A Beginner’s Guide on How to Become an Arborist

A Beginner’s Guide on How to Become an Arborist

Are you passionate about trees and the environment? Do you have a love for working outdoors and helping to maintain the health and beauty of our natural surroundings? If so, then becoming an arborist might be the perfect career path for you. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the steps necessary to start your journey towards becoming a certified arborist. From education and training requirements to job prospects and salary expectations, we will cover everything you need to know to kickstart your career in arboriculture.

Understanding the Role of an Arborist

What is an Arborist?

An arborist is a trained professional who specializes in the care and maintenance of trees. They are experts in tree health, planting, pruning, and removal. Arborists also have knowledge of tree species, diseases, and proper tree care techniques.

Why Become an Arborist?

Becoming an arborist can be a rewarding career choice for those who have a passion for trees and the environment. Arborists play a crucial role in preserving and maintaining the health of trees, which in turn benefits the ecosystem and the community. Additionally, working as an arborist allows individuals to work outdoors, engage in physical activity, and make a positive impact on the environment.

Responsibilities of an Arborist

Arborists are responsible for a variety of tasks related to tree care, including:

  • Pruning trees to promote healthy growth and prevent disease
  • Planting trees in suitable locations to ensure proper growth
  • Removing trees that are diseased, dead, or pose a safety hazard
  • Diagnosing and treating tree diseases and pests
  • Conducting tree risk assessments to prevent accidents and property damage

Overall, arborists play a crucial role in maintaining the health and beauty of trees in urban and natural settings.

Education and Training

Becoming an arborist requires a combination of formal education, certifications, and on-the-job training. Arborists are responsible for caring for trees, diagnosing diseases, and trimming branches to promote tree health and safety.

Educational Requirements

Most employers prefer arborists with a high school diploma or equivalent. However, some employers may require a bachelor’s degree in arboriculture, forestry, horticulture, or a related field. Coursework in plant science, biology, and botany can provide a solid foundation for a career as an arborist.

Certifications and Licenses

Arborists can obtain certifications through organizations such as the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) or the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). These certifications demonstrate expertise in tree care and may be required by some employers. Additionally, some states require arborists to obtain a license to practice professionally.

On-the-Job Training

Many arborists gain practical experience through on-the-job training. This may involve working under the supervision of a more experienced arborist to learn proper tree care techniques, equipment operation, and safety procedures. Continuing education and training opportunities are also available to help arborists stay current on industry best practices.

Skills and Qualities

Becoming an arborist requires a specific set of skills and qualities to excel in the field. Here are some key attributes that are essential for success:

Physical Fitness

Arborists often work in challenging outdoor environments that require physical strength and endurance. They may need to climb trees, use heavy equipment, and perform strenuous tasks for extended periods of time. Maintaining good physical fitness is crucial to prevent injuries and ensure optimal performance on the job.

Attention to Detail

Attention to detail is a critical skill for arborists, as they must accurately assess tree health, identify potential hazards, and perform precise pruning and cutting techniques. A keen eye for detail helps arborists make informed decisions and provide high-quality tree care services to clients.

Problem-Solving Skills

Arborists frequently encounter complex issues such as diseased trees, storm damage, and tight spaces that require creative problem-solving skills. Being able to analyze situations, develop effective solutions, and adapt to changing circumstances is essential for arborists to successfully manage tree care projects and meet client expectations.

Tools and Equipment

Arborists require a variety of tools and equipment to effectively care for trees and perform tree maintenance tasks. From basic hand tools to specialized machinery, having the right tools is essential for the job.

Basic Tools for Arborists

  1. Pruning Shears: Also known as secateurs, pruning shears are essential for cutting small branches and twigs.
  2. Hand Saw: A sharp hand saw is needed for cutting larger branches that pruning shears cannot handle.
  3. Loppers: Loppers are used for cutting thicker branches that are out of reach of pruning shears.
  4. Pruning Knife: A sharp pruning knife is handy for making precise cuts on branches and removing bark.
  5. Gloves: A good pair of gloves will protect your hands from cuts, scrapes, and blisters while working with trees.

Specialized Equipment

  1. Chainsaw: Arborists use chainsaws for cutting down trees, removing branches, and performing other heavy-duty tasks.
  2. Climbing Gear: Arborists need specialized climbing gear, such as harnesses, ropes, and climbing spikes, to safely ascend and work in trees.
  3. Aerial Lifts: For tall trees or hard-to-reach branches, aerial lifts such as cherry pickers or bucket trucks are essential.
  4. Stump Grinder: Arborists use stump grinders to remove tree stumps after a tree has been cut down.

Safety Gear

  1. Helmet: A sturdy helmet will protect your head from falling branches and other hazards.
  2. Eye Protection: Safety glasses or goggles are essential for keeping your eyes safe from debris and sawdust.
  3. Ear Protection: Constant exposure to loud equipment can damage your hearing, so ear protection such as earplugs or earmuffs is necessary.
  4. Chainsaw Chaps: Chainsaw chaps are designed to protect your legs from cuts and injuries while operating a chainsaw.

Having the right tools and equipment, as well as proper safety gear, is crucial for arborists to perform their job safely and effectively.

Career Path and Opportunities

Becoming an arborist involves a combination of education, training, and hands-on experience. Many aspiring arborists start by pursuing a degree or certification in arboriculture, forestry, horticulture, or a related field. This provides a solid foundation of knowledge in tree care, plant biology, and environmental science.

Once the educational requirements are met, aspiring arborists often gain practical experience through internships, apprenticeships, or entry-level positions with tree care companies, landscaping firms, or government agencies. This hands-on experience is essential for developing the skills needed to assess tree health, diagnose diseases and pests, and safely perform tree maintenance tasks.

Arborists can work in a variety of settings, including residential properties, commercial developments, parks, and forests. They may specialize in tree preservation, tree removal, urban forestry, or plant health care. Some arborists also choose to start their own tree care business or work as consultants, offering expert advice on tree management and preservation.

Job Outlook for Arborists

The job outlook for arborists is positive, with demand expected to grow in the coming years. As urban areas expand and environmental awareness increases, the need for skilled tree care professionals is on the rise. Arborists play a crucial role in maintaining the health and beauty of trees in urban environments, as well as preserving natural habitats and green spaces.

Employment opportunities for arborists can be found in a variety of industries, including landscaping, forestry, parks and recreation, and municipal government. Arborists may also work for tree care companies, botanical gardens, golf courses, or environmental organizations. Some arborists choose to specialize in specific areas, such as tree risk assessment, tree preservation planning, or tree inventory management.

Advancement Opportunities

Arborists who demonstrate a high level of skill, knowledge, and professionalism may have opportunities for advancement within their field. Advancement opportunities can include supervisory roles, management positions, or specialized positions such as tree preservation specialist or urban forestry coordinator. Some arborists may also choose to pursue additional certifications or advanced degrees to further their career prospects.

Arborists who own their own tree care business have the potential for unlimited growth and success. By building a strong reputation, establishing relationships with clients, and staying current on industry trends and best practices, arborists can create a thriving business that provides a valuable service to their community.

Specializations in Arboriculture

Arboriculture offers a wide range of specializations for arborists to choose from, depending on their interests and career goals. Some common specializations in arboriculture include:

  • Tree preservation: Arborists who specialize in tree preservation focus on maintaining the health and vitality of trees through proper care and maintenance practices.
  • Tree risk assessment: Arborists who specialize in tree risk assessment evaluate the health and safety of trees to identify potential hazards and develop risk mitigation strategies.
  • Urban forestry: Arborists who specialize in urban forestry work to manage and preserve trees in urban environments, balancing the needs of trees with the needs of the community.
  • Plant health care: Arborists who specialize in plant health care focus on diagnosing and treating diseases, pests, and other health issues affecting trees and plants.

By choosing a specialization in arboriculture, arborists can focus their skills and expertise in a specific area of tree care, becoming experts in their field and providing valuable services to their clients.


In conclusion, becoming an arborist is a rewarding career choice for those who have a passion for trees and the environment. By following the steps outlined in this beginner’s guide, you can start your journey towards becoming a certified arborist. Remember to continue learning and gaining practical experience in tree care to further enhance your skills and knowledge in this field. With dedication and hard work, you can achieve your goal of becoming a successful arborist and making a positive impact on the world around you.