What is an Arborist?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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Sometimes referred to as a tree surgeon, the arborist is an individual who labors in the field of arboriculture. Essentially, the arborist is involved in maintaining the health of trees and may utilize a number of different techniques toward that end. The arborist is a profession that is distinct from that of a logger who harvests trees or a forester who is concerned with the general status of all elements of wildlife within the forest environment.

Arborists or tree surgeons are sometimes called upon to perform tasks that ultimately will have a positive impact on the life of a tree or shrub. This many include such responsibilities as pruning or shaping the foliage on the tree or shrub, as well as treating a tree with materials that help to clear up blight or some other condition that is threatening to kill the tree. An arborist may perform tree surgery on trees that range from relatively small and new trees all the way through to trees that are thousands of years old. Some tree surgeons specialize in particular types of trees, while others will work with trees of every type and in every condition.


As with many professions, working as an arborist involves obtaining the proper training and credentials. The ultimate goal is to become a certified arborist, which simply means that the individual not only possesses the proper educational credentials but also has at least three years of practical experience in the profession. Persons who wish to pursue less exacting work in the profession may choose to seek the status of Certified Arborist Technician, which requires training and testing that is less comprehensive

Arborists may find employment with national forests, in private research for industry, and with state and local parks and recreation facilities. In addition, there are some arborists who choose to work on a contract or freelance basis, often working in consultation with landscapers, the pulp wood industry, and similar business concerns to ensure the health of any trees and shrubs involved with the particular application.


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