Chain Saw and Skidder Operators

Occupation:Chain Saw and Skidder Operators
Category:Farming, Fishing, Forestry, and Mining

About the job

Nature of work:

Chain saw and skidder operators operate chainsaws to fell, de-limb and buck trees at logging and loading sites; operate skidders to move or yard the felled trees from the logging site to the landing area for processing and transportation; and assess site, terrain, and weather conditions before felling and yarding trees. They are employed by logging companies and contractors.

Job duties:
Chain saw and skidder operators perform some or all of the following duties:
  • Operate chain saw to fell, de-limb and buck trees at the logging site and loading area.
  • Operate cable, or grapple skidder to move or yard the felled trees from the logging site to the landing area for processing and transportation.
  • Assess site, terrain and weather conditions before felling and yarding trees.
  • May work as member of a team rotating between chain saw operation and skidder operation.
  • May maintain and perform minor repairs on skidders, chain saws and other equipment.
Sample job titles:
  • bucker - logging
  • chain saw operator - logging
  • cordwood cutter
  • cutter - logging
  • forest worker - logging
  • logger
  • skidder operator - logging
  • wood cutter - logging

To work in this field, you should enjoy working outdoors and be prepared to spend time in isolated areas. You must be able to work alone and as part of a team. An awareness of safety is important. Physical stamina may also be needed.

Job requirements:
  • Completion of secondary school may be required.
  • Completion of a college program for forest workers may be required.
  • Formal training in chain saw operation and maintenance and several months of on-the-job training are usually provided.
  • Previous experience as a logging and forestry labourer or logging machine operator may be required. Experience requirements vary depending on the type and location of woodlands operations.
  • Provincial certification or a forest worker program certificate is required in some provinces.
  • Workplace hazardous materials information system (WHMIS) and first aid certificates may be required.
Other considerations:

Most are part-year workers; employment peaks in the summer months. There is a trend toward company certification of chain saw operators in larger companies. Chain saw operators often must own and maintain their own chain saw. There is some mobility among jobs within this group as chain saw and skidder operators often work in teams and rotate jobs. Mobility is also possible to logging machinery operators. Mobility may be limited from eastern and central forest zones to western forest zones where tree size or steep terrain may require different cutting and yarding methods. Progression to supervisory positions or self-employment as a logging contractor is possible with experience.

Labour Market Information

Work Prospects:Fair

The employment outlook over the next few years for this occupational group is “average”, which indicates the chances of a qualified individual finding work is comparable to the average for all occupations in Nova Scotia. This is not a large occupation in Nova Scotia so job opportunities may not be that frequent. The number employed in this occupation is expected to decline significantly over the next few years, which will limit the number of new opportunities available. With a small percent of workers being 55 years of age and older, retirements are not expected to be a major contributor to employment opportunities over the coming years. Chain Saw and Skidder Operators most commonly work full-time hours. Furthermore, the jobs may either be permanent or temporary positions, as both are common. With employment conditions being seasonal in nature, periods of downtime or layoff throughout the year are fairly common.

The median employment income for 26% of Chain Saw and Skidder Operators who worked full-time, year-round in 2015 was $15,274. Across all occupations in Nova Scotia, 59% of those who worked full-time year round had a median employment income of $43,600.
(Source: 2016 Census)

OccupationEstimated employment in 2018Estimated change in employment between 2017 and 2019Estimated openings due to growth and retirements, 2017-2019Estimated rate of unemployment in 2018 Estimated hourly earnings in 2015 (learn more)Estimated annual earnings in 2015
Chain Saw and Skidder Operators290decline sharply25High
Minimum:  N/A
Median:  N/A
Maximum:  N/A
Minimum: $62
Median: $12,268
Maximum: $37,545
Occupations in Farming, Fishing, Forestry, and Mining14,665Decline slightly910High
Minimum: $10.85
Median: $16.00
Maximum: $31.88
Minimum: $4,009
Median: $23,520
Maximum: $87,170
Chain Saw and Skidder OperatorsCompared to: Occupations in Farming, Fishing, Forestry, and Mining
Percent employed full-time76%84%
Percent self-employed4%22%
Where will I likely work?
Area of EmploymentChain Saw and Skidder OperatorsCompared to: All NS Occupations
% EmployedMedian Annual Income% EmployedMedian Annual Income
Cape Breton11%x13%$32,974
Annapolis Valley14%x13%$32,958
What are the workers like?
AgeChain Saw and Skidder OperatorsCompared to: All Farming, Fishing, Forestry, and Mining
% Employed% Employed
Median Age5245
GenderChain Saw and Skidder OperatorsCompared to: Occupations in Farming, Fishing, Forestry, and Mining
% Employed% Employed
EducationChain Saw and Skidder OperatorsCompared to: All Farming, Fishing, Forestry, and Mining
% EmployedMedian Annual Income% EmployedMedian Annual Income
Less than high school34.9%$16,16334.0%$14,445
High school37.2%$15,51231.5%$14,229
Trades certificate18.6%$12,70614.0%$19,107
College certificate or diploma5.8%$26,05914.3%$21,289
University certificate or diplomaxx1.1%$17,641
Bachelor's degree2.3%x4.3%$15,980
University advanced certificate or diplomaxx0.3%$17,206
Master's degreexx0.4%x
Medicine, dentistry, veterinary, optometryxxN/AN/A
Wage Disclaimer

Hourly earnings data are from the Labour Force Survey by Statistics Canada. Data are not available for all occupations. Hourly earnings are calculated based on usual hours worked per week. This is how an annual salary, for instance, gets converted to an hourly rate. The data include full and part-time workers along with new and experienced workers. Self-employed workers are excluded.

Annual employment income data reported in the Work Prospects section, are from the 2011 National Household Survey by Statistics Canada. Much of the data (around 70%) came directly from tax records. The data relates to the year 2010 and includes total wages and salaries and net income from self-employment.


Employment Requirements & Contacts

No regulating bodies were found under this occupation profile
Useful contacts:
Maritime College of Forest Technology
1350 Regent Street
Fredericton, NB E3C 2G6
Tel: (866) 619-9900
Fax: (506) 458-0679
Nova Scotia Forestry Association
PO Box 696
Truro, NS B2N 5E5
Tel: (902) 895-1179
Fax: (902) 893-1197
Forest Products Association of Nova Scotia
PO Box 696
Truro, NS B2N 5E5
Tel: (902) 895-1179
Fax: (902) 893-1197
Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education, Occupational Health and Safety Division
PO Box 697, 5151 Terminal Road
Halifax, NS B3J 2T8
Tel: (902) 424-5300

Training Paths & Education

Program Name:Adult high school/secondary diploma programs
Education Level:This program is typically offered at the high school level.
Program Description:
This instructional program class comprises any program that defines the prescribed requirements, specified by the appropriate jurisdiction, for the completion of and graduation from a secondary school program of academic subject matter offered for adult learners outside of the regular secondary school program. This does not include adult compensatory education programs resulting in completion of a high school equivalency certificate or diploma.
See all institutions providing this program+
Universite Sainte-Anne
Siège Social: 1695, Route 1
Pointe-de-l'Église, NS B0W 1M0
(902) 769-2114
Nova Scotia Community College - Annapolis Valley Campus
50 Elliott Road
Lawrencetown, NS B0S 1M0
(902) 825-3491
Nova Scotia Community College - Cumberland Campus
PO Box 550, 1 Main Street
Springhill, NS B0M 1X0
(902) 597-3737
Nova Scotia Community College - Akerley Campus
21 Woodlawn Road
Dartmouth, NS B2W 2R7
(902) 491-4900
Nova Scotia Community College - Burridge Campus
372 Pleasant Street
Yarmouth, NS B5A 2L2
(902) 742-3501
Nova Scotia Community College - Kingstec Campus
236 Belcher Street
Kentville, NS B4N 0A6
(902) 678-7341
Nova Scotia Community College - Lunenburg Campus
75 High Street
Bridgewater, NS B4V 1V8
(902) 543-4608
Nova Scotia Community College - Institute of Technology Campus
5685 Leeds Street
Halifax, NS B3K 2T3
(902) 491-6722
Nova Scotia Community College - Pictou Campus & School of Fisheries
PO Box 820, 39 Acadia Avenue
Stellarton, NS B0K 1S0
(902) 752-2002
Nova Scotia Community College - Shelburne Campus
PO Box 760, 1575 Lake Road
Shelburne, NS B0T 1W0
(902) 875-8640
Nova Scotia Community College - Strait Area Campus & Nautical Institute
226 Reeves Street
Port Hawkesbury, NS B9A 2A2
(902) 625-2380
Nova Scotia Community College - Marconi Campus
PO Box 1042, 1240 Grand Lake Road
Sydney, NS B1P 6J7
(902) 563-2450
Nova Scotia Community College - Truro Campus
36 Arthur Street
Truro, NS B2N 1X5
(902) 893-5385
Program Name:Forest technology/technician
Education Level:This program is typically offered at the trades/college level.
Program Description:
This instructional program class comprises any program that prepares individuals to assist foresters in the management and production of forest resources. These programs include courses in woods and field skills, tree identification, timber measurement, logging and timber harvesting, forest propagation and regeneration, forest firefighting, resource management, equipment operation and maintenance, record-keeping, sales and purchasing operations, and personnel supervision.
There are no schools in Nova Scotia offering this program.
Additional resources:

There are no additional resources for this occupation.