Arborist: What Is It and How to Become

Arborist: What Is It and How to Become

If you love nature and have a passion for tree care, becoming an arborist might be the perfect career path for you. Arborists are specialists in the field of tree care, responsible for the trimming, removal, and overall health of trees in their surroundings. They play a special role in maintaining the beauty and safety of our environment.

So, what does it take to become a certified arborist? In this step-by-step guide, we will provide you with essential tips and requirements to help you build a successful career as an arborist.

Educational Requirements

In California, where arborists are in high demand, there are no government-issued certifications or licenses needed to start working as an arborist. However, many professionals in the industry choose to acquire certifications to streamline their credentials and provide informed services.

Arborists can acquire their education either through formal arboriculture programs or through continuing education workshops provided by industry associations. The University of California, Amherst, offers a special program for arborists, providing classes and workshops on various topics associated with arboriculture.

Essential Skills and Qualities

Besides formal education, arborists should possess a special set of skills and qualities to excel in their profession. They should have a deep understanding of tree health and anatomy, as well as knowledge about the proper use of tools such as chainsaws and safety guidelines. Arborists should also have good problem-solving skills and be able to make informed decisions regarding tree care and removal.

Building Your Resume

To get hired as an arborist, it is important to build a strong resume that highlights your skills, education, and experience in the field. Include any relevant certifications or licenses you have obtained, as well as any previous experience working with trees. If you have worked for a tree care company or owned your own tree care business in the past, make sure to emphasize it in your resume.

Job Opportunities and Salaries

The demand for arborists is expected to grow in the coming years, as more and more businesses and homeowners recognize the importance of proper tree care. Arborists can find employment with tree care companies, landscaping companies, or local government agencies. Salaries for arborists can vary depending on their experience and the area they work in. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for arborists in the United States is around $52,770.

Understanding the Arborist Profession

1. Safety

Safety is paramount in the arborist profession. Arborists work with specialized tools, such as chainsaws, and often at heights. Therefore, arborists must understand and adhere to strict safety guidelines to protect both themselves and the people around them. Safety training is typically provided by the employer or through specialized arboriculture courses.

2. Formal Training

To become an arborist, formal training is needed. Arborists can find training programs at local or international arboriculture schools, as well as through field camps or continuing education offered by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). These programs provide a step-by-step guide on how to become an arborist, including the necessary skills and knowledge needed to work in the field.

3. Licensing and Certification

Arborists often need to apply for licensing and certification in their state or country. These credentials help establish their expertise and professionalism in the field. The ISA offers certifications for arborists, including the ISA Certified Arborist and ISA Certified Tree Worker credentials. Obtaining these certifications involves passing an examination that tests the arborist’s knowledge and skills in various aspects of tree care.

4. On-Job Training

In addition to formal training, arborists often gain practical experience through on-job training. This involves working under the guidance of experienced arborists and learning the necessary skills and techniques to succeed in the profession. On-job training provides hands-on experience in tree trimming, removal, and care.

5. Continuing Education

Arborists should continuously seek to improve their skills and knowledge in the field. Continuing education is essential for staying up-to-date with the latest arborist practices and techniques. The ISA offers various continuing education opportunities, including workshops, seminars, and conferences, which help arborists expand their knowledge base and stay informed about new developments in the profession.

6. Business and Personality Traits

Exploring the Role and Responsibilities

In addition, arborists play a crucial role in preserving and enhancing the environment. They work with government agencies, businesses, and homeowners to ensure that trees are properly cared for and maintained. Arborists can also offer advice on the selection and placement of trees, taking into account factors such as climate, soil conditions, and aesthetic preferences.

To become a certified arborist, you will need to demonstrate your knowledge and skills through a combination of education, experience, and certification credentials. Most arborist jobs require a postsecondary education in arboriculture or a related field, such as horticulture or forestry. The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) offers certifications that can further enhance your resume and demonstrate your expertise in the field.

Formal Education and Training

A formal education in arboriculture can provide you with the necessary skills to excel in this profession. Many colleges and universities offer programs and courses in arboriculture and related fields. Some well-known institutions include the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. These programs typically cover topics such as tree biology, tree care and maintenance, tree risk assessment, and tree preservation.

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Certifications and Credentials

Obtaining certifications from recognized organizations such as the ISA can greatly enhance your career prospects as an arborist. The ISA offers several certifications, including the Certified Arborist and Tree Worker credentials. These certifications not only demonstrate your knowledge and expertise, but also showcase your commitment to ongoing professional development and staying informed about the latest industry standards and practices.

Experience and On-Job Training

While formal education and certifications are important, hands-on experience is crucial to becoming a successful arborist. Many organizations and companies offer on-job training programs that allow you to gain practical experience under the guidance of experienced professionals. This experience can help you build a strong foundation of skills and knowledge while also providing valuable networking opportunities.

Furthermore, arborist jobs often require physical fitness and the ability to work at heights. An arborist should also have a keen eye for detail, excellent problem-solving skills, and the ability to communicate effectively with clients. These traits are essential for performing the duties of an arborist effectively and safely.

Arborists can find employment in a variety of fields, including government agencies, businesses, and private homeowners. Salaries for arborists vary depending on factors such as location, level of education and experience, and the type of work performed. In general, arborists can expect competitive salaries and opportunities for career growth.

Whether you’re just starting your career or looking to build on your existing experience, becoming an arborist can offer rewarding and fulfilling opportunities in the field of tree care and maintenance. By obtaining the necessary education, certifications, and hands-on experience, you can position yourself as a knowledgeable and skilled professional in this growing profession.

Essential Skills and Qualifications for Arborists

Arborists are professionals who provide tree care services, including tree removal, pruning, and maintenance. They work with a variety of tools, such as chainsaws, and also need to have a good understanding of tree biology and health. Arborists may also be involved in providing advice to businesses and government entities on how to properly care for trees in their area.

Here are the essential steps and qualifications to become an arborist:

  1. Obtain a high school diploma or GED: Before you can start your journey to become an arborist, it’s necessary to complete your high school education or obtain a GED equivalency.
  2. Gain on-the-job experience: Arboriculture is a hands-on profession, so gaining on-the-job experience is crucial. Look for opportunities to work with experienced arborists or tree care businesses in your area to learn the necessary skills and techniques.
  3. Get certified: While not required, getting certified can help you stand out in the arboriculture field. The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) offers certification programs that can enhance your credentials and increase your chances of getting hired.
  4. Complete specialized training: Arboriculture requires specific knowledge and skills, so it’s important to complete specialized training in tree care. Many community colleges and vocational schools offer programs in arboriculture or related fields.
  5. Obtain necessary licenses: In some states or areas, arborists may be required to hold a license to practice. Research the specific licensing requirements in your area and ensure you meet them before starting your arborist career.

Arborists also need to possess certain personality traits to excel in their profession. They should have a love for nature and the outdoors, as well as good problem-solving and communication skills. Physical fitness and the ability to work at heights are also important.

The salary of an arborist can vary depending on factors such as location, experience, and certifications held. According to the Society of Arboriculture, the median salary for a certified arborist in California is $53,450 per year.

Overall, becoming an arborist can be a rewarding profession for those who enjoy working with trees and nature. By following the necessary steps, gaining the required experience, and obtaining the relevant certifications and licenses, you can build a successful career in this specialized field.

Steps to Becoming an Arborist

Step 1: Obtain a Postsecondary Education

While a formal education is not always required, obtaining a postsecondary education can greatly increase your chances of becoming a successful arborist. Many community colleges and vocational schools offer programs in fields such as arboriculture, horticulture, or forestry.

Step 2: Gain Experience in the Field

Hands-on experience is crucial for aspiring arborists. Look for opportunities to work as a tree worker or apprentice under experienced professionals. This will help you learn the necessary skills and understand the tasks associated with tree care, including trimming, removal, and health and safety.

Step 3: Obtain Necessary Licenses and Certifications

Arborists may need to obtain a license or certification to legally offer their services in some states. Research the licensing requirements in your state and complete any necessary examinations or workshops. This will help you build credibility and demonstrate your expertise in the industry.

Step 4: Understand the Business and Legal Aspects

Running an arborist’s business requires more than just tree care skills. Familiarize yourself with the business and legal aspects of the industry, including insurance, contracts, and any government regulations that may apply.

Step 5: Specialize and Find Your Niche

Arboriculture is a diverse field with various specializations. Determine which area you’re most interested in and focus on building your skills and knowledge in that niche. Some common specializations include tree preservation, urban forestry, or large tree removal.

Step 6: Apply for Jobs or Start Your Own Business

Once you have acquired the necessary credentials and experience, you can apply for arborist positions with government agencies, tree care services, or landscaping businesses. Alternatively, you may choose to start your own arborist business and work independently.

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By following these steps, you can streamline your path to becoming a licensed and experienced arborist. Always remember to stay updated on the latest industry trends and continue learning to further enhance your skills and competencies.


Q: Does becoming an arborist require a formal education?

A: While a formal education is not always necessary, obtaining a postsecondary education can greatly benefit your career prospects as an arborist.

Q: What licenses or certifications do arborists need?

A: The licenses or certifications required for arborists vary by state. Research the requirements in your state to determine what credentials are necessary.

Q: How can workshops and seminars help aspiring arborists?

A: Workshops and seminars provided by industry professionals can help aspiring arborists gain additional knowledge and hands-on experience in specialized areas of arboriculture.

Educational Requirements and Training

One of the key steps to becoming an arborist is through on-the-job training and experience. Many employers require arborists to have a certain amount of experience working as a tree worker before they can become a certified arborist. This on-the-job training can vary, but it often includes tasks such as tree removal, pruning, and tree care services. It is important to be informed about the safety protocols and standards in arboriculture, as working with trees can be a hazardous task.

Continuing education is also a key aspect of the arborist profession. As the field of arboriculture is constantly evolving, staying informed about the latest techniques, equipment, and safety practices is crucial. Many arborist organizations offer continuing education programs and workshops to help arborists stay up to date in the field.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career as an arborist, here are some frequently asked questions and answers that can guide you through the educational requirements and training process:


  1. What educational background do I need to become an arborist?
  2. While there are no specific educational requirements, having a postsecondary education in arboriculture or a related field can enhance your chances of employment.

  3. What certifications or licenses do I need to become a certified arborist?
  4. What kind of on-the-job training should I expect as an arborist?
  5. On-the-job training can vary, but it often includes tasks such as tree removal, pruning, and tree care services.

  6. How can I stay informed about the latest advancements in arboriculture?
  7. Many arborist organizations offer continuing education programs and workshops to help arborists stay up to date in the field.

  8. Should I have a certain personality type or health requirements to become an arborist?
  9. While there are no specific personality or health requirements, being physically fit and having an affinity for working outdoors with trees is beneficial.

Gaining Practical Experience

On-Job Training

One way to gain practical experience is through on-the-job training, where aspiring arborists can work alongside experienced professionals in the field. This hands-on experience allows individuals to learn about safety guidelines, tree care techniques, and equipment operation under the guidance of seasoned arborists. On-the-job training not only provides an opportunity to develop practical skills but also helps individuals build relevant contacts and network within the industry.

Workshops and Specializations

In addition to on-the-job training, workshops and specializations can also provide valuable hands-on experience. Many arborist associations and organizations offer workshops and practical training sessions that focus on specific aspects of the arboriculture industry. These workshops cover a wide range of topics, including tree trimming, removal, and health care. Attending such workshops can enhance an individual’s skills and broaden their knowledge base in arboriculture.

Steps Requirements
Step 1 Complete arborist education and training
Step 2 Gain practical on-the-job experience
Step 3 Obtain relevant certifications and licenses
Step 4 Join local arborist associations and obtain membership
Step 5 Keep up with industry standards through continuing education
Step 6 Build a strong professional network and seek job opportunities

Gaining practical experience not only helps individuals develop the necessary skills but also enables them to understand the expectations and demands of the arborist profession. Arborists work with tools and equipment specialized for tree care and removal, ensuring safety and health for both trees and people. Therefore, practical experience plays a key role in sharpening skills and becoming a competent and licensed arborist.


What kind of formal education is required to become an arborist?

To become an arborist, you need to complete formal education in a related field such as forestry, horticulture, or arboriculture. This education provides you with a solid foundation of knowledge and skills necessary for the profession.

Where can I obtain formal education in arboriculture?

There are several options for obtaining formal education in arboriculture. You can enroll in a college or university that offers programs in forestry or horticulture. Additionally, there are specialized arboriculture schools and training centers that provide comprehensive courses specifically focused on the field.

How long does it take to complete the formal education required to become an arborist?

The duration of formal education programs varies depending on the level and type of program. A diploma or certificate program can typically be completed in 1-2 years, while an associate or bachelor’s degree program may take 2-4 years of study. The length of time also depends on whether you are studying full-time or part-time.

Is formal education the only requirement to become an arborist?

No, formal education is just one of the requirements to become an arborist. In addition to completing the necessary education, you will also need to gain practical experience through internships or apprenticeships, obtain certifications, and develop specific skills related to tree care and maintenance.

Can I become an arborist without formal education?

While formal education is highly recommended and beneficial, it is not always mandatory to become an arborist. In some cases, individuals with extensive hands-on experience in tree care and maintenance can become arborists without completing a formal education program. However, having a formal education can provide you with a stronger foundation of knowledge and enhance your professional opportunities.

What formal education is required to become an arborist?

To become an arborist, it is essential to complete formal education related to arboriculture. This includes obtaining a degree in forestry, horticulture, or a related field. It is also advisable to enroll in courses or programs specifically focused on arboriculture to gain in-depth knowledge and skills related to tree care and maintenance.

Can I become an arborist without completing formal education?

While it is possible to become an arborist without formal education, having a degree in forestry or a related field significantly enhances your chances of success in this profession. Formal education provides you with the necessary knowledge and skills required to care for trees effectively. Additionally, many employers prefer candidates who have completed formal education in arboriculture.

Dave Pennells

By Dave Pennells

Dave Pennells, MS, has contributed his expertise as a career consultant and training specialist across various fields for over 15 years. At City University of Seattle, he offers personal career counseling and conducts workshops focused on practical job search techniques, resume creation, and interview skills. With a Master of Science in Counseling, Pennells specializes in career consulting, conducting career assessments, guiding career transitions, and providing outplacement services. Her professional experience spans multiple sectors, including banking, retail, airlines, non-profit organizations, and the aerospace industry. Additionally, since 2001, he has been actively involved with the Career Development Association of Australia.