does anyone have any suggestions as to whether or not this would be worth my time? 

I am probably getting ahead of myself at this point but I am just very excited about my future and what I will learn.  Thanks everyone for all of your helpful posts!

Offline SLawyer Dave

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Re: California Forestry Schools
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2016, 07:56:58 pm »


  My wife is definitely a little bit wary of Humboldt County (we visited just recently).  This is mostly due to all of the hearsay regarding the theft and drug problems commonly referenced in any discussion that I've had with those who have never actually been to the area.


I can't speak to concentrations or coarse work at either school, but wanted to comment about the "crime" concern.  Just for a little back ground, I am primarily a public defender here in Northern California.  My family is from Mendocino County, which is just south of Humboldt County on the coast.  There are differences, but there are also a lot of similarities.  The big "drug" of choice along the north coast is Marijuana.  It is grown everywhere, and in most instances, law enforcement doesn't even try to keep control of it anymore.   While there are exceptions, unless you go walking through someone's grow, you probably won't have too many problems with Marijuana users and growers.  It's hard to be aggressive and violent when you are stoned apparently.  = )

The big scourge throughout California and the West in general is Methamphetamine.  There is no such thing as a "social" meth user.  It is the most addictive substance known to medicine.  Meth cookers, users, and distributors are constantly in search of it, or the money to buy their next hit.  That is where the vast majority of the theft and property crimes come in.  These addicts are constantly looking for anything they can beg, borrow or steal to pay for their meth.   However, there is not a place in California or the rest of the west coast where you are not going to run into similar problems.  Cities throughout the West are dealing with the same trends, so really, there is no "safe" place.  One thing smaller towns and friendlier neighbors give you, though, is more eyes on the street. 

Wherever you choose to go to school, talk to a local law enforcement officer.  Let them know that you are moving into the area to go to school, and are there any areas that they would recommend you look at, (and conversely avoid).  Talk to the University staff and existing students to get the same information.  Typically, so long as you live in a "decent" neighborhood, you will probably never  experience such property crimes, as the "tweakers" (that is the pet name for Meth addicts), tend to avoid areas where they are going to stand out.  Also don't leave valuables sitting around where they can easily be seen or picked up. 

Offline southpaw185

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Re: California Forestry Schools
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2016, 09:15:15 pm »
@SLawyer Dave
What a great overview of the drug culture in the area!  I had my wife read what you said and she feels a lot more at ease about living in the Humboldt area.  It seems like a smart idea to contact local law enforcement regardless of where we choose to live because sometimes its difficult to differentiate between a good and a bad area (especially when you are on a budget).  Thanks again for the extremely informative post.

Offline RPF2509

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Re: California Forestry Schools
« Reply #8 on: March 11, 2016, 02:37:52 pm »
Well shucks I timed out and my post was rejected so I'll try again.  I am an OSU graduate working for large industrial forest owners in N CA for the last 25 years and some great info's been posted so far. SLawyer Dave hit the nail on the head about the drug culture - beware the tweakers but the pot growers are mellow unless you stumble on their grow.  Arcata has more than its share of freespirit freeloaders but they're everywhere now. Our summer tech goes to Cal poly and gives it high marks but its a small program.  Humboldt is still focused on practical forestry as is OSU. UC Berkeley is a good program but is less production oriented and is in the very expensive bay area. Though I've not been to Corvallis in a while it was a small mellow college town then and does not seem to have grown much.  When I was there you could get instate tuition if you lived and worked in OR for a year - something to consider or check into.  If you stay in CA you will want to go the Registered Professional Forester route (4 year degree from SAF accredited college -cal poly was in danger of losing their accreditation - check this- plus 3 years experience and pass the all day exam).  Wherever you graduate from and wherever you work your first job will be as a lower paid technician.  Pay goes up substantially once you get an RPF license.  With all the rules and regs in CA forestry there will be no lack of demand for RPFs as the current RPF roster is aging and only a dozen or so new RPFs pass the exam each year.  After trying several other jobs I feel like I made an excellent choice in Forestry.  It is a huge field with many specialties and areas of interest.  I may not be rich but I make a good living and have a rich career plus gotten to live in some of the most beautiful places in the state.  The forestry community is small so personal contacts are important as is maintaining a high ethical standard but I view that as a good thing.  Here's some web sites to look at for more info on CA forestry.  clfa.org (licensed foresters website) fire.ca.gov (state forestry website)

Offline southpaw185

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Re: California Forestry Schools
« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2016, 03:48:22 pm »
Thanks RPF2509!  You addressed one of my concerns regarding Cal Poly when noting that their accreditation had been on rocky soil.  We have considered the possibility of making our way up to Oregon to develop residency but a year feels like a long time to put things on hold in the grand scheme of life and the wife wants to start a family sooner than later, hah.  I appreciate the information regarding the post-graduation path I will likely be following.  What sort of personalities do you generally meet in the field?  Do you have any insight on how the "concentration" chosen for an undergrad degree might effect one's job demand, if at all?  I am seriously considering Forest Hydrology as I have an interest in geology and watershed management but I am unsure as to the demand for such a focus.  The other area I am interested in is reforestation.

I also wanted to thank everyone for their helpful comments.  I have officially chosen HSU as my forestry school and am extremely excited to learn more about the field as I progress in my education.

Offline SLawyer Dave

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Re: California Forestry Schools
« Reply #10 on: March 17, 2016, 09:13:58 am »
Well congrats on coming to a decision, and good luck.  Keep us informed of your progress.

Offline Ron Scott

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Re: California Forestry Schools
« Reply #11 on: March 17, 2016, 06:19:12 pm »
Forest Hydrology is a good resource specialty field. The Forest Hydrologist that worked with me here is now the County drain commissioner after he retired from the USFS. 
~Ron

Offline RPF2509

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Re: California Forestry Schools
« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2016, 12:55:22 pm »
Southpaw,  If you are interested in hydrology the north coast is ground zero for water issues in CA and you will learn a lot at Humboldt. Realize though that industry jobs in hydrology are fewer and by going that avenue you would have more opportunities in government. However by being interested in reforestation you are almost exclusively limited to large industrial forest landowners as the government does almost nothing in the way of reforestation, even in the wake of large wildfires.  Small landowners rarely clearcut and there is not as much demand for reforestation in the consulting field.  I started forestry with reforestation in mind and am still involved in it as a major part of my job.  Nothing I have done has given me satisfaction like putting a seedling in the ground and seeing it grow.  By going the reforestation route you will have to accept herbicide use and become an expert in it as it is a major tool used to get the job done.  To go that route in CA you will need to think about a Pest Control Advisor license (way easier to get than the RPF see dpr.ca.gov) and what courses you will need to satisfy the requirements for that license.  As both an RPF and a PCA, I am an even rarer type of forester with a unique skillset  and will always be employable.  After working for the Feds, the State and private industry here's how I see it.  Job security for the government is very high but you must enjoy process and procedure and taking a long time to get things done (not for me).  For private industry you will be given a lot of responsibility quickly but you must want to get things done and get results.  Job security is variable but your good reputation and a wide ranging skillset will keep you employed.  The Feds pay poorest but don't ask much.  The State pays comparable or better than private and has great benefits but has a very ridged structure and lots of procedure - you gotta love paperwork. The fire side dominates and foresters can be looked on as a necessary evil.  With hydrology, other agencies become viable employers (dept of Fish and Wildlife, Dept of Water resources) I have not worked as a consultant but they go where the job is available and many work statewide, be prepared to travel and good people skills are paramount.  The Timber Harvest Plan process will be your bible. You will interact with many small private landowners, many of whom don't know much about forestry or CA's rules and regs. Right out of college you may work for a consultant as a tech but don't be looking to hang out a shingle and going into business on your own.  Foresters are diverse in personality but many are the practical, quiet types.  Almost exclusively we are white males and the profession is badly in need of minorities and women.  In CA this can be a disservice as Politics govern forest policy more than science.  A bold personality will go far and is needed to joust in the political arena.  While at Humboldt get involved in the Forestry Club and get to know your future peers, take public speaking and use every opportunity to get speaking experience. In the end its people that will give you your most challenging situations.  The forestry stuff is easy by comparison.  Society of American Forester and California Licensed Forester Asscn are the main professional groups to be active in.  Both have lower priced student membership.  Get involved at all levels and try to get to as many conferences as you can and become known to the forestry community.  Good luck on your education path and get used to the fog and rain.  You will become a expert in raingear at Humboldt.

Offline southpaw185

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Re: California Forestry Schools
« Reply #13 on: March 23, 2016, 11:21:17 am »
I appreciate the support regarding Forest Hydrology and Watershed Management.  I have heard from other (unreliable) sources that the field is too specialized to assure an eventual career.  Individuals will tell me that I need to be an engineer or geologist to work with water, but I love the thought of approaching hydrology from the mindset of a forester.

RPF2509, your assessment of reforestation was extremely helpful.  I don't know very much about the use of herbicides in forest operations and am still wary of certain practices in the field of forestry (due to my lack of education).  You noted that many foresters are generally the practical, quiet types, which describes me perfectly.  Sadly, I will be little help in diversifying the array of personality types within the field.  I agree that foresters need better representation in the political arena.  In reading Jeffrey Mount's book, "California Rivers and Streams," I had no idea how mismanaged California's resources had been throughout its history.  It is ultimately very upsetting to me that those who are not trained in a related scientific field are able to decide the fate of our natural resources.

I've heard word of an age limit (37) regarding working for the federal government.  Does anybody have an explanation for this?  Does this only involve jobs in which one is considered a law enforcement officer?  I don't plan on working in law enforcement, but I just wanted to make sure that I am not limiting myself in any way (I'm 31 currently and will likely graduate at 34).  I am assuming that this is likely something I don't need to worry about.

Thanks again for the support!

Offline ppine

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Re: California Forestry Schools
« Reply #14 on: June 08, 2016, 05:31:04 pm »
There is a major difference in the quality of the forestry education available on the West Coast.  I am a graduate of the Univ of Washington and naturally put the Huskies at the top. Oregon State and University of California Berkeley are excellent.  Montana State and
Colorado State are pretty good. Maybe Northern Arizona.  In the East Yale,  and Duke are great schools.

I have yet to meet a Humboldt State graduate worth his salt. Sorry if that ruffles feathers. Cal Poly SLO is a great school but I don't now much about their forestry program.  You can tell a lot about a school by the number of classes in their program, their field programs, and their faculty.  It is the most important career decision you can make.
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Offline RPF2509

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Re: California Forestry Schools
« Reply #15 on: June 15, 2016, 03:34:33 pm »
Hey PPine, GO Beavs!!

Offline ppine

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Re: California Forestry Schools
« Reply #16 on: June 15, 2016, 08:22:49 pm »
I have met some really good foresters from Corvallis.  I spent some time on the Willamette R and in town 2 years ago and really liked it. It is one of the best towns on the West Side.  I like the Beavers.

But I am a third generation Husky and bleed purple.
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