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Arborist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Arborists require some formal education. Learn about the training, job duties, licensure and certification requirements to see if working as an arborist is right for you.

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Arborists are usually required to hold a bachelor's degree in a related field. Licensing may be required if pesticides are used as part of the job. These positions have a median salary around $44,000 per year.

Essential Information

Arborists specialize in raising, maintaining and removing trees. Prospective arborists typically need to complete bachelor's degree programs in fields like arboriculture, horticulture or environmental conservation. Arborists who apply pesticides to trees must be licensed; candidates may consider an apprenticeship under a licensed arborist prior to attaining their own license. They may also earn voluntary certification.

Required Education Bachelor's degree is typical; apprenticeships available
Licensure and Certification License required to apply pesticides; voluntary Certified Arborist credential is available
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 6% for all tree trimmers and pruners*
Median Salary (2016) $44,299 for arborists**

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

Arborist Job Description

Arborists use hand and power tools to prune, hedge and remove trees. They may specialize in keeping trees healthy, planting trees or landscaping. Arborists may work both in an office setting, designing park layouts or planning new planting as well as outside, trimming and shaping trees.

Additional Duties

Arborists may specialize as tree trimmers or tree removers. Tree trimmers care for individual trees and their appearance by training young trees and removing excessive, dead or dying branches. Trimmers may also use their expertise to select the proper species of tree to plant based on climate and soil conditions. Arborists may also use specialized knowledge and equipment to remove fallen, storm-damaged or unwanted trees.

Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), tree trimmers and pruners, who are similar to arborists, were expected to see 6% growth in job openings between 2014 and 2024. PayScale.com reported in January 2016 that arborists earned a median annual salary of $44,299.

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Career Preparation and Requirements

According to the BLS, some employers may require aspiring arborists to have a bachelor's degree. Although few colleges and universities offer a degree in arboriculture, prospective candidates may consider degrees in urban forestry, environmental conservation and horticulture. Bachelor's degree programs generally last four years and include courses in botany, plant pathology and soil science. Some programs may include a required internship with a park, recreational facility or government entity. Programs typically prepare participants with the knowledge needed to gain entry-level jobs and may also qualify graduates for licensure or certification.

Licensing

Most states require arborists who apply pesticides to pass a state examination and provide proof of insurance to be licensed. Prior to licensure, new hires receive on-the-job training in horticulture, arboriculture and landscaping. Entry-level candidates may also apply for an apprenticeship position and work under a licensed arborist. Apprentices typically acquire knowledge from on-the job training and may apply for a license when they have accrued enough knowledge.

Certifications

Individuals with three years of experience may opt to become Certified Arborists, a designation conferred by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). Applicants must pass an ISA administered exam, provide documented experience and be recertified every three years. The ISA offers additional voluntary certifications, such as Master Certified Arborist and Certified Tree Worker.

Arborists are tree specialists who may work on trimming or removing trees as well as raising or maintaining trees. These positions usually require a bachelor's degree, and voluntary certification is available, which can boost employment prospects in some cases.

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