Arborist Schools and Colleges in the U.S.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, arborists specialize in tree health, structure and maintenance. The recent green movement has brought a heightened interest in this profession, and local governments as well as industries like construction have begun to incorporate arborists in their businesses. While there aren't degree programs specific to arborists, schools offering programs in forestry, urban forestry or forest science are a viable option.

How to Select an Arborist School or College

Programs for aspiring arborists are available at community colleges and 4-year colleges and universities.

Summary of Important Considerations

  • Accreditation
  • Fieldwork experience
  • Curriculum and extracurricular opportunities

Accreditation

Aspiring arborists should look into a school's agriculture, environmental or natural resource department for forestry, urban forestry or forest science degree programs. Look for accreditation by the Society of American Foresters (SAF) or the school's state division of forestry. An accredited program should prepare students to take the International Society of Arboriculture exam to become a Certified Arborist or the SAF exam to become a Certified Forester.

Fieldwork Experience

A program for aspiring arborists should incorporate fieldwork experience in addition to classroom work. The availability of internships with both government agencies and private businesses is another facet to investigate.

Curriculum and Extracurricular Opportunities

The study of silviculture, an emerging field that involves analysis for conservation and sustainability, should also be part of the curriculum. In addition, prospective students should also look for extracurricular opportunities on campus, including the following:

  • Forestry club
  • Student chapter of the Society of American Foresters
  • Research opportunities (both lab and field)

Arborist Program Overviews

Associate's Degree Programs

Many of these 2-year programs are designed to be transferable to local universities for completion of a bachelor's degree program. Associate's degree programs teach students the basics, such as these topics:

  • Dendrology
  • Plant health care
  • Plant identification

Bachelor's Degree Programs

These programs advance students through environment-related fields such as resources, geographic systems and ecology. Some schools offer many of the required courses that lead to forester and arborist certification. Many offer different tracks that are relevant to arborists, such as forest conservation, forest ecology and forest management. An internship may be required. Students enrolled in bachelor's degree programs take courses in the following:

  • Soil science
  • Botany
  • Ecology

Master's Degree Programs

Master's degrees are pertinent to arborists who want to work with government municipalities or in education. Some schools offer the thesis as optional - only those looking to pursue a Ph.D. need to complete one. Relevant programs include courses in the topics below:

  • Forest biometry
  • Wildlife ecology
  • Natural resources

Ph.D. Programs

Arborists interested in university-level research or teaching will need a Ph.D. Most programs require an on-campus residency of at least one year as well as the completion of oral and written examinations and a dissertation. Some programs also require students to fulfill teaching requirements. Courses found in Ph.D. programs might include the following:

  • Advanced silviculture
  • Forest resource management
  • Forest ecology

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