What Is an Arborist?

Explore the career requirements for arborists. Get the facts about job duties, education requirements, job outlook and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Environmental & Social Sustainability degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Arborist?

Arborists, also called tree trimmers, prune and cut branches from bushes and trees to improve their health or appearance. They may also specialize in treating diseases in trees or performing decorative trimmings. Training usually takes place on the job.

Take a look at the following chart to see what's needed to enter this field.

Training/Education Required On-the-job training; certificate programs available if required by employer
Education Field of Study Arboriculture, horticulture, landscaping
Key Skills Maintaining health & appearance of trees & shrubs
Licensure Required Most states require licensing for pesticide application; other optional certifications available
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% for tree trimmers and pruners
Average Annual Salary (2015)* $36,030 for tree trimmers and pruners

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Arborist Job Duties

Common job responsibilities of an arborist include clearing trees and shrubs from walkways, improving the appearance of grounds or improving the health of trees by trimming branches, filling cavities and preventing deterioration. Some arborists specialize in ornamental trimming, in which trees and shrubs are shaped into creative designs. Common tools for arborists include saws, pruners, clippers or shears. Maintaining large trees could require the use of hydraulic lifts mounted on trucks.

What Kind of Training Do I Need?

This position typically requires no formal education beyond a high school diploma; training is often completed on the job. You might study safety protocols, project budgeting and cost estimation. Additional topics could include:

  • Cleaning, lubricating and sharpening tools
  • Boom, truck, stump chipper, tractor and loader operation
  • Tree climbing using hooks and belts or ladders
  • Bracing, tying and cabling trees for safety and support
  • Fertilization and spray application
  • Tree transplantation

Some of these skills can also be acquired through an arborist technician certificate program at a community or technical college. Certificate programs usually consist of 3-8 courses and train you in tree technology as well as other landscaping techniques, like turf grass management, pest management, plant science, pesticide laws and ornamental plant identification.

Find a Job

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of employed arborists was expected to grow by 6% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). Growth will be driven by an increasing number of trees being planted in urban landscapes, including by colleges, government organizations and large corporations. Arborists living in temperate climates may have the best job chances, since trees there must be maintained year-round.

How Much Money Can I Make?

Arborists made an average annual salary of $36,030 as of May 2015. The top paying industries for this profession were federal, local, and state governments; electric power companies; and post-secondary schools. Industries employing the most arborists were building/dwelling services, local governments and electric power companies.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Other jobs in the conservation area that don't require postsecondary education can be in forest and conservation work, logging, or agricultural management. Forest and conservation workers maintain, develop, and protect forests and other land, under the direction of technicians. Loggers generally just cut down trees in forests and outsource the timber. Agricultural managers may work at farms or ranches where they oversee the livestock and production of goods.

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