Hug a tree and you may feel the strength of your ancient and interactive bond with it. Humans rely on trees for oxygen, food, shelter, shade, soil erosion prevention, and even joy. Furthermore, their tree rings are similar to our unique fingerprints, and they, like us, require proper care and nutrients to reach their full potential and live a healthy lifespan. Arborists are trained and certified professionals who care for trees and woody shrubs in a variety of ways, including planting, protecting, preserving, and rehabilitating them, as well as pruning or felling them to prevent harm to people, infrastructure, or the environment.
Also Known As
- Tree Specialist
- Tree Trimmer
- Tree Care Worker
Typical Job Responsibilities
What do Arborists do?
An Arborist would typically need to:
- Expert advice and execution of tree care and management for private individuals, local governments, and businesses, including tree planting and installation, diagnosis and treatment, preservation and maintenance, and tree felling and removal.
- Maintain a safe and healthy relationship between trees, their environment, and the public; inform and advise stakeholders about tree safety
- Survey development sites and provide preliminary tree-related advice, such as the impact of construction on existing trees and possible ways to preserve and include them in the plan.
- Meet with clients, including city planning departments, to discuss the types of trees that are best suited to specific locations and development sites based on environment, soil, and purpose.
- Negotiate and manage contracts for tree planting and care; create strategies, plans, and specifications for tree management projects to meet the needs of clients for tree planting, pruning, and filling.
- Select, cultivate, and plant trees and shrubs in rural and urban settings, or install them in new locations.
- Use a variety of specialised tools and heavy equipment to perform skilled activities such as tree climbing, pruning, or cabling; perform groundwork with chainsaws and chippers.
- Inspect or conduct inspections and surveys to look for signs of disease or pest infestation in trees and woody shrubs such as termites or beetles.
- Create appropriate treatment and improvement plans after accurately diagnosing the problem.
- Recommend and, if necessary, direct or carry out tree removal when a tree becomes diseased, damaged, dying, or dangerous to people or property.
- Recognize and reduce the risks that trees may pose to the general public and their property. prune branches to make public areas more accessible or to prevent power outages caused by overgrowth on electrical cables
- Execute projects to aid in the resolution of environmental issues, such as managing and conserving woodlands and the countryside or reclaiming abandoned industrial sites.
- Examine the status of ongoing conservation and tree management projects.
- Keep track of inspections, completed projects, and tree measurements.
- Write reports to inform engineers, solicitors, mortgage and insurance companies about any current or potential damage to buildings caused by trees or their root systems.
- Train junior colleagues and volunteers
Standard Work Environment
Arborists work in a variety of environments, depending on the needs of the client, the project, the employer, and the workload. They typically spend a significant amount of time working outside, whether in cities, on country estates, in woodlands, or elsewhere. Given the need to work in a variety of weather conditions, including heat, cold, rain, and snow, as well as the level of physical activity involved in their job, such as walking, standing, and climbing, they must stay physically fit. Some work is also done in the office, such as research and evaluation.
Traveling to and from sites for inspection or work is expected, but it is primarily determined by the needs of the clients. Your work may occasionally take the form of a lengthy assignment at a single location. If you are directly engaged by a city or community, you may have an office from which you visit sites within your assigned territory.
Arborists must protect themselves from the hazards of working with and climbing trees by wearing protective equipment such as helmets, boots, goggles, and earplugs. Because of their physical contact with trees and the insects that live in them, they must be cautious of scrapes, cuts, bites, and stings. They must also protect themselves from harmful chemicals found in pesticides and fertilisers, as well as exercise extreme caution when working near power lines or with hazardous equipment such as chainsaws, which produce a loud noise. Arborists use a variety of other tools and equipment to help trim and remove trees, such as pruning shears and power pole pruners, and they may also need to drive trucks and other vehicles to transport felled trees and tree parts.
While specific hours and schedules vary depending on the project, employer, contract, and job location, most Arboriculturists work 35 to 40 hours per week, Monday through Friday.
When there is an emergency, such as a storm or natural disaster with fallen trees causing traffic jams or power outages, they may remain on call around the clock, including evenings, holidays, and weekends, to ensure community safety by caring for or removing trees as needed.
The work of an arborist is not always seasonal, as the winter months may be used to prune or cut back dormant trees. However, during peak tree-trimming season, work hours may be longer.
Self-employed arborists may have greater scheduling flexibility. Part-time jobs may be more plentiful in the public sector than in the private sector.
Finding a new job may appear difficult. Arborists can improve their job search by soliciting referrals from their network, contacting companies directly, using job search platforms, attending job fairs, leveraging social media, and contacting staffing agencies.
Arborists are generally employed by:
- Commercial Tree Care Companies
- Local Authorities
- Conservation Organisations
- Government Departments
- Landscaping Firms
- Botanical Gardens
- National Parks
- Private Estates
- Garden Centres
- Private Contractors
- Logging Firms
- Commercial Centres
- Residential Communities
- Architectural & Construction Firms
- Paper & Packaging Companies
- Academic Institutions
Unions / Professional Organizations
Professional associations and organizations, such as the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), are critical for Arborists who want to further their professional development or connect with other professionals in their industry or occupation. Membership in one or more of these organizations adds value to your resume while strengthening your credentials and qualifications.
- Physically demanding work, especially in entry-level positions, and requires a head for heights; the need to stay fit at all times in order to carry out energetic activities such as climbing
- Dangerous work that can result in minor scrapes from trees and insect bites, as well as serious falls, injuries, and accidents from falling branches and trees.
- When working near power lines on truck-mounted lifts, there is a risk of electrocution.
- Operating potentially hazardous equipment, such as power saws, and dealing with the noise they produce
- Wearing protective equipment such as hard hats, goggles, gloves, and earplugs at all times
- Hazardous chemical exposure from pesticides and fertilizers
- Due to the high-risk nature of their work, self-employed arborists face high insurance costs.
- A potentially difficult field for women to enter because of preconceived notions about their suitability in terms of physical strength and risk involved in the work.
Suggested Work Experience
Arborists must have both formal education and practical experience, though they will almost certainly receive on-the-job training once hired. Any academic programme they pursue usually necessitates some form of supervised experiences, such as an internship.
You can also get into the field by doing an apprenticeship. Working with conservation groups on a volunteer or paid basis, or volunteering for charities, are two other excellent ways to gain relevant experience.
Participating in relevant projects such as landscaping, urban reclamation, tree maintenance, or planting is advantageous and may even be required. It also helps to have worked in a nursery producing trees and shrubs, as this will teach you how to identify different species and soils.
With your academic credentials and relevant experience, it is beneficial to look for entry-level work as a trainee or arboricultural assistant to put your practical skills to use. It will assist you in gaining additional experience with the training and support that your employer may provide.
When your tasks outside of the classroom perfectly align with your lessons inside, you will get the most out of them. When more experienced professionals manage to turn seemingly routine incidents into unique learning moments, you may be able to hear countless stories from them and gain valuable hands-on experience.
To demonstrate your commitment to course providers and prospective employers read about the profession and interview or job shadow arboriculture experts.
A bachelor’s degree in arboriculture, horticulture/plant sciences, forestry, natural resources, agriculture, biology, botany, ecology, earth sciences, geography, land/estate/property management, woodland ecology & conservation, landscape architecture, or other related fields is typically required for aspiring arborists. Arboriculture bachelor’s or foundation degree courses can be found at specialized institutions, or arboriculture can be studied as a module in a two-year post-secondary diploma or foundation degree programme in urban forestry or woodland management.
Plant pathology, soil fertility, and community forestry are typical courses in an arboriculture programme. You’d learn about soil types, how to identify, prevent, and treat tree diseases, and how to remove invasive species. Other important topics include tree cultivation, their environments, and how to care for and manage their various needs throughout their lives. Coursework also includes pruning, planting, transplanting, and structural support techniques. Among the practical skills you will learn is how to use harnesses, ropes, various climbing equipment, and other equipment such as wood chippers and chainsaws safely.
You may also pursue a master’s or doctorate degree in a relevant field to increase your employability and earning potential, or to advance to senior positions.
If you want to be an arborist, you should take high school math, biology, and botany courses.
Certifications, Licenses and Registration
While certification is not required in all locations, some employers prefer to hire candidates who have it because it demonstrates an Arborist’s competence in a skill set, typically by meeting work experience and training criteria and passing an examination. When obtained from a reputable and objective organization, such as the ISA, it can also help you stand out in a competitive job market, carry a significant salary premium of up to 18%, increase your chances of advancement, and allow you to become an independent consultant. By incorporating a Code of Ethics, successful certification programs protect the public welfare.
You must have at least three years of full-time tree care experience or a combination of experience and education to be eligible for the ISA certification. Arboricultural activities such as pruning and trimming, fertilization, installation and establishment, diagnosis and treatment of tree issues, cabling and bracing, climbing, and other tree care services can help you gain experience. A two-year post-secondary qualification in arboriculture combined with two years of experience is also acceptable, as is a four-year degree in a related field combined with one year of experience. To recertify, you must also pass the certification exam and complete the required continuing education, as well as pay the applicable fees at each stage of the process.
In addition to becoming an ISA Certified Arborist, a generalist qualification, you may apply for specialized ISA credentials, particularly if you work for utility companies or municipal governments. These include the Certified Arborist Utility Specialist, Certified Arborist Municipal Specialist, Certified Tree Worker Climber Specialist, Certified Tree Worker Aerial Lift Specialist, and Board Certified Master Arborist. Continuing professional development or retaking the exam will allow you to keep your certification valid.
Certain job tasks, such as operating a chainsaw, necessitate the possession of a certificate of competence. To apply pesticides, arborists must typically be licensed. Before applying for licensure, newly hired employees must be trained on the job in horticulture, arboriculture, and landscaping.
Specific activities, such as felling trees and removing tree stumps or any woodland operations that restrict public access or potentially impact protected species, may require licencing or an exemption from licensure depending on location. Ensure that any work on a protected tree has been approved by local authorities. A business may require an environmental permit, a waste management licence, or an official exemption from licensure to chip, cut, shred, pulverize, burn, compost, or store waste plant matter.
The licensing process is handled by individual government agencies. It usually necessitates passing an exam in addition to meeting eligibility requirements such as a certain level of education, work experience, training, or completion of an internship, residency, or apprenticeship. Check with local or national arborist organizations to see if and what kind of certification you require.
Apprentices may benefit from on-the-job training to gain the knowledge required to apply for a license.
Arborists require a valid driver’s license because they must travel to and from work sites or drive vehicles transporting trees or parts of trees, especially if self-employed. A person’s work history, education, credit history, motor vehicle reports (MVRs), criminal record, medical history, use of social media, and drug screening are all examples of employment background checks.
Projected Career Map
Arborists advance in their careers based on their performance, experience, and the acquisition of professional qualifications and training. Employees who consistently demonstrate high levels of performance and knowledge may be considered for advancement every two to three years. Depending on your academic credentials, vocational background, or professional training, you may pursue one of several career paths. Your advancement will be determined by your entry-level position.
Starting as an arboricultural worker, you can study part-time and earn higher academic qualifications to advance your career, eventually leading to senior supervisory positions where you are in charge of the staff below you.
You can also start your career as an arboricultural assistant or arborist working for commercial tree care services, contracting companies, or local governments. You may work as a climber for five to ten years and move into other roles, given the physically demanding nature of the work. Those who excel at communication and work may advance to the position of Crew Leader or Supervisor. Formal education, certification, and significant experience may qualify you for management positions like Senior Arboriculturist or Director, as well as specialist positions in utility arboriculture and woodlands.
After gaining sufficient experience and establishing a solid network, you may decide to start your own arboriculture service or landscaping company, offering tree care advice, tree trimming, and maintenance. Arboriculturists who want to work as private or registered consultants, either with commercial consultancies or on their own, may need to have the necessary credentials or be a member of relevant professional associations, depending on where they live.
Some arborists may choose to pursue a master’s or doctoral degree in arboriculture, horticulture, forestry, or a related field in order to transition from fieldwork to academics and research.
If suitable opportunities arise, you may decide to take on overseas assignments.
Candidates with relevant experience, formal education in arboriculture, horticulture, or landscape design, and ISA certification have the best job prospects.
Beneficial Professional Development
CPD will assist an active arborist in developing personal skills and proficiency through work-based learning, a professional activity, formal education, or self-directed learning. It enables you to constantly upskill, regardless of your age, job, or level of knowledge, and keeps you up to date on the various types of trees, their needs, diseases, and tree care techniques, tools, and equipment.
Apprentices who enter the field as entry-level candidates study and work alongside certified arborists. Arborists who are newly hired are trained on the job at tree care or landscaping companies, nurseries, and municipalities. The length of the training, which typically ranges from several months to a year, is determined by the complexity of the work and the needs of the company. The training includes information on the company’s safety procedures, equipment, and workflows. You will also learn about various properties and their requirements, tree species, soil types, and other environmental conditions that affect trees. Once on the job, you are usually allowed to use basic maintenance tools. You can also learn to communicate with clients, identify trees and shrubs, and remove debris, gaining experience in tree care, customer service, and leadership.
Arborists can participate in research, technology, and education by joining local, regional, national, or international associations such as the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). You can obtain various types of certifications in addition to building a network. In addition to ISA certification, you can obtain credentials in urban forestry, which allow you to work with city officials to meet community needs by maintaining trees and shrubs in public parks, as well as alongside streets and avenues. They may also advise homeowners on how to improve the appearance of their neighbors’ yards. Alternatively, you can obtain certification in green infrastructure installation, which allows you to manage stormwater runoff, reduce heat island effects, and provide other environmental benefits by utilizing plants and natural materials.
Arborists are not always visible while walking through woods, on the pavement of a tree-lined avenue, or in a park. The presence of healthy, well-maintained trees and woody shrubs, on the other hand, attests to the skilled and difficult work of these trained and experienced professionals who are passionate about treating trees with the utmost care. They contribute to the beauty and well-being of one of nature’s most precious gifts. If they can avoid it, they don’t let a tree fall or be felled, but when the situation calls for it, they know their stuff and will step up to ensure community and environmental safety.
Advice from the Wise
Trees increase property value and improve community health. Investing in their care provides immediate benefits as well as long-term returns. Building the right team is also important, as is effective and timely communication among the crew on and off the job site. Connect the crew to headsets that allow for clear communication by filtering out background noise. Invest in dependable tools and equipment and keep them in good working order to improve safety and reduce downtime and replacement costs. You want your handsaws, chainsaws, and ropes to last. To have a long and safe career, keep up with technological advances.