Arborist Classes and Certification Programs

Arborists plant new trees, treat diseases in trees and remove dead branches. Continue reading to learn more about classes and certifications in this field, and see the job outlook. Schools offering Environmental & Social Sustainability degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

Arborists study, maintain, sustain, plant, and care for trees. Certification is offered by the International Society of Arboriculture.

Education None required, but offered through universities, private institutions, and the National Park Service
Classes Water management, soil and plant nutrition, tree biology, tree species identification, equipment, tree climbing, pest management, etc.
Certification Voluntary, offered by the International Society of Arboriculture

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, International Society of Arboriculture, American Society of Consulting Arborists, National Park Service's Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation

What Will I Learn in Arborist Classes?

Arborist training programs are typically available through universities, private organizations and the National Park Service. Training programs and courses may last from 4-12 weeks. Some programs might prepare you for the Certified Arborist certification exam offered by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). Due to hands-on requirements, most arborist training programs and classes are campus-based and include field-based training exercises. In these classes, you'll study topics like:

  • Water management
  • Soil and plant nutrition
  • Tree biology
  • Tree species identification
  • Branch cutting equipment
  • Tree climbing ropes
  • Commercial pesticides

Do I Need Certification?

Certification through the ISA is voluntary; however, earning certification may serve as validation of your skills and give you a competitive edge when applying for jobs. You'll need at least three years of professional experience or a related degree in order to take the Certified Arborist certification exam. Additional ISA credentials include Certified Arborist Utility Specialist and Certified Tree Worker Climber Specialist. To apply for the ISA Certified Arborist Utility Specialist credential, you'll need at least 2,000 hours of experience in utility vegetation management during a 2-year period. Applicants for the Certified Tree Worker Climber Specialist credential must have formal training in aerial rescue first aid and CPR along with 18 months of related climbing experience; this credential requires a written exam as well as a field-based test.

What About Licensing Requirements?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), arborists who use pesticides usually need to be licensed or certified (www.bls.gov). Licensure requirements vary by state, but in most cases, you'll need to pass a written exam.

What Is the Career Outlook?

The BLS reports that the number of employed grounds maintenance workers was expected to grow by 11% from 2016-2026 (www.bls.gov). Job growth was due to an increase in the number of services needed by homeowners and businesses. The annual median salary for tree trimmers and pruners was $36,460 in 2017, as noted by the BLS.

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