Careers in Arboriculture

fall foliage in the countryForesters inspecting tree leavesArboriculture is the care of trees and shrubs, and arborists are the professionals who practice arboriculture.  Arborists improve the quality of life by properly selecting, planting, and caring for trees and shrubs.

When properly maintained, plants add life and color to our cities, towns, and neighborhoods. Trees improve our environment by filtering the air we breathe and the water we drink. They provide shade and lower heating and cooling costs.  They reduce air pollution and increase property values.

Unfortunately, the life span of a tree in the best urban setting in only about 60 years. The same tree species in a rural forest may live several times that long. Trees need help to survive in our harsh urban and suburban conditions.  Without regular care, they can quickly change from a valuable resource to a costly burden.

The skills of the professional arborist are more valuable than ever because of the increased recognition of the environmental, economic, and social benefits of trees. Many career opportunities are waiting for you in the tree care industry. If you become an arborist, you can help improve the quality of life in our urban environment.

 Being an Arborist

Forester climbing treeDo you like to work outdoors? Do you like to work with your hands? Do you want to help the environment? Do you relate well to people? Would you enjoy solving the mysteries of tree ailments? So you like work that is physically and mentally challenging? If you can answer "Yes" to these questions, then you should think about a career as an arborist. You could plant and care for trees that people will enjoy for generations to come. You could truly help protect the environment and improve your community.

Arboriculture involves many types of activities. Arborists select and transplant trees...prune, repair, brace, and fertilize them...manage pests...and ensure that the trees in their care grow well and remain structurally safe. Arborists protect trees on construction sites and appraise the value of damaged or destroyed trees.  They even provide expert opinion in legal cases. Arborists combine physical skills, technical knowledge, and a sincere interest in trees to gain personal satisfaction and earn a good living. 

Career Tracts in Arboriculture

As in other professions, arboriculture has areas of specialization. The main areas are:

  • Commercial arboriculture involves individuals, partnerships, and companies. Commercial arborists prune, cable, fertilize, plant, and remove trees. They treat trees for harmful insects and diseases. Commercial arborists work for homeowners, power companies, and government agencies. They help planners and developers to protect trees on construction sites, and serve as expert witnesses in court cases.

  • Municipal arboriculture or urban forestry addresses many of the same tree-care issues as commercial arboriculture. However, city arborists or urban foresters work with trees and woody plants along streets, in parks, and on the grounds of public buildings. They help preserve trees during construction. They develop and enforce tree ordinances and keep detailed records of trees on public property. Sometimes, urban foresters manage forest stands in watersheds or public parks. They may also educate the public, review plans for landscape projects, hold training programs for employees, and prepare budgets.

  • Utility arboriculture deals with the maintenance of trees close to power lines to prevent power outages. It also involves managing trees in railroad rights-of-way to prevent interference with travel. Utility arborists plan tree maintenance, award contracts, and inspect the work performed. They continually test new line clearance and vegetation control methods and review wildlife management programs. Utility arborists teach customers about the need for proper tree maintenance near utility lines. They also advise customers on tree species that are suitable for planting near power lines.

Arborists provide proper tree protection advice on construction projects
Safely removing large, dead, or dangerous trees requires special skills and equipment.
Municipal arborists check park and street trees and recommend treatments that will improve tree health.
Arborists prune and remove trees for utility companies to maintain line clearance and avoid power interruptions.

Preparing for a Career in Arboriculture

Employers commonly provide on-the-job training for entry-level positions in arboriculture. You learn tree care and the tools of the trade, which prepares you for advancement, while you earn a living.

Students receiving training outside the forestry classHome study and job-skills training programs are also available. Specialized training is also available at technical and vocational schools and community colleges. Many four-year colleges and universities have programs in arboriculture, forestry, horticulture, plant science, pest management, and natural resources.

You can continue your education through industry and agency-sponsored courses, federal and state-funded training, and technical schools. The National Arborist Association (NAA) has home study courses, safety programs, and audio/visual programs. They describe in detain the proper methods used in the industry. The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) has many educational materials. Their Arborist Certification Study Guide helps individuals prepare for a voluntary arborist certification exam. The Arborist Certification program recognizes arborists who have improved their knowledge through training and experience. ISA chapters as well as regional and state arborist associations conduct many workshops and seminars that provide excellent training. More information about the programs and publications of these organizations is available on request. 

Employment Opportunities

The arboriculture profession is alive with employment opportunities! Where you start will depend upon your education and experience, but the same opportunity for advancement is present for everyone. Entry-level positions provide on-the-job training. This prepares you for advancement into positions like tree climber and crew leader. Promotion into sales or management level positions are ready and waiting.

With a career in arboriculture, your advancement opportunities and potential financial rewards are wide open! Plus, you will be helping to improve the environment. 

Potential Employers

  • Commercial tree service companies

  • Public utility companies

  • City, county, and other government agencies

  • Landscape maintenance firms, nurseries, and garden centers

  • Arboriculture equipment and chemical manufacturers

  • Cooperative Extension Service, universities, and community colleges

  • Industrial complexes, private estates, theme parks, and resorts

  • Arboreta, botanical gardens, and tree research centers

  • Landscape architectural planning and development firms

  • Professional associations and publishers of trade magazines 

Professional Organizations

International Society of Arboriculture
P.O. Box 3129
Champaign, IL 61826-3129
(217) 355-9411
Toll Free: 888.472.8733
Phone: 217.355.9411
FAX: 217.355.9516

Tree Care Industry Association
136 Harvey Road, Suite 101
Londonderry, NH 03053
Phone: 603-314-5380
Toll-free: 800-733-2622
Fax: 603-314-5386

Society of Municipal Arborists

P.O. Box 641
Watkinsville, Georgia 30677