Arborist - tree surgeon

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Phil is a chargehand arborist, which is the technical name for a tree surgeon. There is far more to this job than merely cutting down trees.

They are a much protected species and the legal and technical problems involved in dealing with them are his responsibility.

What does your job involve?

I attend to trees in a variety of city, countryside and conservation areas. This includes cutting down dead or dangerous trees, limb removing, pruning and shaping, stump grinding and hedge cutting. I also carry out cable and rod bracing and surveys of mature trees.

What equipment do you use for this?

I use chainsaws to prune trees and remove diseased or weak branches. Tractors are used for removing trees and heavy branches. I also use other specialist equipment, such as hoists and harnesses for working at heights and mechanical wood chippers to reduce the branches to mulch, which can either be left on site or removed easily.

Do you have a typical day?

Most days consist of working on site. I may have to visit a client to discuss the work required and recommend what needs to be done. The trees involved may be in a conservation area and covered by a Tree Preservation Order. This would need the consent of the local authority before works could be carried out, so I would help the client with the paperwork required for an application to be made. Once we have decided what to do, I have to carry out the work making sure it complies with British Standards. Finally, I have to make arrangements to dispose of the waste material and clean the machinery that we have used.

Why did you choose this type of work?

I wanted to work outdoors and at the same time have a skill that would lead to a career.

What training did you receive?

After leaving school, I went to college to obtain a National Diploma in Arboriculture and a NVQ Level 2 in Woodland Management. I am still receiving vocational on-the-job training.

What hours do you work?

I work five days a week, Monday to Friday from 7.30am to 4.00pm. I may be called out in an emergency to attend to trees damaged during storms. Sometimes, fallen trees may have damaged buildings.

What skills and qualities are required for this job?

Arborists have to climb trees, so a head for heights is essential. You also have to be physically fit.

Phil's route to becoming a tree surgeon

  • GCSEs.
  • National Diploma in Arboriculture.
  • NVQ Level 2 in Woodland Management.

Phil's tree surgeon tips

  • Go to college.
  • Pass your driving test.
  • Keep yourself fit.

Tree surgeon related jobs












  • Arboriculturist
  • Countryside ranger/warden
  • Forest officer
  • Forest worker
  • Gardener
  • Greenkeeper
  • Groundsperson
  • Horticultural/garden centre worker/manager
  • Landscaper

Tree surgeon salary

  • Salaries for arboricultural workers start at around £11,000, rising with experience to £18,500.
  • The highest salary might be around £24,000 for an exceptional climber who works quickly.

Career as a tree surgeon

  • There are no set minimum entry requirements for arboricultural workers, but there are a number of useful courses.
  • All arboricultural workers must be able to show competence in their job through the completion of National Proficiency Tests Council (NPTC) certificates, or other professional certification such as the National Certificate in Horticulture (City & Guilds) which includes arboriculture options at some colleges.
  • BTEC National Diploma courses in Arboriculture, Forestry and Arboriculture or Countryside Management (Woodland Management) are usually available as two-year, full-time courses.
  • Certificate in Arboriculture (Theory) Craftsman Level 2 combined with a number of NPTC certificates of competence can lead to successful application for the full Certificate in Arboriculture (Royal Forestry Society).
  • NVQs/SVQs Level 2 in Arboriculture and Level 3 in Treework (Arboriculture) are available. Level 3 includes supervisory skills. This can be useful for workers aiming to gain work as supervisors or foremen.
  • The International Society of Arboriculture provides a certified arborist qualification through its UK branch. This qualification is gained through attendance at seminars and the completion of written exams.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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