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How to become a tree surgeon

Becoming a tree surgeon might sound ambitious, but it’s a role that many people would be perfectly suited for. In this article, we assess what’s required to start working in the field.

What is a tree surgeon?

A tree surgeon’s (or arborists as they’re sometimes called) primary role is providing tree care services.

This ranges from cutting them down, trimming them, and performing health assessments to check a tree for conservation purposes.

However, for those daredevils who are brave enough to do the task on a daily basis it’s work that’s well-rewarded. What’s more, jobs are constant all year round, meaning those in the trade have a consistent stream of work.

Do you need qualifications to be a tree surgeon?

There are no specific tree surgeon qualifications required for this role. However, it’s highly recommended anyone in the field have qualifications in the necessary practical skills in tree surgeon training.

These include City & Guilds NPTC and Lantra qualifications.

Those looking to become a tree surgeon will need to learn basic tree-climbing & aerial rescue. They will also need to know chainsaw competency on the ground and in a tree.

Knowing how to fell small trees, and understanding how to work safely at height are also important. First Aid skills are of course a must.

All Checkatrade recommended companies are fully NPTC qualified, ensuring highly skilled professionals who are experts in the field.

Many companies insist their employees have these qualifications to meet health and safety requirements. As well as for their insurance cover to be valid.

The necessary skills

On top of competency certifications, those considering the role must have several practical skills that are crucial to the job. Below is a list of skills every good tree surgeon should have:

  • Good working with hands
  • Physically fit
  • Mentally strong
  • Comfortable with heights
  • Responsible
  • Reliable team player
  • Strong communication skills
  • Interest in wildlife
  • Ability to work outside
  • Qualified to use a chainsaw

Tradespeople might recognise some of these skills as traits they already possess. It’s one reason why the career path between the construction trades and arboriculture has become so well-trodden in recent years.

Tree removal project

How to become a tree surgeon?

Most people entering the arboriculture sector will choose to learn on the job, often as an apprentice. Alternatively, it’s possible to build up experience in similar roles, such as a grounds worker.

It’s also possible to study the course at a local college. Increasingly, specialist colleges offer level two and three courses in arboriculture, providing essential knowledge and experience in the sector.

What can a tree surgeon earn in the beginning?

Starting salaries in the tree surgeon sector range from £15k to £21k. However, once you’ve established yourself as an experienced arboriculture professional this can rise to £28k.

What’s more, as you become more skilled in the sector you’ll be able to start working in more specialised roles.

One such role is as a private consultant, where you advise individuals, councils and companies on their tree management needs.

Becoming a tree surgeon includes qualifications and kit

How much could a tree surgeon earn?

There are very few large companies in the world of tree surgery, as such, many in the sector are self-employed.

Operating as a self-employed tree surgeon allows you to work with multiple clients, giving you flexibility to choose your rates.

What’s more, as the money is coming directly to you, you’ll often earn more for your work.

Typically, self-employed professionals will charge anything between £30 for removing a shrub to £1000 for taking down a large tree. Find out more about how much tree surgeons earn in our guides.

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Do tree surgeons need insurance?

Lots of arboriculture work takes place in public areas, so it’s important to be properly protected against potential liabilities. With this in mind, it’s advisable to find the right insurance package for your trade.

There are several packages available, with some covering you from claims made by members of the public.

Other insurance packages cover specialised tree surgery equipment, meaning you can quickly replace your equipment if something happens to it.

Find out how to become a tree surgeon

How do tree surgeons find work?

There are several ways for tree surgeons to find jobs. Of course, if you’re planning on entering the sector then it’s always important to sign up your services to Checkatrade.

The site helps connect UK homeowners with vetted tradespeople and is always a great place to get started.

As with many sectors, arboriculture relies on recommendations. Therefore, it’s important to concentrate on delivering great customer service and being referred by friends and families.

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Changing roles to become a tree surgeon

As well as learning to become a tree surgeon from scratch, it’s also possible to get into arboriculture from several different trades.

For example, those in horticulture or other physically demanding trades, as well as anyone working at height, could find the process easier. But the trade is open to anyone with the right skill set.

We spoke to Steve Bullman of ArbTalk, the UK’s premier arboriculture website, about how tradespeople can best go about making the transition. Including what to do to find out if you have what it takes for the role.

“We see a lot of construction professionals making the switch, especially those who have previously been involved in the horticultural and fencing sectors. My advice would be to get yourself on a course and get a good grounding on the subject. You’ll have to receive the relevant competency certificates, which are administered by City & Guilds before you can start working.

He continued:

Seek out some on-the-job experience as well. You can’t beat getting hands-on, especially in this sector where so much comes down to how you respond under pressure. Our website, ArbTalk, is a great place for anyone who’s just starting out. It acts as a resource to the trades, giving 32,000 members a place to connect with one another. Not only will you find the best equipment on the site but also, some great advice on the tech and training on offer to the trade.”

So, you're becoming a tree surgeon?

Pass our checks and be seen as a trusted tree surgeon to hire by customers

Get started

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