How to Become an <br>Arborist

How to Become an

Eric Ciechanowski
By Eric Ciechanowski
Last Updated: January 20, 2020
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If you’re thinking about entering a career as an Arborist, then keep reading. This guide contains important information such as educational and training requirements, average salaries, necessary skills and more.

What Does an Arborist Do?

Arborists are experts on trees of all different kinds, and use their knowledge to create landscape designs and to nurture, maintain and remove trees as needed. Arborists can work in an office setting as well as an outdoor setting.

In addition to knowing how to care for various species of trees, Arborists also need to factor in any given area’s climate, soil quality and weather in order to correctly plant and care for the trees in that area. Common Arborist duties and responsibilities include:

  • Trimming and pruning trees

  • Removing sick, damaged or unwanted trees

  • Protecting trees from pests

  • Drawing up new planting plans

Arborist Skills

Extensive knowledge of what each species of tree needs in order to flourish and grow is an essential skill for any Arborist. Arborists also need to be able to predict the effects of various environmental factors on the trees in their charge, and then take the proper precautionary measures as they see fit.

Other key Arborist skills include:

  • Proficiency in math and basic physics

  • Physical fitness, especially in regards to upper-body strength

  • Good communication skills

  • Ability to safely operate a variety of hand and power tools

  • Ability to create clear and precise plans

How Do You Become an Arborist?

Education and Training

According to our analysis of online job postings, most employers are looking for Arborists with a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent, while some require an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree as well. A degree in arboriculture would be the most applicable for a career as an Arborist, although a degree horticulture, urban forestry or botany would also be valuable.

Additionally, some employers require potential candidates to be certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). Even if an employer does not explicitly state that you must be certified, deciding to become certified on your own can not only increase your own knowledge but also show an employer just how dedicated you are.

Finding a Job

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for Grounds Maintenance Workers, which includes Arborists, is increasing by 6 percent. This is expected to result in the opening of 77,600 new positions between 2014 and 2024. This growth rate can be attributed to a rising need for landscaping services by both individuals and businesses.

Before you start applying to jobs, you’ll need to have a great resume on hand. Take a look at JobHero’s library of Arborist resume samples for expert-approved ideas.

Once you’ve got a solid resume under your belt, it’s time to conduct an online job search. Before you start sending out applications, however, consider writing a cover letter to accompany your resume. A good cover letter can convey your work ethic, reasons for applying and special areas of expertise to prospective employers. Check out our cover letter samples for guidance.

Insights from a Arborist

To help better understand what a job as an arborist entails we interviewed a couple of professionals in the industry and got their opinions.

What is the common career path for an Arborist?

The most common path to becoming an arborist is to first pursue a bachelor's degree in arboriculture or other fields. There are many related fields and there so you have options which is the good part. After this 4 year process you can participate.

What should someone consider before becoming an Arborist?

Although it may seem like a fast career path to becoming an arborist it is not quite as easy as you think. Good physical condition is required since part of the job may involve climbing up the tree with special equipment and you will also be dealing with pesticides.

What type of person excels in this job?

Generally people interested in arboriculture and horticulture. High Conscientiousness is also a good determining factor. Ability to work in a team environment and the use of methodological approaches to problem-solving or project completion strategy.

What are some of the most important skills for Arborists to have?

A qualified arborist will generally know how to care for trees as well as how to tare them down. Will know the best practices for maintaining the well being of trees as well as sometimes getting on top of a Caterpillar to knock some trees down. This requires other certifications of course but they are good to have in your resume.

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being an Arborist?

The diversity in the sense that every day is practically a different day. One day you are trying to preserve the life of a 100-year-old tree and the next you are climbing a tree testing your stamina to cut off a branch that may be hazardous to pedestrians or to close to a power line. Working directly with nature is a very rewarding experience.

How Much Do Arborists Get Paid?

Depending on whether they work as independent contractors or as a permanent employee of a company, Arborists can be paid on either an hourly wage basis or an annual wage basis. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Arborists earn a median hourly wage of $16.10, with the lowest-paid earning $10.41 per hour and the highest-paid earning $26.78 per hour.

Top Ten States for Arborist Salary

Arborists in the following ten states make the highest median hourly wage in the U.S.

    Alaska and Montana






    New Jersey


    New York




    New Hampshire


    Rhode Island






    Arborist Resources

    We put together this list of additional resources to help you continue exploring your career as an Arborist.

    Professional Groups

    International Society of Arboriculture
    The ISA was founded in 1924 and now has upwards of 20,000 members. It offers certification, online learning tools, magazines, newsletters, a collection of published research and an annual conference.

    American Society of Consulting Arborists
    The ASCA was founded in 1967. It provides online education, an annual conference, a consulting academy and a discussion forum.

    Arborists on LinkedIn

    This group of over 15,000 members was created to connect tree professionals as well as people who are simply passionate about trees. Here, you can network with professionals, learn about news and events, discuss all things tree-related and find jobs.

    Arboriculture and Landscapes
    This group is designed to serve as a discussion platform Arborists, Landscapers and Customers who wish to talk to like-minded people about common issues which arise in the fields of arboriculture and landscaping.

    Arborist Books

    Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs
    This extensive visual reference guide more than 3,700 species of trees and shrubs, with over 3,500 full-color photographs to accompany each description. Provides advice on tree and shrub identification, care and planting as well.

    Certified Arborist Exam Secrets Study Guide
    This book is intended to help you successfully prepare for the ISA certification exam. It contains a detailed overview of the exam, as well as an in-depth look at each concept and principle that you’ll need to know in order to pass.