How to Become an Arborist (2023)

How to Become an Arborist (1)

What Is Arboriculture?

Arboriculture is the practice of trimming trees and shrubs to protect roadways, power lines, and sidewalks. It involves the use of specialized climbing and rigging techniques, as well as power equipment.

What Does an Arborist Do?

An arborist maintains trees and shrubs through trimming and pruning, to ensure they don't interfere with public works like power lines, roads, or sidewalks. An arborist's services may also be used to improve the appearance, health, or value of trees. Arborists may work under job titles like tree trimmer, tree climber, ground worker, or line clearance foreman.

Arborists cut away dead or renegade branches from trees and bushes that pose a risk to utility lines, roads, and sidewalks. Some also focus on improving the appearance and health of trees and plants, and some specialize in dealing with tree diseases. Others focus on beautification of decorative species, shaping ornamental trees and shrubs.

Arborists use and maintain a variety of equipment on a daily basis, including trucks, tractors, chippers, power saws, sprayers, and other tools. They hoist the equipment up to where it's needed, then cut away low-hanging, dead, or obstructive tree limbs. They then dispose of the cuttings by lowering them down with ropes or block and tackle, feeding them into chippers and hauling them away. They often need to climb trees with ladders or other equipment to reach work areas. Arborists also fertilize and spray trees.

Arborists help keep things running smoothly in our cities and towns. Without them, our roads, sidewalks, and power lines would become dangerous. They also help improve tree health. Planting and caring for trees can help absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, from the atmosphere. Trees stabilize slopes, prevent erosion, and help absorb stormwater runoff. They can even help counteract the “heat island effect” of urban areas, and help keep things a bit cooler in the summer.

Where Does an Arborist Work?

Arborists work for municipalities, power companies, arborist firms, and large companies that do contract work for municipal governments and power companies. After gaining experience, some start their own landscaping businesses.

Arborists work all across the United States, with more opportunities in warmer climates that have longer growing seasons and shorter winters. They spend most of their time working outdoors in all kinds of weather. Since they're in direct physical contact with trees (and the insects that live in them), they may frequently experience minor burns, cuts, bites, or stings. They're also exposed to contaminants such as pesticides and fertilizers on a regular basis. Other risks include working near power lines on truck-mounted lifts, and working with hazardous equipment like power saws. Power tools also create a significant amount of noise. Wearing appropriate protective gear like hard hats, goggles, and earplugs is extremely important for arborists. The work can also be physically demanding.

Many jobs in this field are seasonal, with most work occurring during the warmer months of spring, summer, and fall.

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(Video) How to Become A Certified Arborist - Tree Care - Landscaping Interview with Daniel Miraval

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What Is the Average Arborist Salary?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), arborists, who fall under the broader BLS category of conservation scientists and foresters, earned a median salary of $64,020 as of May 2020.*

(Video) How to Become an Arborist

Arborist Jobs

Arborists are experts in maintaining trees and woody plants to the best of their health. Because of the vast variety of trees and regions where an arborist might work, the job does vary considerably. However, most arborists will be familiar with the following tasks as part of their job:

  • Prepare the site, backfilling, staking, watering, and mulching
  • Transplant seedlings and saplings to various sites
  • Plant trees
  • Prune trees to limit disease or physical ailments, or for aesthetic and safety reasons
  • Haul stumps and limbs, chip brush.
  • Evaluate trees for disease and pest problems
  • Treat trees as required
  • Structurally support weak trees and breaking branches
  • Remove trees grind stumps as needed
  • Control nutrient and water supply and consumption.
  • Examine a tree's worth from a financial perspective
  • Maintain work records for trees under care
  • Identify and remediate hazardous trees and other tree-related problems
  • Operating heavy machinery or hand tools
  • Consulting on client's property
  • Responding to emergencies, including during storms
  • Processing and testing samples
  • Doing paperwork
  • Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients and colleagues
  • Conducting research into tree and plant care

Senior arborists often have a more experience and are a good fit for management tasks. Such responsibilities often include:

  • Creating an excellent work environment
  • Developing project timelines, benchmarks and budgets
  • Facilitating professional development for the team
  • Understanding regulations and best practices and applying them to the project at hand
  • Overseeing the maintenance of equipment and instruments
  • Undertaking recordkeeping
  • Ensuring quality assurance, organization, health and safety, and appropriate tracking of field data
  • Engaging in tasks like report preparation and submittal and peer review
  • Liaising with site stakeholders
  • Supervising fieldwork of multiple field crews
  • Communicate with internal and external stakeholders through field status reports and presentation of team findings
  • Researching new technology and new advancements in agriculture
  • Participating on committees for policy and regulatory development
  • Participating on committees for research and educational program development

What Is the Job Demand for Arborists?

The job demand for arborists is projected to increase by 7 percent between 2020 and 2030.* Our future "smart cities" are slated to include more green space, and many cities and towns are already planting more trees. This trend will open up opportunities for arborists, particularly in warmer areas that need landscaping year-round.

What Arborist Careers Are Available?

Because the job is physically demanding, many arborists work as climbers for five to ten years, then move into other positions. Workers who are good communicators may become crew leaders, or supervisors. However, advancing to managerial or landscape contracting positions may require some formal education and significant work experience. Some experienced workers go on to own landscaping companies.

(Video) 2022: ISA Certified Arborist® Exam Review Course. Rob Swanson, Kay Evanovich, January 2022

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(Video) So You Want to be an ARBORIST ? . .It won’t be easy.

How Do I Get an Arborist Degree?

While most jobs in this area don't have formal education requirements, some employers may require formal education or certification in landscape design, horticulture, or arboriculture. There's usually some initial on-the-job training, particularly relating to working with the equipment. Some larger employers may also add coursework in arboriculture and equipment repair.

In most states, workers who use pesticides must be licensed. The process usually involves passing a test on their proper use and disposal.

There are also multiple certification options within the industry. The Tree Care Industry Association offers a Certified Tree Care Safety Professional (CTSP) program for tree care safety professionals. The International Society of Arboriculture also offers six certifications for workers at various experience levels. These optional certifications can increase a worker's opportunities for advancement within the field. Certification involves passing an exam. Either pursuing professional development or retaking the exam is required to maintain certification.

Related Degree Options for Arborists

  • Industrial Engineering Online Degree Info

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What Kind of Societies and Professional Organizations Do Arborists Have?

  • The International Society of Arboriculture promotes the practice and development of arboriculture through research, technology, and education. It also promotes the benefits of trees to society. It offers online professional development courses, as well as a professional certification program.
  • The Tree Care Industry Association offers an extensive “Tree Care Academy” of professional education options. It also runs the Certified Tree Care Safety Professional (CTSP) program for tree care safety professionals, and accredits tree care companies for safety & adherence to industry standards.

*2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures and job growth projections for conservation scientists and foresters reflect national data not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed September 2021.


What qualifications do arborists need? ›

Although there aren't any set qualifications needed to become an Arborist or Tree Surgeon, with the challenging nature of the role work-experience and training is highly recommended and beneficial. An arborist's work involves monitoring and treating trees to ensure they are safe.

How long does it take to become a tree surgeon? ›

We offer an intensive 4 Week Tree Surgeon training programme for those looking to fast track starting a career as an Arborist. This programme is organised to develop skills and efficiently progress through each discipline, achieving multiple Awards over a 4 week period.

Where do arborists get paid the most? ›

Highest paying cities for Arborists near United States
  • Sacramento, CA. $31.03 per hour. 12 salaries reported.
  • Lincoln, NE. $23.97 per hour. 5 salaries reported.
  • Chicago, IL. $23.79 per hour. 7 salaries reported.
  • Salt Lake City, UT. $23.62 per hour. 11 salaries reported.
  • Denver, CO. $23.27 per hour. ...
  • Show more nearby cities.
5 days ago

Is tree surgery a good career? ›

A Tree Surgeon is a great career for someone who loves nature and the outdoors. The arborist career outlook looks like it will increase by 11 percent by 2029. That said, it is clear that arborists are highly sought-after professionals.

Is becoming an arborist worth it? ›

A career as an arborist is an excellent opportunity for those who love to work independently outdoors, like to use their mind to prevent and solve problems and are comfortable with physical exertion in varying weather conditions.

Is an arborist a tree surgeon? ›

The terms tree surgeon and arborist (or arboriculturalist) are often used interchangeably, but they are subtly different professions. A very simple way of describing the difference is that tree surgeons know where to cut a tree, whereas arborists know why.

Is tree planting the hardest job? ›

It's no secret that planting is hard work, but not only is one of the most difficult jobs, it is a physically demanding job for ten hours a day. What's more is that the better you want to be, the fewer and shorter breaks you'll take during those ten hours.

Is tree Surgery good money? ›

No, an individual tree surgeon will always be limited by the amount of work they can produce per day which wont make a million, not for a few decades anyway. Average salaries are around 25-35k per year.

Is tree Surgery hard? ›

Being a tree surgeon is physically and mentally demanding. It can also be hazardous and stressful, so they need to have the right personal qualities to be successful in the role. Some of the personal qualities that a tree surgeon requires will include: Enjoy being outdoors in all types of weather.

Why do arborists charge so much? ›

Arborists charge higher mainly because of the complexity, unpredictability, and risky nature of the tree service. Their overhead costs are also high owing to the high insurance premiums they have to pay. All these factors then trickle down onto the final value of the quotes you'll receive.

What is the highest level arborist? ›

The ISA Board Certified Master Arborist® credential is the highest level of certification offered by ISA. This credential recognizes ISA Certified Arborists® who have reached the pinnacle of their profession.

What skills are needed to be a successful arborist? ›

Arborist Requirements:
  • Bachelor's degree in botany, biology, or horticulture.
  • Proven work experience as an arborist.
  • Advanced knowledge of tree biology and tree anatomy.
  • Knowledge of soil biology and fertilizer compositions.
  • Familiarity with climbing equipment.
  • Ability to operate handsaws and mechanical devices.

Do you need a degree to be a tree surgeon? ›

You don't need to have any specific qualifications to begin training as a tree surgeon, but there are official courses which can help. You will need qualifications to become a recognised arborist, however, in the form of a National Certificate in Arboriculture, or a higher-level qualification.

Do you need a license to be a tree surgeon? ›

No, there are some expectations in which a felling tree licence may not be required, however, this will depend on a number of situations, including the location of the project, the type of tree work involved, and other legal and statutory undertakings.

What careers study trees? ›

1. Arborist. An arborist, or "tree-surgeon," cultivates, manages, and studies trees and shrubs in order to improve the health and safety of the individual plants. The job can range from pruning, planting, and climbing into trees with ropes and harnesses, to working in an office on reports and consultations.

Can I make a living as an arborist? ›

As of Nov 9, 2022, the average annual pay for a Climbing Arborist in California is $51,300 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $24.66 an hour. This is the equivalent of $986/week or $4,275/month.

Is becoming an arborist hard? ›

Becoming an efficient climbing arborist definitely takes time, commitment and dedication, also listening and learning from others around you. This position will vary greatly from day to day.

Do arborists work in the winter? ›

The months of April to December are usually the busiest months for the tree care industry but winter is a great time to do certain types of tree work. As arborists we really enjoy working in the winter.

What is a professional tree cutter called? ›

Tree trimmers and pruners, also called arborists, cut away dead or excess branches from trees or shrubs to clear utility lines, roads, and sidewalks. Many of these workers strive to improve the appearance and health of trees and plants, and some specialize in diagnosing and treating tree diseases.

What is an expert in trees called? ›

Arborists are professionals who care for trees and other woody plants.

What is a tree professional called? ›

Tree care professionals, known as arborists, are highly skilled and knowledgeable about tree care and pruning. An arborist should be certified through one or more international, national or local organizations.

What is the hardest worker? ›

1. Military. All military roles have their difficulties, but challenging roles such as a marine and mercenary are among the hardest in the world.

What trees pay the most? ›

The Paulownia may currently be the world's most valuable sustainably harvested hardwood tree. A single 12-foot log can easily bring three thousand dollars. Paulownia lumber is resistant to fire, with a combustion point nearly twice that of other lumber.

How many days a week do tree planters work? ›

Most planting camps work for three or four days, then take one day off, in a cycle called "3&1's" or "4&1's." You will also undoubtedly have four or five days off per month due either to unexpected downtime (vehicle hassles, frozen trees, fog days while using helicopters, snowstorms), or planned downtime between ...

How much does it cost to pull a tree? ›

What Is the Average Cost to Remove a Tree? Tree removal typically costs between $150 and $2,000, with the average cost to cut down a tree falling in the $700–$750 range. Tree removal prices depend on the size of the tree in question, and big trees, in general, cost more to remove than small ones.

How much does it cost to chop a tree? ›

The condition of the tree and the difficulty of removal will further influence the cost. The average cost to remove a tree is $1,200. Smaller trees cost $400 or less to remove. Trees up to 100 feet high cost $2,000 or more to remove.

Is tree surgery a trade? ›

Tree surgery work is a skilled craft that requires proper training and experience. You should be properly skilled and ideally have experience working for someone else before you consider going it alone.

Do tree surgeons work in rain? ›

Generally, our tree surgeons will make a decision on whether it is safe to work on the day the work is due to take place. If the weather is damp but not raining – or raining lightly with a chance of clearing up – then work will go ahead as planned.

What tools do you need to be a tree surgeon? ›

Tree Surgeons Toolbox And Equipment List
  • Axes. These are probably the most used tool of all time. ...
  • Chainsaw. A chainsaw is a portable and mechanical saw which cuts with a set of teeth attached to a rotating chain running along a guide bar. ...
  • Chainsaw Boots. ...
  • Consumables. ...
  • Cranes. ...
  • First Aid Kit. ...
  • Hand Saw. ...
  • Harness.

How much do you get paid as tree surgeon? ›

How much does a Tree Surgeon make? As of Nov 9, 2022, the average annual pay for a Tree Surgeon in the United States is $113,684 a year.

How much should I charge to top a tree? ›

How Much Does It Cost to Trim or Remove a Tree?
  • Average trimming price: $460.
  • Trimming price range: $75-$1,500.
  • Topping: $100-$1,800, depending on height.
  • Typical cost of removal: $750.
  • Removal price range: $400-$1,200.
  • Removal price per foot: $5-$15.
  • Shrub trimming price per hour: $60-$75.
22 Jan 2021

Why do I need an arborist? ›

From pruning of trees to removal, diagnosing, ailments and insect treatments, they are trained and skilled for everything. They have the right equipment for the job. A professional arborist has the necessary equipment to deal with the job at hand, be it tree pruning, stump removal or hedge trimming.

What is the difference between a arborist and a master arborist? ›

Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. The Master Arborist or Board Certified Master Arborist credential identifies professional arborists who have attained the highest level of aboriculture offered by the International Society of Arboriculture(ISA) and one of the two top levels in the field.

What is the difference between an arborist and a landscaper? ›

Arborists are tree surgeons. They specialize in pruning, trimming and removing trees. Landscapers take care of lawns, shrubs, hardscaping and light tree trimming. The two professions overlap, but they aren't the same.

What's the difference between an arborist and a forester? ›

Arborists specialize in individual tree care, often in urban or suburban settings. Foresters use tree measurements, landowner goals, and knowledge of forests to develop plans to care for your woods over time.

What tools do arborists use? ›

Some of the cutting equipment in an Arborist's toolkit includes:
  • Hand saws.
  • Pruners.
  • Pole saws.
  • Hand pruners.
  • Tree loppers.
  • Wood chippers.
  • A variety of axes and wedges.
  • Hedge trimmers.
11 Feb 2017

What an arborist Practises? ›

Selecting and planting trees appropriate to the environment. Pruning young trees to ensure they grow into healthy, well-structured, mature trees. Undertaking the pruning, trimming, cutting, lopping, stump grinding and mulching of trees. Protecting and preserving trees during construction and development projects.

What questions should I ask my arborist? ›

6 Questions to Ask During an Arborist Consultation
  • Experience. One of the most important arborist questions you can ask to ensure your property design stays as is and your trees stay safe is: what kind of experience do you have in this field? ...
  • Equipment. ...
  • Reputation. ...
  • Insurance. ...
  • Damage. ...
  • Pricing.
19 Oct 2021

How much can you fell without a felling licence? ›

Do you need a felling licence? A felling licence is required by law if you plan to fell more than 5m³ of timber in one calendar quarter. If you are selling the wood – for logs, for example – then you can only fell 2m³ in a calendar quarter. This applies to trees in hedges as well as woodlands.

What are 5 careers in forestry? ›

Forest products operation and general labor jobs:
  • Environmental supervisors.
  • Forestry technologists.
  • Heavy equipment operators (logging, sawmill and pulp mill)
  • Logging truck drivers.
  • Material handlers.
  • Silviculturists (forest managers)
  • Technicians (pulp, paper and logging)

Is a degree in forestry worth it? ›

Whether you're a student looking to start a meaningful career or someone searching for more fulfilling work, forestry is an excellent choice. Not only is it good for your mental and physical health, but it's a profession that is in demand and projected to grow.

Do you need an arborist license in Massachusetts? ›

A license shall not be required for persons who provide services in their capacity as tree wardens, arborists, utility foresters and urban foresters, and other like practices.

How much does an arborist make UK? ›

The average arborist salary in the United Kingdom is £26,000 per year or £13.33 per hour. Entry level positions start at £23,321 per year while most experienced workers make up to £32,500 per year.

What does an arborist study? ›

Arborists, sometimes called “tree surgeons,” prune, brace and fertilize trees and control insects and diseases. They study, cultivate and maintain healthy trees and shrubs to coexist with the environment and human-made structures.

How do I become a certified arborist in Massachusetts? ›

Massachusetts Certified Arborist Program (MCA)

The MCA program educates arborists on the latest science and research in arboriculture. To obtain this accreditation, our arborists must pass an exam and possess the knowledge and skills that all tree care professionals should have.

How much do tree trimmers make in Massachusetts? ›

How much does a TREE Service make in Massachusetts? As of Nov 5, 2022, the average annual pay for the TREE Service jobs category in Massachusetts is $73,503 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $35.34 an hour. This is the equivalent of $1,413/week or $6,125/month.

What is top pay for a tree climber? ›

How much does a Tree Climber make? Tree climbers make $42,833 per year on average, or $20.59 per hour, in the United States. Tree climbers on the lower end of that spectrum, the bottom 10% to be exact, make roughly $31,000 a year, while the top 10% makes $58,000.

Is arborist a good career UK? ›

Skilled aborists, arbiculturists, arboricultural officers and tree officers with a few years' experience can expect a salary in the region of £22,000 to £30,000. Senior arboriculturist and arboricultural consultancy roles can attract salaries of between £25,000 and £40,000.

Do you need qualifications to be a tree surgeon? ›

You don't need to have any specific qualifications to begin training as a tree surgeon, but there are official courses which can help. You will need qualifications to become a recognised arborist, however, in the form of a National Certificate in Arboriculture, or a higher-level qualification.

What is a arborist vs a horticulturist? ›

The term horticulturist is derived from the word horticulture, coined from the Latin word hortus meaning garden, and the suffix -ist which means one who does or one who makes. An arborist is someone who is trained in the study of trees, and is sometimes known as a tree surgeon.

What is a tree climber called? ›

The most common job of a professional tree climber is as a working arborist or tree doctor. These guys and gals climb hazardous trees, making the world above our heads a little safer. They are also credited with doing great work in helping to take care of our urban trees.

What is a tree expert called? ›

The tree service industry is built around the expertise of certified arborists (aka Arboriculturists, Loppers, Tree Surgeons or Tree Doctors). Professional arborists perform essential tree care by way of tree pruning, tree removal and stump removal.


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