Arboriculturalist or tree surgeon
Agricultural, Natural, Animal Care

Arboriculturalists manage the care of trees, usually in areas which are open to the public. They are involved in planting, propagation, maintenance, tree surgery and eradication of disease. They may develop new amenity woodlands or be more concerned with conservation of existing areas.

Work Activities

Arboriculturalists aim to improve the environment and make it look as attractive as possible. They carry out all kinds of work on trees, shrubs and hedgerows in private and public gardens, parks, roadsides and on paths. They can also be involved in financial planning and management of resources.

Typical job responsibilities include:

  • Planting, propagating and maintaining trees
  • Planting new trees and shrubs under the direction of a landscaper or garden designer
  • Carrying out site inspections and producing reports on conditions such as soil type, topography and water levels below ground
  • Carrying out tree surgery and eradicating diseases
  • Developing new amenity woodlands and conserving existing areas
  • Climbing trees with the use of a safety harness, in order to prune them using a chain saw
  • Observing health and safety regulations very carefully
  • Liaising regularly with a number of other staff, including planners, local authority administrators, landscape architects, gardeners and environmentalists
  • Being responsible for managing tree resources, budgets, staff training and development
  • Being involved with financial planning and management of resources
  • Advising local authorities and companies on the planting and management of trees

Arboriculturalists work in a variety of settings including local authority parks and gardens as well as other public bodies such as national park authorities. They usually work a normal 40 hour week but in some cases earlier starts and weekend work may be required.

Practical work can take place in all weathers and at heights so a good level of physical fitness is expected. With a combination of qualifications, training and experience it is possible to progress to supervisory, team leader or management roles. For example, in local authorities it is possible to be promoted to a position of responsibility for the care and management of the trees in a local area. Many people in this profession are self-employed contractors and eventually can run their own consultancy business giving advice to property developers, landowners and local authorities.

Personal Qualities and Skills

Key skills for arboriculturalists

  • A strong interest in trees and shrubs including topics such as growth, maintenance, pests and diseases
  • Sound practical skills and competence in using potentially dangerous tools and machinery
  • Confident in working at heights and outdoors in all weathers
  • Strong and agile to cope with the physical side of the work which includes lifting, cutting and climbing
  • A conscientious approach to health and safety regulations
  • Excellent communication skills for dealing with colleagues as well as other professionals and clients including members of the public
  • An ability to work effectively in a team as well as on your own
  • A sound knowledge of current legislation and a willingness to keep up to date with the latest developments in the industry
  • Sound IT skills for producing written reports

Pay And Opportunities

Typical employers of arboriculturalists

Examples of typical employers of arboriculturalists include:

  • Local Authorities
  • National Park Authorities and other public bodies
  • The National Trust
  • Private arboricultural companies and contractors
  • Self-employed as a consultant


England and Wales

Qualifications and training required

There are no set academic requirements for this job. The qualifications which you choose to study will be determined by the type of arboricultural activity you wish to undertake. Some people may take relevant college courses before looking for work. It may also be possible to secure an intermediate or advanced level apprenticeship for this area of work although competition is likely to be extremely strong.

Because of the requirement to use pesticides, chemicals and equipment such as chain saws in this job, applicants will need to have passed appropriate City and Guilds Land Based Services Awards (Certificates and Diplomas) which is a legal requirement. The courses are available through land-based colleges and independent training providers.

City and Guilds also offers level 2 and 3 Diplomas in Work-based Trees and Timber. The level 3 diploma would allow you to apply for supervisory positions. There are other courses available at levels 3 and 4 which may be taken on a part-time basis. These include: City and Guilds Diploma in Forestry and Arboriculture and BTEC National (level 3) in Forestry and Arboriculture.

Graduates with a relevant degree (e.g. Forestry or Horticulture) may enter management level jobs. There are only a few specialist arboriculture courses at universities but a number of agriculture, horticulture and forestry courses have options in arboriculture. It is sensible to obtain some practical experience in horticulture or forestry before applying for a course. Entry into a degree course requires a minimum of 5 GCSEs grades 9 – 4 (A*- C) and 2 A levels. A science at A level may be preferred.


In Scotland there is a Modern Apprenticeship leading to a Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) at Level 2 or 3. There is a framework available in Trees and Timber. Full time courses in arboriculture, amenity horticulture, forestry and related subjects are available at a variety of levels, from National Certificates (NCs) and National Qualifications (NQs) to Higher National Certificates and Diplomas (HNCs and HNDs). The entry requirements for NC and NQ courses vary from no formal requirements to 4-5 subjects at National 4 or 5. For HNC and HND courses, the normal requirement is 1-2 Highers and subjects at National 5, or other relevant national qualifications. You could take a degree in forestry or a similar subject. Entry requirements are normally 4-5 Highers, including 2 Maths and science or technological subjects or a relevant HND.

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