What Is An Arborist?

Arborists are specialists who focus on the planting, care and maintenance of individual trees in order to improve tree health, growth, and aesthetics. They are knowledgeable about the needs of a large variety of tree species and are trained with the proper techniques to care for them.

What Do Arborists Do?

  • Prune trees to maintain tree health, appearance, and address safety concerns
  • Remove trees when necessary as a result of pests, disease, or other safety issues where saving the tree is not possible
  • Plant trees specific to a given location’s geography, geology, topography, and climate – essentially planting trees that will thrive best in a given location
  • Perform pest and disease management to help trees survive
  • Perform emergency tree care after natural disasters, such as when limbs are broken or trees are uprooted as the result of strong storms
  • Modify, fertilize, and aerate soils to provide for better tree growth
  • Inform the public of proper tree care techniques

Where Do Arborists Work?

Arborists may work independently, for a private organization, or with a natural resources-related government agency. Employers may include landscape businesses, tree care companies, utility companies, forestry consulting firms, and parks and recreation departments to name a few.

For additional information about career options in arboriculture, view the International Society of Arboriculture’s Career Paths flow chart.


Arborists may hold a bachelors degree in forestry, ecology, horticulture, landscape architecture, or a similarly-related field. Furthermore, many arborists seek certification from the International Society of Arboriculture. Certified arborists must complete a certain amount of training and pass an extensive exam to demonstrate their knowledge of the field. Certification is voluntary, but represents a greater commitment and understanding of the profession.

Certified arborists may also choose to become certified within a specialized area of arboriculture to further their career goals. These areas include:

  • Utility Specialist
  • Municipal Specialist
  • Tree Worker Climber Specialist
  • Tree Worker Aerial Lift Specialist
  • Master Arborist

Gaining further knowledge in these specialized areas may also allow arborists to become Utility Arborists, also referred to as Utility Foresters, or Systems Arborists/Foresters. The Utility Arborist is considered a technically advanced career path that requires a deeper understanding of forestry, arboriculture, and electric distribution and transmission systems. Utility Arborists typically work for an electric utility company in their vegetation management program.