What Is a Certified Arborist?

A love for tree climbing can lead to a certified arborist career.

A love for tree climbing can lead to a certified arborist career.

To a certified arborist, or tree care specialist, tree climbing is more than a recreational sport. An arborist certified through the International Society of Arboriculture gets an all-over workout by scaling trees to prune them for healthier growth, attaching cables to support weak branches and installing lightning protection. If a damaged or diseased tree presents a safety hazard, this energetic lady and her team will work carefully to remove it.

Certification Requirements

You might be surprised to learn that obtaining an ISA arborist certification isn't a walk in the park. First, you'll have to document at least three years of full-time field work experience. You can substitute a degree in arboriculture, forestry, horticulture or landscape architecture from a regionally accredited school. You'll also have to pass the ISA arborist certification exam, designed to demonstrate your arboriculture generalist skills. You must also subscribe to a Certified Arborist Code of Ethics.

Specialty Certifications

If you thrive on challenges, the ISA offers four specialty tree care certifications that might pique your interest. Consider a certified arborist/utility specialist position, in which you'll help maintain utilities' access to electrical installations. A certified arborist/municipal specialist credential directs your focus to urban forestry tasks, and might include urban planning and policy work. Put your athletic abilities to work with a climbing specialist certification; or consider an aerial lift operator certification, which allows you to demonstrate your skills with the “cherry picker.” Finally, a Board Certified Master Arborist credential signifies that you're the “cream of the crop” of arboriculturists.

Certification Benefits

You wonder if you'll receive a return on the time and money you invest for your ISA certification(s). You'll actually receive a career payoff on three fronts. You'll definitely be a better-qualified job candidate than a noncredentialed tree climber looking to make some extra cash. If you're working as an employee, you'll be more favorably positioned for a pay increase and upcoming promotional opportunities. If you plan to establish a tree service company, your potential residential, commercial and municipal clients will know you're a competent professional arborist.

Arboriculture Career Paths

Your ISA-Certified Arborist credential means the sky's the limit for your professional aspirations. You can assume a management role in a large tree care company or create an arboriculture business with your own distinctive twist. If you get a kick out of sharing your tree care knowledge with others, you might enjoy teaching in a community college or technical school, or perhaps working within your community as a cooperative extension agent. Maybe you've always believed trees can co-exist with buildings and roadways, which makes you an excellent candidate for a municipal arborist job. Perhaps you'd like to create a career out of multiple arboriculture activities, which virtually assures you'll never get bored.

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About the Author

Based in North Carolina, Felicia Greene has written professionally since 1986. Greene edited sailing-related newsletters and designed marketing programs for the New Bern, N.C. "Sun Journal" and New Bern Habitat ReStore. She earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration from the University of Baltimore.

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