Becoming an Arborist


What does your arborist know that you don’t? Quite a bit — as arborists should, considering the extensive training required to become certified. The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) is the big kahuna of credentials and certification for arborists. Six ISA certifications are available, each of which requires an exam. The six certifications are:

  • ISA Certified Arborist: In order to be eligible, applicants must have 3-plus years of experience in a full-time job working in arboriculture and/or they must have achieved a degree in forestry, horticulture, arboriculture or landscape architecture from an accredited institution.
  • ISA Certified Arborist Utility Specialist: Candidates need at least 2,000 hours of experience in a two-year window specializing in electric utility vegetation management (tree trimming). Alternatively, they may have 4,000 hours in 10 years as a consultant in said field. Test topics include integrated vegetation management, program management and utility pruning.
  • ISA Certified Arborist Municipal Specialist: Candidates must already hold ISA Certified Arborist credentials and have selected municipal arboriculture or urban forestry as a specialization. At least three extra years of niche work experience is required managing and maintaining urban trees. Additionally, they must prove experience in policy planning at the municipal level, in public relations, administration and communication.
  • ISA Certified Tree Worker Climber Specialist: Skill, knowledge and physical capabilities must be proven in order to receive this certification. Safety is a top concern, which is why both a class test and field test are required. Candidates must also be trained in CPR, first aid and aerial rescue.
  • ISA Certified Tree Worker Aerial Lift Specialist: Candidates must show that they can act safely as an aerial lift operator. CPR and first aid certifications are required, and applicants are tested on trunk/tree inspection as well as standard safety procedures.
  • ISA Board Certified Master Arborist: This is the most intensive and highly regarded certification available from the ISA, and it can take many years to achieve. Scenario-based exams are required and a code of ethics is vowed. In fact, only 2 percent of practicing arborists hold it.

Additional certifications and conditions may be required based on individual company policies and state regulations. Many companies require a degree in a related field and some field experience before taking on a potential arborist — even as an apprentice. Apprenticeship programs are numerous, and some companies or organizations offer their own. For example, the Utah Community Forest Council offers a fantastic apprenticeship program that prepares future arborists to become integral parts of tree-trimming businesses and agencies.

Additional insurance and licensing may also be required. When hiring an arborist, make sure to get copies of all related certifications and insurance. If a worker isn’t certified or licensed and gets hurt on your property, you don’t want to be held liable. To protect yourself (and your trees), call Reliable Tree Care — your local tree-trimming and arborist service that guarantees only the best professional services.