The Job and What's Involved

Arboriculturists are responsible for the production and management of trees and shrubs in cities, the countryside and conservation areas. They make sure that trees and shrubs are planted and maintained in an attractive and safe way.

Jobs may vary, but the main tasks usually include:

  • Preparing strategies, management plans and specifications for tree work.
  • Managing and conserving woodlands and other countryside areas.
  • Managing or giving advice on tree planting projects.
  • Commissioning or carrying out tree surveys.
  • Inspecting trees and shrubs to identify pests and diseases.
  • Recognising danger symptoms in trees and risks to the general public.
  • Managing tree work contracts and pruning and felling programmes.

Arboriculturists also provide advice to members of the public and organisations or businesses on tree issues, planting and safety. A lot of time is usually spent investigating current conservation and tree management projects, and preparing and writing reports.

They need a good knowledge of relevant legislation, including planning law and health and safety. They may have to liaise with solicitors and insurance companies, be involved in serving tree preservation orders and represent their organisation at planning appeals.

Arboriculturists work around 35 to 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. They may be on call some evenings and/or weekends for emergencies.

Part of their work is office based. There is also a large amount of outside work, in all weather conditions. This can include considerable amounts of walking and standing during site visits. Carrying out inspections may involve climbing trees. Appropriate safety clothing, such as helmets or gloves, must be worn for inspection work.

Some arboriculturists work in a city, on a country estate, or in a woodland area. Others work in a range of different locations. Travel between locations is likely, so a driving licence is necessary.

The starting salary for an arboriculturist may be around £16,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Work in arboriculture is expanding as interest in the environment and conservation of the countryside and woodlands grows. However, there is less demand in north-east England, Scotland and Wales than in other areas of the UK.

Arboriculturists work for local government, organisations such as the Forestry Commission, forest management companies, private landowners, other private businesses and consultancies.

Jobs may be advertised in local or national newspapers and on websites that hold details of public sector vacancies. The Arboricultural Association newsletter and website have job vacancy information, as do Horticulture Week and Treeline.

Education and Training

There are two usual ways of becoming an arboriculturist:

  • With a relevant degree, Foundation degree or HNC/HND.
  • With experience as an arboricultural worker/tree surgeon, followed by study for a professional qualification.

Practical experience of tree work can be useful through voluntary or work experience with local or national conservation groups.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Relevant courses of study include:

  • BSc in Arboriculture and Urban Forestry.
  • BSc (Hons) in Arboriculture.
  • Foundation Degrees in Arboriculture, Arboriculture and Tree Care and Horticulture (Arboriculture).
  • HND in Arboriculture and Urban Forestry
  • HNC in Arboriculture.
  • Royal Forestry Society's Certificate in Arboriculture.

Entry to a degree course is usually with a minimum of five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) and two A levels/three H grades. Only one A level/two H grades may be required for a Foundation degree or HND course. Entry to an HNC course is usually with five GSCE's/S grades (A-C/1-3). Useful subjects include maths and science.

Degree courses usually last three years, Foundation degree and HND courses two years, and HNC courses one to two years. They include practical work, work placements, course work and examinations.

The Royal Forestry Society (RFS) and ABC Awards offer a Professional Diploma in Arboriculture Level 4, involving periods of practical experience and self-study, followed by an examination. Contact ABC Awards for information on qualifications and training centres. These qualifications are also available to study by distance learning through the Horticultural Correspondence College.

The Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF) require applicants for membership to have passed the Professional Membership Examination, acquired through a structured training and assessment programme.

The Arboricultural Association run training workshops, seminars, a trade fair and national conference annually. Contact them for details.

NVQ's/SVQ's are available in Forestry and Arboriculture at Levels 1 to 5. Contact the Royal Forestry Society or the Institute of Chartered Foresters for details of specialist centres offering these qualifications.

The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) offers an international Certified Arborist Programme. Certification has to be updated every three years. Contact the ISA for details.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An arboriculturist should:

  • Be knowledgeable about the care and management of trees and shrubs.
  • Be genuinely interested in conserving and protecting the natural environment.
  • Be good at strategic and management planning.
  • Have good leadership qualities.
  • Be physically fit for tree inspection work, with a head for heights.
  • Have an understanding of civil engineering and construction techniques.
  • Be able to research and report on conservation and management issues.
  • Be well organised, with good oral and written communication skills.
  • Be able to deal confidently with others on a one-to-one or group basis.

Your Long Term Prospects

There may be promotion opportunities for experienced and knowledgeable arboriculturists to senior arboriculturist, management or director levels.

Arboriculturists aiming to become registered private consultants need either the RFS Professional Diploma, membership of the Institute of Chartered Foresters, or to be an Arboricultural Association Registered Consultant.

Some experienced arboriculturists become self-employed, running their own businesses.

There are sometimes opportunities to work overseas in Europe, Australia and the USA.

Get Further Information

ABC Awards, Duxbury Park,
Duxbury Hall Road, Chorley, Lancashire PR7 4AT
Tel: 01257 241428

The Arboricultural Association,
Ampfield House, Romsey, Hampshire SO51 9PA
Tel: 01794 368717

Horticultural Correspondence College,
Fiveways House,Westwells Road, Hawthorn, Corsham SN13 9RG
Tel: 01249 730326

International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), UK and Ireland Chapter,
148 Hydes Road, Wednesbury, West Midlands WS10 0DR
Tel: 0121 556 8302

Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF),
7a St Colme Street, Edinburgh EH3 6AA
Tel: 0131 225 2705

Lantra, Lantra House, Stoneleigh Park,
Coventry, Warwickshire CV8 2LG
Tel: 024 7669 6996

The Royal Forestry Society,
102 High Street, Tring, Hertfordshire HP23 4AF
Tel: 01442 822028

The Royal Scottish Forestry Society,
The President, 65 Ambleside Terrace, Dundee DD3 0DB
Tel: 01382 489251

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