4 months ago

How to Become an Arborist

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If you love nature and want a job that can cultivate nature, you may consider becoming an arborist. This article is a guide on how to become an arborist.

If you enjoy nature or like to be outdoors and enjoy the serenity of nature, you may consider being an arborist. It’s a profession that involves providing care to trees and other woody plants.

An arborist examining a tall tree

Arborists help improve the condition of ornamentals and the quality of shade and beautify the neighborhood by planting, offering care and maintenance to tree life. Find out everything you need to know in this article on how to become an arborist.

Who Is an Arborist?

An arborist, sometimes called a tree surgeon or doctor, is a professional that specializes in the field of arboriculture – the practice of providing care for trees, vines, shrubs, and other perennial plants. This practitioner utilizes specific skills and techniques to cultivate, brace, prune, manage, and fertilize trees. They also use preventive, diagnostic, and corrective measures to control these woody plants’ insects, pests, and diseases.

Essentially, an arborist studies how to offer care and maintain healthy shrubs and trees in the environment. They are responsible for most of the trees and shrubs beautifying our communities. Also, remember that these trees offer some health benefits and play crucial roles in the balance of the ecosystem.

Roles and Duties of an Arborist

We have already established that an arborist is skilled in the art and science of granting care to perennial plants. Here are some of the activities they engage in their profession. 

An arborist planting a tree
  • Tree planting: They find the right location, best tree species, and care and maintenance plans to help trees flourish.
  • Pruning and trimming trees: They monitor and regulate tree growth, use saws to remove branches, and reduce tree sizes. Besides improved aesthetics, these activities may reduce disease, damage, or safety in the event of strong winds or rain that can cause tree falls.
  • Tree care and maintenance: Arborists provide regular upkeep to these perennial plants to sustain them. For example, before winter, they put preventive measures in place to keep the trees healthy even during the harsh cold periods.
  • Removing stumps and damaged trees: if a damaged tree is not removed in time, it may pose a risk to people or property in the environment.
  • Offer professional advice on choosing fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals to improve tree health.

How to Become an Arborist?

If you are interested in pursuing a career in arboriculture, below is the road map to attaining your goal.

Complete Your Education

Indeed, there are arborists without any formal education. However, most employers would prefer you to have at least a high school diploma or GED. In fact, some arborists have a higher degree in related fields, such as a college degree in horticulture or forestry or an associate degree in environmental science. 

The more your education level, especially in a course like horticulture, the higher your chances of building a successful career as an arborist. 

Get a State License

In some states in the US, you need to have an arborist license before you can perform the profession. For instance, in Connecticut, you need to get a permit from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection before you can practice. Find out if the state you intend to work in requires a license. 

Apply for Learning on the Job Training

Generally, employees who learn on the job pick up the relevant skills more appropriately. So you should apply for an internship at a tree care company, or shadow experienced professionals. This way, you are under the tutelage of an expert who gives you instructions to follow. 

Doing maintenance on tall trees requires specialized skills

Consequently, you quickly familiarize yourself with the essential tools and techniques to properly care for tree plants. Also, you’d learn different tasks, such as climbing trees to prune and trim them, identifying specific trees, and associating the common pests or diseases that attack them.  Basically, learning under a pro allows you to learn wide and immediately start to put your learnings to practice. 

Learn Arborist Safety Precautions

Arboriculture is a risky profession with many hazards, so you must familiarize yourself with the necessary safety measures, protective gear like harnesses or tree climbing helmets, first aid, and other precautions to maintain safety. In addition, when you start working as an arborist, you will use power tools, heavy machinery, and chemicals, so you need to be equipped with the best practices to ensure you excel. 

Besides learning the safety measures, you also need to know how to use protective gear like helmets, chainsaw chaps, etc. You must be able to keep yourself safe when working. Learn about insects and pests you may encounter while in the wild and poisonous plants and how to work with them. 

In addition, working in the neighborhood too may attract special safety procedures. For example, working with tall trees around utility poles with power wires may require skills that differ from working in the wild. 

Technical and Advance Skills as an Arborist

As you learn on your job or under a professional, you probably start with the basics such as trimming, pruning, etc. You could also begin to discover the aspects of arboriculture you enjoy best; this may help you when you choose to specialize. You should seek more jobs when you feel you have mastered the basics. 

Besides getting more duties on the job, you should also seek leadership roles – get a position where you act as the lead tree doctor, diagnose and offer care to trees. This would help improve your experience. Moreover, most employers would prefer an experienced arborist to handle the care of their trees, especially one who has held leadership roles. 

Get Official Certification

If you were an employer, wouldn’t you prefer to employ a certified arborist? Receiving the arborist certification program (ACP) from the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Credentialing Council indicates that you have completed your training and are now an expert at giving tree care. Hence, the next thing after completing the skill acquisition is to get certified.

However, to acquire this certification, you must fulfill at least one following requirement. 

  • Have at least three years of experience working with woody plants.
  • Have an associate degree with not less than two courses linked directly to arboriculture, plus two years of practice experience.
  • Have a bachelor’s degree with no less than four courses directly connected to arboriculture plus a year of practice experience.

According to the ISA, a year’s experience amounts to 1,795 hours. 

After acquiring the ACP certification, you can apply for other credentials from the ISA. These certifications may be more beneficial for those who intend to specialize. They include the following:

  • Arborist utility specialist
  • Tree worker aerial lift specialist
  • Certified master arborist
  • Tree risk assessment qualification
  • Tree worker, climber specialist, etc.

Final Thoughts

Besides beautification, trees, shrubs, and other woody plants are crucial for sustaining life and the planet. So, we must find ways to improve their lives. Hence, the practice of arboriculture. 

Once you are sure you want to become an arborist, you must be ready to commit to pursuing the career. That said, following our guidelines would help you achieve your goal and become a successful arborist.