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Arborist Degree and Training Program Information

While there are limited training program options for arborists, there are some that provide fundamental content in such areas as soil, tree diseases and tree care. Read ahead to find out more about coursework, program length, certification and career data.

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Essential Information

There are few traditional academic degree or certificate programs for arborists. Most arborists receive training on-the-job from tree care companies or other employers in programs that last as little as a month or up to three years. However, independent training is available from a number of schools for arborists who are planning to earn a professional certification.

An arborist training program primarily addresses the cultivation, care, and management of individual trees as well as other perennial, woody plants. Program content covers the identification and prevention of diseases and parasitic infestations, removal of invasive species, protection from predation, pruning, transplantation, and structural support. Program participants also learn to safely use harnesses, ropes, and other climbing equipment. Training programs may be completed in under a year.

Education Prerequisites

Admission requirements for training programs are flexible. Applicants need either three years (or more) of work experience in tree care or an associate's degree in a subject related to arboriculture and two years of work experience.

Program Coursework

Training programs often consist of a single class that surveys multiple topics over a period of months. The following are likely topics in an arborist program:

  • Tree identification
  • Tree biology basics
  • Soil quality management
  • Tree diseases and diagnosis
  • Plant care and risk management
  • Tree trimming methods
  • Climbing, cabling, and bracing
  • Urban tree care

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Graduates of arborist training programs typically have established careers as arborists, which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) classifies as grounds maintenance workers. Employment opportunities are available with tree care companies, landscaping companies, tree nurseries, utilities, and government agencies. According to the BLS, over the years 2010-2020, employment of all grounds maintenance workers, including arborists, will grow 20%. Growth will be driven by increased tree planting in municipalities, which will require more tree care workers. As of May 2012, tree trimmers and pruners earned a median salary of $32,310, while landscaping and groundskeeping workers earned a median of $23,570.

Certification Information

Arborists who complete a training program accredited by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) are qualified to earn the voluntary ISA Certified Arborist credential. As of January 2011, certification required passing a 200 question multiple-choice exam with a score of 72% or better.

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