Arborist Degree and Training Program Information

There are few traditional academic degree or certificate programs for arborists. However, independent training is available from a number of schools for arborists who are planning to earn a professional certification.

Essential Information

An arborist training program primarily addresses the cultivation, care, and management of individual trees as well as other perennial, woody plants. Program content covers the identification and prevention of diseases and parasitic infestations, removal of invasive species, protection from predation, pruning, transplantation, and structural support. Participants also learn to safely use harnesses, ropes, and other climbing equipment.

  • Program Levels for Arborists: ISA-certified short courses; on-the-job training
  • Prerequisites: 3 years work experience in tree care OR an associate's degree related to aboriculture and two years work experience
  • Program Length: Less than a year

Training Programs for Arborists

The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) is the accrediting body for individuals wishing to receive a formal certificate from an arborist training program. Programs often consist of a single class that surveys multiple topics over a period of months, though the training can be completed in under one year. Students learn about fundamental arboriculture topics, such as tree identification, tree biology, and soil quality management. The following are also typical subjects covered in an arborist program:

  • Tree diseases and diagnosis
  • Plant care and risk management
  • Tree trimming methods
  • Climbing, cabling, and bracing
  • Urban tree care

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Graduates of arborist training programs typically have established careers as arborists, which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) classifies as grounds maintenance workers. Employment opportunities are available with tree care companies, landscaping companies, tree nurseries, utility companies, and government agencies. According to the BLS, over the years 2012-2022, employment of all grounds maintenance workers, including arborists, will grow 13%. Growth will be driven by increased tree planting in municipalities, which will require more tree care workers. As of May 2014, tree trimmers and pruners earned a median salary of $32,960, while landscaping and groundskeeping workers earned a median of $24,290.

Certification Information

Arborists who complete a training program accredited by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) are qualified to earn the voluntary ISA Certified Arborist credential. As of January 2011, certification required passing a 200 question multiple-choice exam with a score of 72% or better.

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