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Becoming an Arborist – What to consider


Is the Arborist Lifestyle For You?

You maybe already working in the industry or you are still studying and like the idea of the outdoor life, well what to consider when you are weighing up your options if its the case you are not already in the industry.  For this working in it, it may be less of an evaluation and more of whats the best approach to getting started and how long it may take as well as the cost.

Either way its a big step but for anyone to have credibility in this industry, qualifications are an absolute must for many reasons but it sets you apart from more basic tree removal companies and for those who are passionate about trees and their contribution to society, this may be your way of giving back to and making a contribution that matters, and yes arborist definitely matter and matter more now than ever before preserving our tree habitat.  This article from Treemarketer is a good outline in what you need to consider and where you can do your training, its not the only option but a good guide.  See the reference list at the end of article for more information and researching further the listed sources.

  1. What exactly are Arborist?

Arborists are trained and certified professional who not only trim trees, prune them and cut branches but also work hard to improve the health of your tree in many ways. They specialize in decorative trimming, all sorts of tree infections and diseases. It is always advised to seek the opinion of an Arborist before hiring anyone for the tree job.

  1. Tasks of an Arborist

Do Arborists only climb trees and care for them? No! The job of an arborist is a lot tougher than what many people think. It is because of them that we don’t see any broken limbs fallen on our power lines or any tree on our roads. They make sure things go smooth in our city. An arborist 1  generally works with a job title of tree trimmer, a ground worker, tree climber, or line clearance foreman. They use a variety of equipment every day such as trucks, tractors, chippers, grinders, sprays, and power saws etc. Apart from simple trimming, grinding of stumps and removing of trees their tasks include,

  1. Pruning trees to reduce the chances of diseases and other infections. 2
  2. Planting trees.
  3. Grinding Stumps as required.
  4. Examining a tree from a health perspective. 3
  5. Examining a tree from a financial perspective.
  6. Maintaining trees, maintaining work for the tree under care. 4
  7. Maintains Shrubs. 5
  8. Haul stumps and limbs, chip brush.
  9. Preparing and analyzing the site, watering, mulching, control nutrient.
  10. Operating heavy machinery, tools, and other equipment.
  11. Consulting on client`s property, doing paperwork, testing samples.
  12. Do Research on tree care.
  13. Identify and remediate hazardous trees and other tree-related problems.
  14. Responding on stormy days and remediate hazardous trees.
  15. Dispose of cutting.
  1. What Degree Options are there to become an arborist?

According to many people, a degree of Arboriculture is must in order to become an arborist. But that is not the case. Situations in which the university doesn’t offer Arboriculture, you can go for a degree in horticulture, forestry or Environmental Sciences. Since Arboriculture is not offered as a hybrid course or an online course hence other degree options should also be considered. Some of the popular degrees which can be achieved in order to become a successful arborist are:

      1. Horticulture
      2. Environmental & Social Sustainability
      3. Environmental Policy and Management
      4. Environmental Science/Studies
      5. BS in Geosciences concentration in Natural Resources & Conservation
      6. BA Anthropology in Environmental Sustainability 6
      7. BS Environmental Science in Natural Resources & Conservation
      8. BS Environmental Science in Geospatial Technologies 7
      9. Doctorate – Management: Environmental & Social Sustainability
      10. Natural Resources & Conservation
  1. Why is Accreditation important?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), arborists who use pesticides usually need to be licensed or certified 8 By achieving accreditation, you promise your costumers to provide them a good quality of work, resolve any of their legal issues with the state, do all the paperwork for them and offer them long-term cost. As mentioned earlier as well, accreditation from a well-known organization gives you a competitive edge over the other professional arborist when applying for a job in the state. The two most common, respectable, and highly reputable organizations to get accreditation from are,

    1. The Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) 9
    2. International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) 10

It should be noted that no organization or state provide you with a lifetime membership, you need to get it relicensed or recertified after a period of time.

  1. Obtaining Arborist License

Different states have different rules regarding the arborist license. Commercial and professional arborist state licenses are common in many areas which involve clearing a small written state examination. Some states will test your knowledge and education before they qualify you for work such as public tree service. Some even require you to earn a license if you work near power lines. Knowledge areas of the state examination test include:

  • Pesticide Safety
  • Botanical Diseases
  • Plant Identification
  • Applicable State Laws

However, in some states, there is a choice to substitute the state examination with the national certification from The International Society of Arboriculture.

  1. Certification Process11

The more you gain certifications the more you are recommended as a professional arborist. Certifications give you a competitive advantage over the other arborists when you are applying for a job. They can be achieved from various organizations such as The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) or TCIA. To prepare for such an exam, you need to revise a list of topics covered in the test mainly. The test includes multiple-choice questions and the passing percentage is 72. Topics include:

  • Soil Management
  • Tree Biology
  • Pruning
  • Urban Forestry

Note: ISA publishes a booklet that would help you start your preparation.

  1. ISA Certified Arborist

This certification is accredited by the American National Standards Institute, meeting and exceeding ISO 17024. To become certified by ISA Arborist, you are required to have a 3-year experience in the field of arboriculture. 10. However, if you wish to earn a 2-year degree in arboriculture with 1-year experience, or any related field then the experience required to get certified decreases to 2 years’ exposure in the field. A minimum of 72% score is required to pass the test. This kind of certification covers a large number of topics giving a little freedom in the arboriculture profession.

Exam Dates and Locations

A number of tests are carried out every year and the students can choose between a computer based test or a paper based test whichever they find easy. The course covered in the test is mostly related to arboriculture and tree biology.

Computer-Based Test: For a computer based test you have to select a particular test date and location if you choose to test at Pearson VUE testing12 facility. It should be noted that you will be required to submit an application to ISA and receive approval before you contact Pearson VUE for your exam.

Paper-Based Test: For a paper-based test you need to select a date and a location from the ones offered by the organization or by a Chapter you want certification from. The test is conducted on monthly basis and don’t forget to submit an application 13 to ISA and receive approval before you are approved for enrollment. You will find the calendar for a list of exam dates and location scheduled over the comings months on their original website.

  1. TCIA Accreditation

TCIA stands for “The Tree Care Industry Association” and helps ensure the safety and training of the arborists and other tree workers. TCIA accreditation has a number of advantages i.e. it educates the consumers about the proper care of trees, safe work practices, advances professionalism in the tree care industry, tries to improve the business practices in the tree service industry and educates the policy makers on regulatory and legislative affairs. Apart from all these, there are a number of membership benefits that you can avail 14.

For a company to get certification from TCIA, it much has appropriate insurance, has a suitable number of arborist for the job, must gain a good reputation and customer satisfaction.

  1. Popular Institutions

Some popular reputable universities that offer degrees in Arboriculture or any other related degree are mentioned below for your knowledge.

  1. Kaplan University (online programs available) 15
  2. Ashford University (online programs available) 16
  3. Southern New Hampshire University (online programs available) 17
  4. Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota (online programs available) 18
  5. Colorado Technical University (online programs available) 19
  6. Johns Hopkins University (online programs available) 20
  7. Penn Foster Career School (online programs available) 21
  8. Penn Foster High School (online programs available) 22
  9. Harvard University 23
  10. Columbia Southern University (online programs available) 24
  1. 10.Online Degrees and certifications

Unfortunately, a degree in urban forestry and arboriculture are not available online, whereas a degree in horticulture can be achieved easily. It is also useful for becoming an arborist. Since arborists study and work with trees, students studying horticulture study everything related to forms of plant life, plant reproduction, and plant hybridization.  But it should be noted that in order to become an arborist, a degree is not sufficient. One has to get certified by TCIA or ISA. Common areas of study in bachelor’s in horticulture 25 online/hybrid would be,

  • Pest management
  • Soil usage
  • Plant nutrients
  • Plant biology
  • Horticulture techniques
  1. 11.How to prepare for Tests?

Though the sound of ISA or TCIA exam test is terrifying, but it is not that difficult once you prepare for it from every possible source available. A common way is to learn thing using flashcards, guides, previous papers etc. Here are some of the sites that provide tips, good sample questions and tests for you to prepare from.

Mometrix Test Preparation: Is a free resource from which you can prepare for the exam. 26

QUIA: Arborists Certification Sample Test – This site requires you to just enter your name/credentials(optional) and start preparing. 27

Arborist Test Prep Review: They provide you simple multiple choice questions, test practice questions, test flashcards and study guides. 28

ISA Texas Certified Arborist Test Preparation Course: 29 This course is being conducted to help the students clear the ISA certified Arborist examination. It costs around $250 and also provide you with the Arborist Certification Study Guide (a $115 value). It is usually a one-month training program. Here is their registration link 30


This is an organization dedicated to revolutionizing the tree care, arboricultural, & disaster relief industry. Certified arborist training school provides you with the proper training you need to succeed in the career. It is a 12-week training session in which you will cover ever thing you need to know regarding arboriculture. Is starts in June 2016 so don’t forget to apply beforehand. 31

  1. 13.Conclusion

Becoming an arborist is not difficult as it sounds. In short simple words, to become an arborist you need to first acquire a degree in arboriculture or any related degree, obtain the state license if you want to practice skills in your state, or gain 3 years’ experience in the field and then get certification from ISA or TCIA to known as a professional arborist. Remember, certifications are just an add-on which polish your skills, train you professionally, and give you a strong competitive advantage.

  1. 14.References
  1. What is an Arborist – All about Arboriculture 
  2. Prune Your TreesPrune early, prune often, prune for safety
  3. Safeguarding Plant Health A UK Perspective
  4. Tree care guide – A simple handbook for nurturing young trees
  5. The Only Shrubs You Need to Grow
  6. What is an Anthropologist? – What Does an Anthropologist Do?
  7. Geospatial Technology: An Introduction and Overview
  8. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  9. Tree Care Industry Association
  10. International Society of Arboriculture
  11. How Do I Become a Certified Arborist?
  12. Pearson VUE
  13. ISA Application Link
  14. What Is a Degree in Horticulture Studies?
  15. Kaplan University Campus and Online Degree Programs
  16. Ashford University Online Degrees
  17. Southern New Hampshire University Programs
  18. Saint Mary`s University of Minnesota Academics
  19. Degree Programs from Colorado Technical University
  20. Johns Hopkins University Academics
  21. Penn Foster Online Degree and Diploma Programs
  22. Penn Foster High School Diploma Online 
  23. Harvard University
  24. Columbia Southern University ONLINE DEGREE PROGRAMS
  25. Important Facts About a Degree in Horticultural Studies
  26. Mometrix Certified Arborist Practice Test
  27. QUIA – online preparation test
  28. Arborist Exam Review
  29. Certified Arborist Test Preparation Course
  30. Certified Arborist Test Preparation Course Application link

Let us know if you have come across other good sources of information and why you are considering becoming an arborist, let us know and some of our readers maybe able to help you further?


How To Start Your Own Tree Care Service


Starting Out On Your Own

For a successful tree business startup, you are looking at costs of between $10,000 and $50,000. Now this is not a definite figure but it is a guide and depending on how you approach your start, these cost can vary dramatically, take for example you have the budget and you buy all new equipment truck, Shredder, a few chainsaws and your at 50,000 before you’ve even worked out how your getting your first customer.

Unless you’ve spent the last twelve months researching your idea and you have a budget that you can afford to loose, my advice is not to start this way.I believe in the lean approach to business startup, that is only buying what you need when you need it and managing with what you have until you can’t any longer as well as measuring you progress as you go.

This approach is the most reasonable but however my experience tells me when someone who is tech conscious and loves tools, equipment etc, they will always purchase when they can and this can lead some startups into trouble down the road when the hit a rough patch.

Manage with what equipment you have and if you don’t have it, buy it second hand or hire it out until you are in a position that your work will pay for it without any stretch.

The more planning and research you do and preparation for difficulties, the better prepared you are for the challenges ahead, the only other alternative is to waste your money getting it wrong so can learn what you could have prepared for initially

Firstly, you have to find a good location for your office and paperwork, maybe in the house in a quiet room, if you already have an external building, great.  You may need to buy some basic equipment necessary for the job.

All these costs will always be more than you think it will. So, it is better to start planning your business first and create a 2-3-year business plan and cash flow. This would help you know where you lie financially and what you have to achieve with only that amount.

When comes to talking to tree experts about developing a plan, they can start to get bored and can come up with amazing excuses to avoid such, however process of planning is not to plan for the sake of it but to force you to think through the problems you will have to deal with down the road, you may even be grateful for having to do it because after a few weeks of planning you realize that this business isn’t going to work at all.  

I have been there myself in the past with projects that without sufficient planning would have started and failed and cost me a lot, this process minimize that possibility.  If I have not convinced you about the importance of this step, before you go ahead, then just do one thing for me, read the E-myth book by Michael Gerber, a lifetime of advice for just over 10 dollars.   

No Compromise on Key Elements

The startup owner must never compromise on these four things at any cost. He/she should memorize the key elements because, without them, there would be no successful tree service business.

  1. Competency

In order to start a tree removal service business, you need to have proper knowledge about the industry and mainly about tree removal itself. You can’t just ask for people`s money for removing trees which is something you haven’t done before.
You need to have field experience and familiarize which new industry practices

  1. Safety

Dealing with heavy equipment and tools is not as easy as it sounds.1 (See Resource List At End of Article) You need to have a the proper certificates for chainsaw to use them in many states.  I realize this is pointing out the obvious but you or one of your future employees can get seriously injured if not careful while using equipment, why I say this is because, remember, your the boss now, if you don’t get to work, who does if you’ve been injured?  

Putting a safety program in place helps you deal with that now rather than after someone gets injured.  What ever time it takes up, its worth it minimizing the procedures you will go through after dealing with an injury.  

Onsite Safety

Get advice on how to implement the best onsite safety and keep those rules in place.   Get some expert advice in site safety apart from the basic safety use for equipment etc such as chainsaws, these are covered in your training that you’ve probably all ready completed.  You have to ensure on a daily basis that your equipment is not broken or damaged and works absolutely fine so that it won`t cause any harm to the user.2

  1. Insurance

There is absolutely no room for mistakes and shortcuts in the job of tree removal. What you need to do as a business owner is to protect all your business resources and assets using a business liability policy 3. Even with all the safety precautions and measures4, no safety is guaranteed. Accidents can happen and they will at any time. The policy would help you cover any damages that are caused by an accident on the customer`s property.

  1. Reputation

Reputation is everything a business has. Without it, there would be no stable business to run. The thing that would differ you from other business in the industry is your reputation. People usually go to the tree services that have a good background reputation and have happy customers. Try your best to serve your customers in the best possible way.

Develop a Business Plan

Many tree service businesses fail every year and the foremost reason behind it is that they don’t develop a business plan in the start. A carefully designed business plan can help you establish your business`s framework, structure, and roadmap. You need to set your mission straight before starting any business. If you don’t, your business would not probably last for more than a year because of the detrimental decisions. Try answering the following questions before you start,

  • Where do you see your business in the next couple of year?
  • What are your business goals and aims to achieve?
  • What is your budget estimate and stability criteria?
  • What strategy are you going to follow and what are your marketing plans?

You can learn how to create a business plan from the link provided5.

Registration from starters

For starting a new business, one needs to register their business name and obtain a business license. The main purpose of registering is to prevent any other person from using the same name. No one wants to share their name after putting a lot of effort in their business`s reputation. So, protecting your business name is important. Every state has its own procedures and requirements. The things asked for registration 6 are as follows

  • Business name holder details
  • Addresses of proposed business name
  • Eligibility to hold proposed business name
  • Declarations
  • Confirmation of business name application

It should be noted that if the application payment is not made within
10 days of time, then your application will be canceled and you would have to go through the procedures again. Also, make sure you do some research on whether the name is already in use by someone else or not because if it is being used then you would lose all your application fee and the application would be canceled. Whatever name you pick it should be available on the web address and should be easy to remember.

However, there are generally 3 ways of doing it,

  1. File a Doing Business As (DBA)

It is probably the easiest way to register a business`s name and is used if you have a sole proprietorship. You just have to file a DBA with your state and it takes less time.

  1. Create a Business Structure

It generally requires you to form an LLC7 or corporation for your business which will register the name of your business with the state automatically. The state makes sure that the name is not already in use. By incorporating your tree removal service business, you become a shareholder in the corporations and your liability is limited to the amount you invested in the business. It is generally a safe way of doing business.

  1. Get a Trademark

If you are not satisfied with the security of your business by just registering the name, then you can also register a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) 8. It is a higher level of security which will protect your brand in all 50 states.

File for Tax Identification Number

The next thing you need to do is file for Tax Identification Number from the IRS. Once you register your tree service business with the state then you will receive a local tax identification number.

There are several types of Tax Identification Numbers, some are:

  1. Federal EIN Number

This Federal EIN Number is used to identify a business entity and is required for the business employers, corporations along with the partnerships. The link is provided to apply for a Federal Employ Identification Number. 9

  1. States Sales Tax Id

Sales Tax Id is issued by the state in the form of a legal document. It is also known as Sales Tax Exemption Certificate. It allows your business to collect the necessary sales, to issue sales tax exemption documents and use taxes. 10

  1. State EIN Number

It is a state specific Tax identification number11.

Open a Bank Account

In order to make large purchases of equipment and to keep your business money in safe hands, you would be required to open a bank account, particularly for the business. 

Get training, licenses, and permits

The only way to tell your customers that you are serious and responsible in what you do is by getting proper training certificates, get a tree service license and permits of the state. Get a certificate in safe chain saw use through your any nearby local community college. You can study on how to become an arborist 12 from International Society of Arboriculture 13 and also get accredited from either ISA or TCIA14.

Get Insurance

As mentioned earlier in the guide, it is very important that you secure your business assets to avoid any problems later. Check what are the basic licensing requirements of your state. A business is full of high risks15 so make sure you have the public liability insurance16 along with the disability insurance for yourself and your employees. You will be needing it to cover all the employees you hire for the job of tree removal. You would also require it to provide for the employees in case of any injury or accident during the job. Learn more about insurances in the link provided17.

Consult Professional Services 

Lawyer, and Accountant.  It is important that you and your business comply with all the local laws.  Again you will have to draw your own conclusions on that level you bring on these professional services at the beginning, I realize its a start up but all businesses are a legal entity and the better your business is represented, the better for you but you can minimize these services initially especially if your budget does not allow.  You can always get advice from a family friend who is specialized that could give you advice and representation at a reduced cost.

You can also finalize and approve your business structure or framework from him. All your license and permits need to be secure.

Buy resources & Equipment

Starting a tree removal service requires various kinds of resources and equipment. You would have to make the necessary purchases at the very start of your business because, without them, no work can be done. Remember that the equipment is quite costly so you can apply for the business loan as well incase needed. The items are:

  1. Truck
  2. Ladder
  3. Saws, Saddles
  4. Chainsaws
  5. Pruning Equipment
  6. Stump Grinders
  7. Safety equipment
  8. Static/dynamic ropes, spurs etc.


It is the most important way of attracting new customers and satisfying the existing. Make sure that you know what the price ranges are in the tree removal service industry and you charge your customers based on that i.e. not so high and not so low. People always go for tree companies with lower charges and good services.


The key to attracting clients is by marketing, advertising and promoting your tree removal business. Marketing strategies 18 must also be set straight when making a business plan and before starting the business. All the publishing and printing of poster requires money too. So, proper estimates need to be made to avoid problems.

  1. Flyers and Local Paper:

You can advertise about your tree removal business startup by sending out flyers to the community and publishing about the business in the local paper.

  1. Business Cards:

You can also develop your very own business card for advertising purposes.

  1. Website:

Hire a Web Developer to create a simple website for your business. It would help people to know the services you provide, service packages, how to contact you and to read the customer`s feedback. Some online website makers are:

  1. WIX 19
  2. Website Builder 20
  3. IM Creator 21


  1. Logo:

Design a logo for your tree removal business so that people can recognize you.

Find Clients

You can even work with the popular contractors in your area for starters or any other utility company. You can do the tree removal service for them until you get a client of your own. And when you do, make sure you leave a good impression and provide them your best services.

Running A Successful Business – Tips


  1. Watch your Competitors

Usually, there are multiple tree removal services in a particular city or state. So, before you decide to open up a business of your own, observe your competitors, know their strategies and how they have positioned themselves in the market, how they get their business and where there leads come from and what areas they cover and are dominant in.

A simple way to check competitors that are competing for an area or city is Goolge “Tree Removal Services City” put this into the search bar and see who is listed in the first page of Google, these are the top ten listings and primary competitors for example:

For more advice on how to spy on your competitors, check out this article here on tools you can use to evaluate other competitors websites. How to spy on your competitors  There are number of directories as well online that can help you get who’s listed, you can search them or also you can start with the two below:

  1. Homeadvisor22
  2. Thumbtack23
  3. Yelp25

  1. Have a competitive advantage

What makes your tree removal business better from the rest?   It is important to answer that while running a business in such an industry. Because if there is nothing that distinguishes you from them then there is no point of running a business. One business must have a competitive advantage over the other business in the same industry. This helps the business to flourish and attract more customers. 24

How to gain competitive advantage

One simple way to start thinking about competitive advantage is to identify what are the questions customers keep on asking initially or what is there most prominent question and concern that maybe on their mind, safety, cost, how long to get there, whatever it is, make this your business goal and advantage.

Chat with Successful entrepreneurs and business owners

You maybe familiar with the saying “standing on the shoulders of giants” this refers to other experts that have done it before worked out out and have the knowledge, source it and learn from them.

It is always considered as a better approach to just go and talk to some of the experienced entrepreneurs in the similar business.
They can advise and warn you better about things that no one else can. It is safer to follow their lead and run your business. No local competitor will be willing to give you advice because no matter what you think, they will remain your competitors. Hence it is better to consult the tree removal businesses outside the country.

Learn about the Field Industry & Keep Learning

The key is to always keep learning more and more about the industry, Arboriculture and the field. By every failure, you would learn how to better run a business and you will keep learning till the very end. Keep in touch with all the new procedures, methodologies and the tree removal business world.


  1. The Dangers of Tree Removal
  2. Tree Trimming & Removal Safety
  3. General Liability Insurance
  4. Tree Work Safety
  5. Free Tree Removal Service Business Plan
  6. Business name registration
  7. Definition of a Limited Liability Company or LLC
  8. The United States Patent and Trademark Office
  9. Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) Online
  10. How to Register for a Sales Tax Permit in Every State
  11. State and Federal Online Business Registration
  12. How to Become a Certified Arborist: Certification and Career Roadmap
  13. ISA – International Society of Arboriculture
  14. Tree Care Industry Association
  15. Tree Work Safety Guide
  16. Public Liability Insurance Application Form
  17. Types of Insurance for Arborists
  18. How to Market Your Tree Service Business Using Various Methods
  19. WIX Website Maker Online
  20. Website Builder Online
  21. ImCreator – Free Website Maker Online 
  22. Find Local Tree Services 
  23. Best Local Tree Services Around Your Area
  24. Ways to Grow and Operate a Profitable Tree Service Business