become an arborist

What does an Arborist do?

An arborist (or tree surgeon or tree trimmer and pruner as they can sometimes be called) is a practitioner of arboriculture. These are career professionals that can cultivate, manage, care for, and rehabilitate trees and shrubs. There are also foresters who are professionals who specialize in managing an entire forest and may be responsible in harvesting wood whereas An arborist specializes in individual trees.

Watch the following video to learn about a day in the life of an arborist from Morton Arboretum.

How to Become an Arborist

become an arborist

Though a formal education is not required, some employers like to see a blend of education in arboriculture and experience. You can gain a bachelor’s degree in forestry or other related field. Arborists can also earn a specialized International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) certification to demonstrate their knowledge in a particular aspect of arboriculture. ISA actually has six certifications available:

  1. ISA Certified Arborist Municipal Specialist
  2. ISA Certified Arborist Utility Specialist
  3. ISA Certified Tree Worker Climber Specialist
  4. ISA Certified Tree Worker Aerial Lift Specialist
  5. ISA Board Certified Master Arborist

You can learn more about each of these certifications, visit the Six ISA Certifications webpage (link opens in a new tab).

In addition some companies may require you to have special licenses. A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) may be preferred. You can learn how about CDL license types (link opens in a new tab) and how to gain your CDL license from the Department of Motor Vehicles (link opens in a new tab) website.

Job Description of an Arborist

An arborist has many duties. Depending on where they are employed, they may also be responsible to climb trees (often with ropes) and some trees can grow to be very large. Safety when climbing a tree is a must so those that climb trees are also highly skilled in this area. Arborists are also sometimes called tree surgeons as not only must they remove dead limbs and prune a tree when necessary, they also monitor the health of the trees in their care and recommend treatment.

These professionals must also be aware of environmental changes such the introduction of an invasive species or other hazardous environmental element. In addition to ensuring the health of a tree, they may plant trees to promote additional growth as well. Those in this career field may spend a lot of time outdoors and in the elements.

Arborist Job Posting

Let’s look at a recent job description posted by Presidio Trust Tree Crew. This position requires an applicate to have a valid driver’s license.

This job announcement is looking for an individual that will work under the technical and general supervision of the Forester and Tree Crew Supervisor and will performs all related tasks involving trimming and removing trees on roadways, grounds, parks, or other public lands, including thinning, pruning, trimming, and cutting away dead branches or excess branches from large trees, felling and cutting up trees, and removing stumps.

The ideal candidate is a team player with a strong work ethic and the skills and passion to help us maintain and care for this treasured historic San Francisco forest. They are to perform the following responsibilities:

  • Fell trees, clear land, and prepare soil, plants, stakes and mulches to assist with preparation, installation and maintenance for the establishment of new trees in reforestation sites.
  • Prune or remove trees and stumps using chain saws, handsaws, pole saws, pole pruners, stump grinders wheel loaders, track loaders and various other tools and equipment.
  • Climb trees with ropes and harness both with and without the use of climbing gaffs and/or work from aerial lift to remove dead, dying, diseased, damaged and hazardous limbs or trees.
  • Cut, stack, haul, load, chip and transport brush, logs, stumps and other debris utilizing chipper, front end loader, trucks, trailers and other tools and equipment.
  • Drive trucks hauling forestry equipment, trailers, tree chips, brush, logs and other debris, materials and supplies.
  • Perform rigging for the removal of limbs and heavy wood utilizing slings, ropes, blocks, knots, lowering devices and other hardware and equipment.
  • Perform other regular tree maintenance duties including various forms of mature tree care, hazard reduction pruning, limb removal, natural target pruning, selective pruning, clearance pruning for buildings, roads and utilities and structural pruning of young trees for a variety of different tree species throughout the Presidio.
  • Perform routine maintenance and repairs on tools and equipment, and maintain shop and work areas in a clean, orderly and safe condition.
  • Monitor self, crew and public safety; provide traffic control, set out cones, barriers and warning signs and utilize safe work practices for tree work as set out in both ANSI and OSHA standards.
  • Respond as appropriate to questions from public, residents, tenants, and Presidio staff using principals of good customer service; report any problems or issues to supervisor.
  • Cut grass and tall weeds by use of string trimmers, brush cutters and high weed mowers.

This position was posted to run from 06/26/2019 to 07/26/2019 with a salary range of $38.08 to $38.08 per hour on USAjobs.gov (link opens in a new tab). USAjobs.gov is an official website of the United States government and part of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Free Teacher and Student Resources

The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) offers a free series of arboriculture podcasts (link opens in a new tab). Each podcast series focuses on a topic such as arborist news, best practices, the science of arboriculture and more.

Like to learn more about caring for trees? Visit ISA’s Tree Care webpage (link opens in a new tab).

Related Careers to Research:

Career Article Resources

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Tree Trimmers and Pruners.

National Center for O*NET Development. 37-3013.00. O*NET OnLine.