Arborist: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become an arborist. Learn about training programs available, certification, and salary information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Environmental & Social Sustainability degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does an Arborist Do?

Arborists are typically in charge of the installation and maintenance of trees, often in residential areas. They trim and prune them, and may also treat diseases or any other issues in trees. Ornamental tree shaping can be a specialty. A college degree in a relevant field or experience may be required by employers.

The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Education Required No formal education required, some schools offer vocational certificate programs in arboriculture
Key Responsibilities Trim and prune trees, coordinate planting of trees, diagnose diseased trees
Certification Not required, but the ISA Certified Arborist credential is offered through the International Society of Arboriculture
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% (tree trimmers and pruners)
Median Annual Salary (2016)** $44,349

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What is an Arborist?

As an arborist, your main job responsibility is to sculpt, trim, plant and remove individual trees. This is a different position than forestry, which deals with the management and harvesting of entire forests. The profession is often associated with landscaping.

Some of your specific job duties as an arborist may include managing individual tree growth in a gated community, planning and coordinating tree planting, climbing trees to trim dangerous or unsightly branches, transplanting trees from one location to another or diagnosing diseased trees. You can also specialize in one aspect of the field, such as tree pruning.

Are Training Programs Available?

There are no formal educational prerequisites for getting a job as an arborist, though experience may be needed. Some employers may substitute a college degree for experience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), grounds maintenance workers typically gain on-the-job training through a supervisor or co-worker (www.bls.gov). However, some schools do offer vocational certificate programs in the field of arboriculture. Such programs often combine classroom lectures with practical learning experiences. They might cover topics such as tree biology, tree health, pruning techniques, aerial tree pruning, safe climbing techniques and tree management.

Can I Gain Certification?

While certification isn't typically required in order to work as an arborist, it can be used to show an employer that you're competent in the field. The International Society of Arboriculture offers the ISA Certified Arborist credential; you'll need at least three years of experience in the field to apply for this certification. You'll also be expected to complete an exam in order to earn your credential.

How Much Can I Earn?

The BLS does not offer data for the entire arboriculture field, but did report that tree trimmers and pruners held nearly 40,160 jobs across the country in 2015. During that year, tree trimmers and pruners made a median annual salary of about $33,500. In October 2016, the median annual salary for arborists was $44,349, as reported by Payscale.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

With only a high school education, one can also become a forest and conservation worker, or a logging worker. A logger mostly chops down trees and sells the timber while a forest/conservation worker takes care of all the aspects of a forest or other land.

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