Commercial Arborist

Some commercial arborists plan and implement new tree plantings, or are primarily involved with maintaining tree health. Others may work for large enterprises in forestry (for timber), or conservation (maintaining forests for environmental value). 



Scope of Work

Commercial arborists may find particular niche areas of work. Some may work as private contractors. Others work for larger commercial enterprises.   

Work may include:

  • Planting -urban, rural, residential, forestry, land care
  • Tree health care - tree surgery, pest control, tree assessment, consulting.
  • Pruning - for safety, tree health, fruit/flower production, root control, aesthetic/functional
  • Tree removal -lopping, onsite chipping, stump grionding, removing prunings

It can also include working on planting designs for private land, streets and urban development.

Some arborists specialise, for example:

  • In revegetation projects
  • Giving advice on choice of trees on private land such as privately owned sports clubs and business premises
  • In climbing and tree surgery


What You Need to Learn

  • Tree science - Tree biology, physiology, anatomy, ecology, nutrition
  • Soils - Soil structure, chemistry, nutrition, management techniques e.g. improving soils, aeration, etc.
  • Water management - Surface & subsurface drainage, flood mitigation, irrigation equipment installation, use
  • Taxonomy - Tree species & cultivars, identification & cultural characteristics of hundreds of different tree varieties, also weed and other plant species
  • Health management - Tree pests, diseases and environmental disorders
  • Tools and equipment - Selection of the right tool for the job, operation & correct use (e.g. chainsaws, chippers), maintenance, repair of tools, machinery (chippers, cranes, trucks); rope work
  • Cultural techniques - Tree pruning, surgery techniques, watering frequency, how to renovate trees
  • Health & safety - Assessment of risks & hazards, use of personal protective equipment, first aid kits, first aid procedures
  • Consulting - Communication skills, contract law, customer relations, insurance


Starting a Career

There are many points of entry into this line of work. Many people learn on the job. Formal learning or courses provide helpful information and experience. Entry pathways into working as an arborist include:

  • Volunteering with community projects (e.g. conservation tree planting, botanic gardens friends groups)
  • Joining a club, association or society (anything from a garden club to rock climbing group may be relevant)
  • Starting a small business dealing with trees (e.g. propagating trees art home and selling through markets)
  • Studying or working in anything related to arboriculture (e.g. gardening, mechanics, environmental management)

Learning properly takes time. Initial training lays a foundation to build further learning on and gives context to what you learn later through study or experience. Broader, deeper initial training is always better; but not necessarily essential for a start, as long as you continue learning after you start. It is very important that your initial training is from instructors who have a strong understanding of the science and techniques that underpin tree management.

Common ways to get started are:

  • Getting a job with someone else (e.g. a tree surgeon, or tree nursery)
  • Working in landscaping or gardening and doing some tree maintenance


Progressing a Career

You will learn through experience as you work in the industry. Every problem or challenge you confront can be a new learning experience.

Challenges sometimes reveal deficiencies in your knowledge. If that happens, you may see something you need to learn, by doing research or studying a course. The person who responds positively to such challenges, and sees them as opportunities for career advancement, will progress.

If there are aspects of the list above (what you need to learn) which are deficient then ongoing study is advised to fill those gaps.
Networking within your industry is critical to not only learning more; but also getting new opportunities. Everyone working in tree care should become active in a professional association specialising in trees or horticulture.

Professional development is also important. Science, products, equipment and techniques are constantly changing and improving in tree surgery as well as every other industry. If you are disconnected from industry change, you will not remain competitive with others who are up to date. This is another reason you should remain involved with a professional or trade organisation.