Is being an arborist a good profession? What is an arborist’s salary? How do you qualify?

By Hands Fullltd April 12, 2023 6 Min Read
Two arborist men with chainsaw and lifting platform cutting a tree.

If you enjoy working with your hands, spending time out of doors and working in nature to help things grow, you may be wondering if a career as an arborist is the right fit for you. There is more to being an arborist than many people might think, and it is certainly not the job for everyone.

Here we will take a good look at the arborist profession, its highlights and downsides, to help give you all you need to make the decision for yourself.

Is being an arborist a good profession?

To begin with, it is important to know what exactly an arborist does. Many people mistakenly think that anyone with a saw could be an arborist, but while tree loppers, for example, may know how and where to make a cut, an arborist knows why it is necessary.

There is more to being a professional arborist than simply chopping off branches or cutting down trees. Arborists provide a range of services, with some specialising in different areas including tree management, preservation and conservation, diagnosing issues and creating plans for care.

A lot of younger arborists do indeed spend a lot of time up in trees, while older more experienced arborists will often work as consultants and organise and train those with less experience. It is not an easy career, involving physical aspects and mental ones too. For those who prefer office work, this would not be a good profession; while people who are happy to work challenging jobs outside would thrive.

Trees are an essential part of life, adding oxygen to the air, providing shade and gorgeous scenery and delicious fruit to eat. A well-tended garden or park is a joy to spend time in and truly adds value to our lives in so many ways.

When any diseases appear, trees outgrow the area they should be confined to, or pests infest a tree, this beauty is threatened and can even become a dire health and safety issue. The correct and timely treatment or removal of these issues is essential.

As an arborist, you can really make a difference by preventing trees from becoming a danger in bad weather, stopping the spread of disease before it takes hold, and curing plants that might otherwise have simply been removed. When it does come time to remove a tree, you can carry out the process safely and in such a way that new growth can occur or that minimal damage is done.

From peoples’ gardens to schools, golf courses, parks and forests, there is no shortage of trees and a continued and strong need for qualified arborists to tend to them. Not only are you carrying out an important service, but arboriculture has shown itself to be a consistent and reliable source of work, and looks set to remain that way for years to come.

What is an arborist’s salary?

The exact amount you can expect to earn as an arborist will vary depending on how many years of experience you have under your belt, your qualifications and training, where you are working and who you are working for.

To start off, when you are still inexperienced and are getting trained up on the job, you can earn around £23,000, while with more experience that number can rise up into the mid-£30,000s. If your duties require more skill you will see that reflected in your salary as well.

The average in the UK is currently set at around £28,000 for most arborists, with a lot of jobs offered by local councils, universities, hotels and places like botanical gardens. There is room to grow and develop in this field, and the potential to work for yourself as well as others.

How do you qualify as an arborist?

There are several paths you can take to become an arborist, with a variety of qualifications and levels of expertise that can impact your salary and future prospects but can also take time to achieve. Here are two of the main ways to qualify as an arborist:

Go in straight from school

Many companies will offer apprenticeships where you can start earning a small wage while gaining the knowledge and experience you need to become an arborist in your own right. Most will require that you have finished your high school or equivalent level education before you can begin working for them.

On-the-job training is an excellent way to gain the understanding you need to provide comprehensive care for a range of plants and trees, and is an excellent option for those who want to jump straight into work and learn better outside of the classroom.

Get a degree or pursue higher qualification

While it is not necessary for every arborist job, some would prefer or require a level of higher education. Getting a degree in biology, horticulture, forestry, environmental science and so on can set you in good stead for diagnosing and treating plants and can be a great way to negotiate a pay rise when you start.

There are also certain exams that you take to get certified in different areas of expertise as an arborist, which again can set you apart from others applying to the same job and gain a higher wage. Some like the International Society of Arboriculture, or ISA, require you to already have a degree or the requisite experience before you can sit these exams, so truly show that you have reached a level of mastery in the area.

Final thoughts

Whether you take extra schooling before applying for a job or learn how to be an arborist while on the job, it takes years to gain the experience and expertise of a true professional arborist. It can be a dangerous job at the best of times and requires focused and knowledgeable people who can handle the mental and physical parts of the job.

If you are looking for a way to work outside, treating and caring for trees and plants and both conserving and removing them as necessary, becoming an arborist may well be the job for you.