The Arborists work in a variety of ways. They can do anything from pruning branches to planting trees. Yet, when most people think about tree arborists, they picture them climbing up high into the air to cut down dead branches or trim back living ones.
While that is true for some jobs, not all tree service jobs, require workers to be so daring and brave! So whether you have a large yard with lots of tall trees or just one small spruce on your porch, there’s an arborist out there ready for the job.
If you live in a place with trees, then you are sure to find an arborist working there. Arborists have many jobs, including tree removal, pruning and planting trees. This blog post will explore the work of an arborist and give information on how people can get involved in this field.
An arborist is someone who specialises in caring for plants that grow high off the ground like trees. They care for these plants by removing dead branches, trimming away any overgrown or diseased parts of the plant, fertilising it when necessary, and doing other things to keep it alive and healthy. Arborists also do tree removal if their services are needed because they know exactly what needs to be done.
Becoming An Arborist
Being an Arborist is a wonderful thing. If you love the outdoors, have a great appreciation of nature, love to challenge yourself and work as part of a team, then it can be such a rewarding career.
Did you ever climb trees as a child? Most climbing Arborists that you speak to will tell you they loved climbing in trees and playing in a treehouse as a kid. I think this stays in our subconscious as a happy place, and if you can convert this into a career, then why wouldn’t you.
Having an understanding of why trees grow like they do in both their natural environment and an urban setting, how they respond to damage caused by nature (lightning etc.) and man-made damage, learning and understanding these things gives you a further appreciation of how amazing trees are and how we can manage them in an urban environment to keep them healthy and safe for the public.
As professional Arborists, we cover a wide range of practices, depending on the path you take as an arborist, and the companies you choose to work for will dictate the type of work that you do and how diverse it may be.
This is a great industry to be in if you want to travel abroad, there is always a demand for good Arborists worldwide. Check out our links to immigration websites under ‘Working abroad’.
There are various avenues that you can go down in order to start your career as an arborist.
One option is you can start at the very bottom of the ladder straight out of school with no prior training or education in the specific field and learn everything on the job.
The second option is to find a training body or college that runs short courses in tree climbing, e.g. 8-week courses, which will give you insight into the industry, teach you some basic techniques and a little knowledge on the theory side of things.
The next option would be to find a local college and company that provides an Arboriculture apprenticeship program, this means that you get full exposure to working for a tree care company and learning in a hands-on environment from colleagues, with the added benefit of having set weeks within the year to learn from a curriculum on the theoretical side.
Finally, you can choose to take a Diploma or a Degree in Arboriculture / Urban Forestry at a college or university, this will teach you in a much more in-depth way about how trees grow, what they need from their environment and how they react to situations.
You will also learn the practical side of the industry, tree climbing techniques, using chainsaws and wood chippers, you may also learn a little about the business side of things and running you own company. This will prepare you much more for your career in Arboriculture and give you more options straight out of the gate.
Grounds person – is where the majority of people start out, people coming into the industry with no prior knowledge and those that come from college programmes.
A general job description would be: Working with a crew to help undertake the pruning or removal of trees and shrubs, operating a range of machinery including chainsaws, wood chipper, hedge trimmer, as well as hand tools used for pruning.
Also, assisting in rigging operations by understanding the systems, controlling the rigging ropes and pull lines. Learning and have an understanding of compartmentalisation in trees and correct pruning practices to minimise exposure to decay.
Even if you have had some kind of tree climbing and pruning training, it is the kind of job where there are so many different aspects to learn about safety, machinery, techniques both on the ground and in the canopy, everyone needs to learn through experience.
Climbing Arborist – is a position that the majority of Arborists will do at some point in there career and is the most rewarding. Becoming an efficient climbing arborist definitely takes time, commitment, dedication, and listening and learning from others. This position will vary greatly from day today.
As a climber, you will be required to undertake various types of pruning, e.g. deadwood removal, crown thinning, crown reduction, specific branch weight reduction, crown raising and clearance pruning, you will also perform tree removals of all sizes and degrees of difficulty that could incorporate various rigging systems.
There are also more specialised work specifications such as installing lightning protection in tall and/or important trees and implementing bracing/supporting systems within the canopy to reduce failure.
As a climbing Arborist, you may be required to lead the crew if you are the most knowledgable or experienced.
Plant healthcare technician – this position focuses on keeping plants in the urban environment as healthy as possible due to most trees and shrubs having poor environments in comparison to their natural habitat.
Plant health care technicians will need to have a good plant identification, a knowledge of soils science, and an understanding of pests and diseases in their part of the world.
This knowledge will then help them diagnose tree and shrubs issues and help put together a program to deal with these issues through various means, e.g., fertilisation, root invigoration, pesticide application, and identifying problems such as girdling roots.
Arborist Representative – this is often a position that those working on the tools will move into as their career progresses and they move into a less physically demanding role.
An Arborist Rep jobs is to meet with the companies clients, whether residential or commercial, listen to their tree care needs, or provide professional advice and come up with suggestions and maybe tree care management plans.
This position is about having both a great arboricultural knowledge and knowledge of the practical side (e.g. how the jobs are undertaken) and having good communication and people skills.
Tree consultant – this position is much less practical and far more theory-based. As a tree consultant, you would be called out to inspect certain trees at your clients’ request for various reasons, e.g. their own personal worry, insurance companies, pre-development/construction.
It is the consultant’s job to go through all aspects of the environment and the tree itself to ascertain its health and if it poses a potential risk, and if so, how high of a risk. From there, the consultant will recommend any work based on their results.
What Does an Arborist Do?
An arborist maintains trees and shrubs through trimming and pruning, to ensure they don’t interfere with public works like power lines, roads, or sidewalks. An arborist’s services may also be used to improve the appearance, health, or value of trees. Arborists may work under job titles like tree trimmer, tree climber, ground worker, or line clearance foreman.
Arborists cut away dead or renegade branches from trees and bushes that pose a risk to utility lines, roads, and sidewalks. Some also focus on improving the appearance and health of trees and plants, and some specialise in dealing with tree diseases. Others focus on the beautification of decorative species, shaping ornamental trees and shrubs.
Arborists use and maintain a variety of equipment on a daily basis, including trucks, tractors, chippers, power saws, sprayers, and other tools. They hoist the equipment up to where it’s needed, then cut away low-hanging, dead, or obstructive tree limbs.
They then dispose of the cuttings by lowering them down with ropes or block and tackle, feeding them into chippers and hauling them away. They often need to climb trees with ladders or other equipment to reach work areas. Arborists also fertilise and spray trees.
Arborists help keep things running smoothly in our cities and towns. Without them, our roads, sidewalks, and power lines would become dangerous. They also help improve tree health. In addition, planting and caring for trees can help absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, from the atmosphere.
Trees stabilise slopes, prevent erosion, and help absorb stormwater runoff. They can even help counteract the “heat island effect” of urban areas and help keep things a bit cooler in the summer.
Where Does an Arborist Work?
Arborists work for municipalities, power companies, arborist firms, and large contracts work for municipal governments and power companies. After gaining experience, some start their own landscaping businesses.
Arborists work all across the Continent, with more opportunities in warmer climates that have longer growing seasons and shorter winters. As a result, they spend most of their time working outdoors in all kinds of weather. Since they’re in direct physical contact with trees (and the insects that live in them), they may frequently experience minor burns, cuts, bites, or stings.
They are also exposed to contaminants such as pesticides and fertilisers on a regular basis. Other risks include working near power lines on truck-mounted lifts and working with hazardous equipment like power saws. Power tools also create a significant amount of noise. Therefore, wearing appropriate protective gear like hard hats, goggles, and earplugs is extremely important for arborists. The work can also be physically demanding.
Many jobs in this field are seasonal, with most work occurring during the warmer months of spring, summer, and fall.
Arborists are experts in maintaining trees and woody plants to the best of their health. Because of the vast variety of trees and regions where an arborist might work, the job does vary considerably. However, most arborists will be familiar with the following tasks as part of their job:
- Prepare the site, backfilling, staking, watering, and mulching
- Transplant seedlings and saplings to various sites
- Plant trees
- Prune trees to limit disease or physical ailments or for aesthetic and safety reasons
- Haul stumps and limbs, chip brush.
- Evaluate trees for disease and pest problems
- Treat trees as required
- Structurally support weak trees and breaking branches
- Remove trees grind stumps as needed
- Control nutrient and water supply and consumption.
- Examine a tree’s worth from a financial perspective
- Maintain work records for trees under the care
- Identify and remediate hazardous trees and other tree-related problems
- Operating heavy machinery or hand tools
- Consulting on client’s property
- Responding to emergencies, including during storms
- Processing and testing samples
- Doing paperwork
- Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients and colleagues
- Researching tree and plant care
Senior arborists often have a more experienced and are a good fit for management tasks. Such responsibilities often include:
- Creating an excellent work environment
- Developing project timelines, benchmarks and budgets
- Facilitating professional development for the team
- Understanding regulations and best practices and applying them to the project at hand
- Overseeing the maintenance of equipment and instruments
- Undertaking recordkeeping
- Ensuring quality assurance, organisation, health and safety, and appropriate tracking of field data
- Engaging in tasks like report preparation and submittal and peer review
- Liaising with site stakeholders
- Supervising fieldwork of multiple field crews
- Communicate with internal and external stakeholders through field status reports and presentation of team findings
- Researching new technology and new advancements in agriculture
- Participating on committees for policy and regulatory development
- Participating on committees for research and educational program development
What Is The Job Demand For Arborists?
The A.U. government predicts that the employment of tree trimmers and pruners will grow at a rate of 18% faster than the average for all occupations. Our future “smart cities” are slated to include more green space, and many cities and towns are already planting more trees. This trend will open up opportunities for arborists, particularly in warmer areas that need landscaping year-round.
What Arborist Careers Are Available?
Because the job is physically demanding, many arborists work as climbers for five to ten years, then move into other positions. Workers who are good communicators may become crew leaders or supervisors. However, advancing to managerial or landscape contracting positions may require some formal education and significant work experience. Some experienced workers go on to own landscaping companies.
Tree Care Workers Need Better Training To Handle Dangers On The Job
According to findings published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, workers employed by tree care experts and licensed arborists were more likely to receive health and safety training and to use personal protective equipment than those employed by companies that are not part of the professional arboriculture network.
The research also shows that Spanish-speaking day labourers often had little training or use of personal protective equipment.
Tree care workers have one of the most dangerous jobs in Australia, regularly encountering heights, slippery conditions, falling limbs, sharp equipment and electrical wires. The incidence of injuries increases after storms when unqualified “storm-chasers” with chainsaws and landscaping companies offer their services to uninformed homeowners.
Some municipalities also struggle to handle tree damage with inadequately trained labor and old equipment. Annually, tree care injuries account for about 80 worker deaths and at least 23,000 chainsaw injuries treated in emergency departments. Many of those injuries result from inadequate training and equipment.
“There is a popular misconception that tree removal is low-skill work, but nothing could be further from the truth,” said Michele Ochsner, formerly with Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations. “Handling storm-downed trees without injury to people or property involves an array of technical skills and knowledge of how different species of trees respond in different seasons and weather conditions.”
Since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Ochsner and Elizabeth Marshall, an environmental and occupational epidemiologist at Rutgers School of Public Health, and Daniel Lefkowitz at the New Jersey Department of Health have been analysing surveillance data after storms to assess injury risks related to tree work. They also conducted interviews with private and municipal tree care experts to understand the Sandy experience and suggest ways to improve safety.
Storms and the ensuing long hours exacerbate the job’s significant risks. “Tree care crews handle thousands of downed trees in the wake of a hurricane or even the recent snowstorm. It takes knowledge, proper equipment and coordination to do that safely,” Marshall said.
Although there is no current Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard for tree trimming, employers are required to comply with all general industry standards set by a network of national, regional and state associations, said Marshall. She noted that New Jersey recently passed a comprehensive licensing law to assist consumers in hiring a tree care company that upholds the state’s standards.
“Our interviews with tree care workers revealed a number of recommendations to plan ahead for major storms,” said Marshall. “For example, companies and municipalities should ensure equipment is well maintained, employees are properly trained in their native lang,uage that employees are and provided with personal protective equipment.
Consumers should work with a licensed tree care professional to identify damaged or improperly planted trees and remove dead trees and limbs before the next big storm. Then, they will be ready when bad weather arrives and trees come down.”