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Study Forest Engineering

21 November 2023

Forest engineers help design, construct and evaluate the operational systems that make the forest industry function. This includes designing and building new roads and forestry equipment, planning harvest operations, integrating new technologies and optimising transport logistics. It also means looking after the environment. These roles involve the hands-on application of engineering skills.


The New Zealand forest industry is a significant and growing area of our economy, so the industry needs skilled and motivated young professionals. Forest engineers' skill-sets also provide work opportunities abroad and in a range of other industries that draw on our graduates' multi-disciplinary skills.

The entry requirements for the Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in Forest Engineering are explained on the College of Engineering website.

First Year

As with all BE(Hons) courses, you will start with the first year, followed by three years of study in your chosen specialisation. The Engineering First Year is the first year of study in the BE (Hons) programme and is common to all Engineering degrees. It gives students a thorough understanding of the fundamental subjects, namely Engineering Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Engineering Mechanics.


Specialisation - Years 2 through 4

After successfully completing your 1st Year, you’ll progress through the basic engineering and forestry courses to design and management courses in your Second, Third and Fourth Years specialising in Forest Engineering. 

You must hold a UC approved, valid First Aid Certificate at some stage while you are enrolled for a BE (Hons) Forest Engineering degree, and you must complete practical work training. Failure to complete the practical work requirement could delay your graduation.
The College of Engineering website has full details on practical work.


Workshop Training Course

Students will undertake two training courses in the first week of the Semester One term break:

  • Unit Standard: 17769 DKO General Health, Safety, and Environmental Requirements in Forestry (one day)
  • Attend the Programme Field Trip to Hanmer Springs and Matariki Rayonier forests (two days)

Students should have completed both courses during the 2nd Year before starting practical work in industry. In addition, the Programme Field Trip provides practical skills that assist in second semester coursework. Students will receive more information in their 2nd Year from the Director of Studies in Forest Engineering.

Our students have an opportunity to go on exchange programmes to North America to study forestry at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, Canada, and Virginia Polytech and State University, in Blacksburg, Virginia, USA.


Fees and funding

The exchanges are available to School of Forestry third-year students who will enrol at UC and complete course work at either UC or the North American university, or one semester at each. Students can travel to North America in one or both semesters. Enrolment at UC through the period of the exchange covers all tuition fees and no additional tuition is paid to the North American school. Personal medical insurance must be purchased as a requirement of the exchange. This is available from a variety of vendors in New Zealand.


Course work

Exchange students typically stay in North America for six months to a year and take a combination of required papers and electives that complement the BForSc.


North American schools and employment

The two schools, Virginia Polytech and State University (Virginia Tech) and UBC are both strong world-class, forestry schools with excellent programmes of study.


Virginia Polytech and State University

Virginia Tech is particularly strong in GIS and plantation forestry. It is located in the southeastern United States where the most intensive modern plantation forestry is being conducted. International Paper (a 51% shareholder/owner of Carter Holt Harvey), Rayonier and Weyerhauser are all important forest companies in the region and offer opportunities for short term employment that can enhance a student's competitiveness for forestry jobs back in New Zealand. Virginia Tech is located in Blue Ridge Mountain country with its large wilderness areas such as the Great Smoky Mountains, the centre of ecological and forest biodiversity for the eastern half of North America.



UBC has a large forestry programme with real strengths in wood processing and forest harvesting, two areas of great significance in the New Zealand forestry sector. UBC also has strong programmes in natural or wild forests with great depth in ecology. Fletchers is one of the most important forestry corporations in the region and internships conducted in British Columbia would very likely enhance job prospects in the forestry sector here in New Zealand.


Additional schools

Students may also apply to participate in university-wide exchange agreements with several other schools with formal exchange agreements with Canterbury.


How to apply
  • Applications for exchanges to UBC close on 1 February each year.
  • Applications for exchanges to Virginia Tech close on 1 July each year.

Students should submit an application to the International Mobility Coordinator, Student Services Centre (see Exchange Students website for contact details). Candidates would be notified of their success and subsequently agree on the course of study.

Your application should include your name, address, phone number, e-mail address. (We need to know how to reach you out of term time.)

A brief essay (1-2 pages) relating your interests in forestry and the exchange programme. Personal experience that you think has helped prepare you for forestry or has fuelled your interest in an international exchange. (Tell us anything about yourself that you think makes you a good candidate for the exchange).

What would you like to be doing in 5 years time? Attach a brief resume that includes your education; any scholarships, awards or honours; employment experience; volunteer experience; field skills etc. Provide the name and phone or e-mail of one faculty member who might be contacted as a reference.


More information

Scholarships and prizes available to all UC students are listed on the UC Scholarships database

A growing industry

The New Zealand forest industry is a significant and growing area of the New Zealand economy. Industry forecasts are the annual harvest will double over the next 20 years and that forest sector will become New Zealand’s largest export earner. So, the New Zealand forestry industry needs skilled and motivated young professionals.

Forest engineers help design, construct and evaluate the operational systems that make the forest industry ‘work’. This can include designing and building new roads and forestry equipment, planning harvest operations, integrating new technologies and optimising transport logistics. It also means looking after the environment. These roles involve the ‘hands-on’ application of engineering skills.


Sought-after skills

Forest engineers have a wide skill-set that provides work opportunities both at home and abroad. Graduates can take employment in the forest industry, but because of the multi-disciplinary nature of forest engineering, job opportunities are also available in areas including general engineering consultancy, local and regional councils, government agencies, resource management and research. Scholarships are regularly offered for students to undertake postgraduate forestry and engineering-related study in the USA and Canada.


Where do our graduates work?

While many graduates of the BE(Hons) (Forestry) programme go on to exciting careers in private forestry companies, a number also find a good place to work in the various governmental agencies. Some work for contractors or consultants, some set themselves up in their own consulting or contracting businesses. Some forest engineers find work in positions in overseas development.

Forest engineers have rewarding careers with significant responsibility and exciting challenges. They earn respect in industry through their professionalism, and have the same eligibility for membership in the Institution of Professional Engineers of New Zealand (Engineering New Zealand) that their Civil, Mechanical, Natural Resources, Electrical, Chemical and Process, and Geological Engineering colleagues enjoy. Forest engineers can also become members of the New Zealand Institute of Forestry.

Forest Engineering video compendium

Some great forest engineering video clips are available on the web that are really informative as to how our harvesting systems work. We have compiled what we think are really good ones in each of the following categories: General Harvesting, Cable Logging, Ground-based, Cable Assist, Historical. Video and still image sources are individually referenced for each clip. We hope you enjoy them.

NFP Woodlot harvesting

Various steep slope logging

West Coast felling (Canadian style)

Thinning with Swing Yarder

Integrated Yarder Processor

Sled-mounted winch

Log span - intermediate supports

Brand logging - CTL harvesting with aerial footage

Shovel logging with flyover

Tigercat Grapple Skidder

Timberpro continuous disc feller-buncher

Falcon Winch-assist working in Canada

ClimbMAX steep slope harvester

ClimbMAX working on soft soils

ROB with timelapse

Historical footage of river wood drives

Allison Logging - early 20th Century

From two-man crosscut to harwarder

IUFRO interview

Listen to Rien Visser's interview with IUFRO about his research, study at UC and international exchange opportunities.

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