How to become an Arboricultural Worker. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
What does an Arboricultural Worker do?
Arboricultural workers (sometimes known as arborists), plant, cultivate and maintain trees and shrubs in the countryside and in towns and cities.
You could work as:
- ground staff – clearing sites of debris, and helping climbers, for example by passing them tools and re-fuelling chainsaws
- a planter – preparing the ground for tree planting, planting young trees, and applying pesticides and fertilisers
- a climber or tree surgeon – a skilled person working at heights of up to 36 metres, pruning diseased trees or removing branches that could be dangerous.
Some jobs combine all three of these roles.
You will usually work up to 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday, often with overtime – for example, you may be called out to deal with emergencies such as storm-damaged trees. Some parts of the work, such as tree planting, may be seasonal.
You could work in a variety of locations, like privately-owned gardens, urban and country parks, and on public highways.
You will need to wear safety equipment such as ear defenders or a protective mask for some tasks. As a tree surgeon, you will wear a safety harness and use ropes and various items of rigging equipment.
How much does an arboricultural worker earn?
Salary and pay information:
- Ground staff can earn between £19,000 and £22,000 a year.
- Climbers/tree surgeons can earn from £25,000 to around £36,000.
Income varies depending on the employer, location and type of work.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
You can become an arboricultural worker in either of the following ways:
- completing a college course before looking for work
- taking a job at a basic level (for example as an arborist assistant, craftsperson or grounds person) and training on the job.
Relevant courses include:
- NPTC Level 2 Certificate/Diploma in Horticulture
- BTEC Level 3 Certificate/Diploma in Forestry and Arboriculture (Arboriculture).
You may not need any qualifications to find a job such as arborist assistant, craftsperson or grounds person, but you will need reasonable standards of reading and basic maths. It will be useful if you have previous experience or qualifications in relevant areas such as horticulture.
If you do not have any experience, a good way to start is by volunteering with organisations such as:
- British Trust for Conservation Volunteers
- National Trust
- Groundwork UK
- Woodland Trust
- Wildlife Trusts.
You may also need experience to get on some college courses, so voluntary work could also be useful if you want to do a course before looking for work.
You may be able to get into this job through an Apprenticeship scheme. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. To find out more about Apprenticeships, visit the Apprenticeships website.
Training and Development
Once you start work you will receive on-the-job-training, and may also be able to work towards qualifications.
Before you can use a chainsaw in your work, you are required by law to be trained and competent. The National Proficiency Test Council (NPTC) and Lantra Awards offer certificates of competence for chainsaw use and for other areas related to arboriculture. Visit the NPTC and Lantra Awards websites for details of colleges and private providers offering the training. Some employers will organise and pay for your training.
- National Proficiency Test Council
- Lantra Awards
You can also take further work-based qualifications to help you develop your skills and progress in your career.
Level 2 qualifications (which could lead to opportunities as a climber/tree surgeon or self-employed contractor) include:
- International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborist
- ABC/Royal Forestry Society (RFS) Certificate in Arboriculture
- NVQ Level 2 in Arboriculture.
Level 3 qualifications (which could lead to opportunities as a foreman or supervisor) include:
- Arboricultural Association Technician’s Certificate in Arboriculture
- BTEC Level 3 Certificate/Diploma in Forestry and Arboriculture (Arboriculture) which you may be able to complete by attending college part-time.
You can get more details of ISA, RFS and Arboricultural Association qualifications from the organisations’ websites.
Higher level qualifications including BTEC HNDs, foundation degrees and degrees are also available. To find out where these courses are offered, visit the UCAS website.
Skills and Knowledge
- practical and mechanical skills
- physical fitness and a head for heights
- an interest in conservation and environmental issues
- the ability to work as part of a team
- good communication skills
- an understanding of health and safety issues.
The main employers of arboricultural workers are specialist contracting firms – many of these have less than ten employees.
With qualifications and experience, you could progress from craft level to supervisor and then to manager. You could also start your own business.
You may find the following links useful for job vacancies and general reading (links open in new window):
- Countryside Jobs
- Horticulture Week
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