How To Become An Arborist In The USA: Training, Certification, Work-Experience

| |

If you’re considering a career as an arborist, here’s a detailed guide to help you navigate the journey.

An arborist is a professional trained in the art and science of planting, caring for, and maintaining individual trees.

They possess specialized knowledge about the health and safety of trees and offer services such as pruning, removal, and disease management.

How To Become A Certified Arborist

where to do arborist training
Arborists use small chainsaws when climbing

1. Understand the Profession

An arborist is a professional who studies and manages trees, shrubs, vines, and other woody plants.

They play a crucial role in landscaping, urban development, forestry, and environmental conservation.

Types of Jobs in Arboriculture:

  • Commercial Arborist: Works for private tree care companies.
  • Municipal Arborist: Manages community trees.
  • Utility Arborist: Maintains trees near electric power lines.
  • Climber: Engages in aerial-based tasks and must have technical training.

Other tree care roles include Grounds Crew Supervisor and Urban Forester.

2. Educational Background

While it is possible to become an arborist without formal education, obtaining a relevant degree can give you an edge:

  • High School Diploma/GED: Minimum expectation for most employers.
  • Associate Degree: In environmental science, arboriculture, or a related field.
  • Bachelor’s Degree: In forestry, horticulture, or a related field.

A college degree is not necessary to become an arborist, however, the knowledge gained in a relevant field can be valuable and help with career advancement and earnings.

3. State Licensing

Some states require you to have an arborist license:

  • Connecticut
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • Rhode Island

Additionally, even in states where a license isn’t required, many municipalities or cities might have their own certification or permit requirements for tree work within their jurisdictions.

Always check the specific requirements for the state you plan to work in.

4. Gain On-the-Job Experience

Hands-on experience is crucial:

  • Apply for entry-level positions at tree care companies.
  • Consider internships or shadowing experienced professionals.
  • Learn about tree care tools, procedures, and tree identification.

Hands-on experience is crucial for bridging the gap between theory and real-world application. Engaging directly with materials and tools deepens understanding, promotes skill development, and enhances problem-solving abilities.

This active engagement not only boosts confidence and retention but also prepares individuals for real-world challenges by offering immediate feedback and fostering adaptability. Furthermore, such experiences cater to diverse learning styles and often pave the way for building professional networks, making them invaluable in both educational and professional settings.

5. Prioritize Safety

Arborists often face hazardous conditions.

Ensure you:

  • Understand the use and maintenance of power tools and heavy machinery.
  • Learn about the potential dangers of pesticides and fertilizers.
  • Familiarize yourself with protective gear and safety protocols.
  • Get trained in first aid and identify potential threats like insects, wildlife, and poisonous plants.

Not prioritizing safety, especially in environments where heavy machinery and tools are used, can lead to severe and often irreversible consequences. For instance, neglecting proper safety measures while operating a chainsaw can result in serious accidents, and the chainsaw injury statistics highlight the grim reality of these risks.

Every year, numerous individuals suffer from deep cuts, limb amputations, or even fatal injuries due to chainsaw-related accidents, underscoring the paramount importance of adhering to safety protocols in every task.

6. Pursue Career Growth

As you gain experience:

  • Seek leadership roles or specialized projects that align with your interests.
  • Enhance your skills and expand your knowledge base.

To pursue career growth as an arborist, one should continuously seek advanced training and certifications, such as the ISA Board Certified Master Arborist® credential, which is the highest level offered by the International Society of Arboriculture.

Staying updated with the latest techniques, tools, and best practices in tree care will enhance proficiency.

Specializing in niche areas like utility or municipal arboriculture can also open doors to higher positions. Networking with industry professionals, attending conferences, and participating in workshops can further bolster one’s reputation and opportunities in the arboriculture field.

7. Certification from the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA)

ISA Certified Arborist is the most popular credential.

To earn this:

  1. Have 3 years of relevant work experience (or)
  2. Have an associate degree in a related field + 2 years of work experience (or)
  3. Have a bachelor’s degree in a related field + 1 year of work experience.

Other ISA Credentials include:

  • Arborist Utility Specialist
  • Arborist Municipal Specialist
  • Tree Worker Climber Specialist
  • Tree Worker Aerial Lift Specialist
  • Certified Master Arborist
  • Tree Risk Assessment Qualification

To apply for ISA certification:

  • Complete the required work or education-work experience.
  • Fill out the application through the ISA, attaching a reference letter from your employer.
  • After approval, enroll in a computer or paper-based exam.
  • Note: There might be additional fees for exams.

Typical program topics for ISA Certification:

  • Pest management
  • Tree climbing
  • Equipment operation and maintenance
  • Business communications

Becoming an ISA Certified Arborist is an acknowledgment of your dedication, knowledge, and skills in the field of arboriculture.

Arborist FAQs

protos integral arborist helmet
The Protos Helmet is one of the best

Which state in the US offers the highest salary to arborists?

Arborists tend to earn the most in California ($54,109), followed by Hawaii ($47,874), and Rhode Island ($47,531). Nationally, the average arborist’s salary ranges from $30,000 to $57,000, with hourly rates between $14 and $27 (an average of around $21 an hour).

How many arborists currently work in the US?

There are approximately 54,500 arborists in the US. Furthermore, the arborist job market is projected to grow by 11.7% from 2016 to 2026.

What’s the highest level of certification an arborist can achieve?

The ISA Board Certified Master Arborist® credential is recognized as the pinnacle of certification provided by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA).

What is the primary tool essential for arborists?

The chainsaw is indispensable for arborists and is utilized daily for tasks like cutting, pruning, and tree removal. Originally invented in 1830 as a medical device for bone-cutting, it has since become a crucial tool in arboriculture.

What characteristics define a proficient arborist?

A competent arborist undergoes extensive training across various tree species, enhancing their expertise and adaptability. These professionals possess a deep understanding of plants, the specific soil they thrive in, and other vital factors like sunlight needs. Certification also serves as a testament to their knowledge and skills.

Arborist Career

Pursuing a career as an arborist requires a combination of formal education, hands-on experience, and specialized training.

As the field of arboriculture continues to grow, qualified arborists are in high demand to ensure the health and safety of trees and urban forests. With dedication and continuous learning, you can have a fulfilling and impactful career as an arborist.


What Is An Arborist, What Do They Do, And When To Hire One

ECHO CS-400 Chainsaw: Review, Specs, Price, Parts, And Alternatives


Leave a Comment