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Degree Programs for Aspiring Arborists

Arborists cultivate, study and care for trees, shrubs and other types of plants. Learn about the undergraduate and graduate degree programs for prospective arborists as well as common courses, online training options, and career prospects

What Type of Degree Programs Exist for Arborists?

Arborists care for the health of individual trees on private landscapes and public parks. They may remove diseased trees or damaged limbs, manage tree pests and take measures to preserve older trees. If you are looking for academic training in this field, you'll find that many schools offer associate degree programs in arboriculture. Bachelor's and master's degrees in forestry and urban forestry, or the care of trees in city parks and landscapes, are also available. You may also find some graduate-level urban forestry courses in natural resource development programs.

Degree LevelGraduate and undergraduate
Common CoursesHorticulture equipment operation and repair, plant pest control, tree identification, forest ecology, tree nutrition
Online AvailabilityRare due to the requirement for labs and internships, but some courses can be taken online
Career FieldsLandscaping and tree care, environmental consulting or conservation, research, arboretum work
Median Salary (2018)$27,460 (Forest and Conservation Workers)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)2% decline (Forest and Conservation Workers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Courses Are Important to Take?

Fundamental courses in an arboriculture associate degree program include horticulture equipment operation and repair, arboriculture techniques, plant pest control, landscape drafting and tree surgery. Some associate degree programs will even include internships and fieldwork, so you can get an idea of how you may apply course concepts in a practical way.

A bachelor's degree program in urban forestry is likely to include a broader range of classes that cover tree identification, forest ecology, soil science and forest health. A master's degree program in forestry will offer you advanced courses in areas like tree nutrition and tree physiology. These bachelor's and master's degree programs also offer practicums.

What If I'm Looking for an Online Program?

Because many programs include lab courses or internships, you may have a hard time finding arboriculture or forestry programs that you can complete over the Internet. However, there are some programs that offer courses online. For example, you may find an online natural resources development master's degree program that includes courses in forest and watershed management, urban forestry and forest policy.

Schools offering online classes will typically require you to have a high-speed Internet connection. You may also need software that will enable you to participate in live video conferences or PowerPoint presentations, like Adobe Acrobat Reader or Windows Media Player.

What Professional Prospects Are Available to Me?

Graduates of arboricultural associate degree programs can work for landscaping and tree care services, utility companies, arboretums or public nature conservancies, according to some schools. If you have a bachelor's degree in urban forestry or forestry, you may be able to find work as an arborist for environmental consulting or conservation agencies. Master's degrees are usually for students interested in research careers or for those who have a bachelor's degree in another area and want to enter the arboricultural field.