Are you a nature lover who never quite grew out of climbing trees? Do you love staying fit and active and relish a challenge? If so, then a career in arboriculture might just be for you. But, how do you become a qualified tree surgeon and make a career in the tree lopping industry? Where do you even begin?!
In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to get started, what kind of qualities make the best arborists, and how much you can expect to earn in terms of salary.
Careers in arboriculture – where to begin
Here’s everything you need to know about getting started:
1 – Job description and responsibilities
Of course, before you go diving into pursuing arboriculture as a career, first you need to know what you’ll be getting yourself into. Here is a job description and the responsibilities of an arborist:
Arborists (aka a tree doctor/tree surgeon/tree lopper) tend to trees, plants, and shrubs, and examine them for any health-related issues, structural problems, and potential diseases.
You will be tasked with evaluating and spotting any potential decay and should be able to recognise these issues simply by the colour and texture of the tree. If in the event you spot damage or decay, then you will be able to prescribe the appropriate remedy – whether that be pruning or having the tree felled and removed altogether.
Generally speaking, there are three types of arborists:
- The aesthetic: focusing more on the upkeep of gardens and pruning trees for aesthetic purposes
- The practical: focusing more on the practical side of things (e.g., trimming back trees from power lines and other utilities for health & safety)
- The saviour: focusing more on the health and well-being of a tree, identifying disease and decay, and doing whatever is necessary to improve the health and longevity of the tree.
An arborist will prune and trim trees and shrubs, whilst removing any dead or dying branches. Other pruning methods may be adopted to maintain proper structure in younger trees and encourage strong future growth.
Sometimes an arborist may be tasked with removing and replacing trees with a more suitable specimen (some trees may be high-maintenance or pose a threat to other trees and or cause potential damage to property).
Arborists often have to climb trees and when doing so they need to wear and be familiar with the specialist gear. Such gear can include gloves, a helmet, safety ropes, goggles, etc. Additionally, arborists will be required to use chain-saws at height, clippers and shears, and other such tools.
Often, an elevated work platform may be required for taller trees or those which are awkward to reach. As such, an arborist will be required to go through extensive health & safety training – particularly when operating dangerous machinery at heights.
2 – Education and training requirements
What does one need to get started? In Australia, in order to begin your career as an arborist, you will typically be required to complete a traineeship in Horticulture (Arboriculture).
There are many variations in terms of entry-level requirements but in most cases, a high-school education is all that is necessary.
If you would like to pursue a career in a research position and further your study of various tree species and diseases, then a bachelor’s or graduate degree will be required. This, however, can be pursued later down the line and you can study while you work as an active and qualified tree surgeon.
The AQF (Australian Qualifications Framework) in Australia offers a wide variety of levels of professional qualifications for careers in arboriculture.
Additionally, there is always the option to pursue on-the-job training – this varies from company to company and is down to the employer’s discretion.
3 – Licensing
The non-profit organisation Arboriculture Australia launched the Australian Arborist Industry Licence. This was in recognition of qualified arborist professionals and allows employers to be able to quickly identify and confirm whether or not an individual is qualified to perform tree work safely and responsibly.
4 – Compensation
Now onto the important matter: how much can you expect to earn as a tree surgeon. The following figures are purely averages and may vary depending on where you are in Australia, who you work for, and what level of experience you have. Here’s what you can expect to earn annually:
- Entry: $44,038
- Average: $58,640
- Senior: $70,927
Which qualities make the best tree surgeons
So, what kind of qualities do you need to pursue a career in arboriculture? Don’t worry if you don’t tick all of these boxes immediately! Many of the qualities and skills can be picked up and learned as you go. However, if for example, you are afraid of heights, then perhaps a career as a tree surgeon might not be for you.
- An interest in trees, shrubs, nature, and environmental preservation
- A willingness to work outdoors, at height, and in poor weather conditions
- Sufficient physical fitness and endurance
- The ability to use and operate tools safely and responsibly
- Excellent communication skills and the ability to work well with others
- A keen sense of responsibility and the ability to follow health & safety procedures as required
- An openness to keeping up with industry standards regarding health & safety, legislation, and quality control, etc.
Again, much of the knowledge and skill required will be picked up as you learn and train. However, if you truly want to succeed in this career, you must enjoy being outdoors, have a passion for wildlife, and be ready for a challenge!
One of the beautiful things about being an arborist is that with each new project there are different challenges. Certainly, it can get repetitive at times, but many of the processes can be quite therapeutic – particularly when it becomes muscle memory.
And that’s about all you need to know! Fortunately, there are no special requirements to pursue a career in arboriculture.
If this is something that you would like to explore further, or if you have any interest in applying for a reputable tree lopping company like AB Trees, then please do not hesitate to contact us today.
We might just have the perfect opportunity for you!