How to Become a Certified Arborist

Do you love the outdoors? Are you passionate about the environment? Then you should consider becoming a certified arborist. It is the job of arborists to focus on the safety of individual plants and trees. If this is a profession that sounds interesting to you, there are two different paths you can follow in order to become a certified arborist.

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Degree in Forestry


The first and main path is to obtain a degree in forestry, which will take about four years. Many universities and colleges offer a degree in forestry. A few schools also have online forestry and related programs. The Society of American Foresters (SAF) grants accreditation to certain forestry programs at universities. The SAF looks to make sure that the program meets a certain level of standards, which overall helps to improve the quality of the forestry programs across the nation. The SAF Accreditation Handbook describes the specifics that are required of the programs. Nearly 50 universities are accredited at this point by the SAF.


Experience Says It All


A second path that you can take to become a certified arborist is to have many years of training. You must have at least three years of on the job training. According to the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborist Candidate Application Handbook, “Acceptable experience includes the practical use of knowledge involved in pruning, fertilization, installation and establishment, diagnosis and treatment of tree problems, cabling and bracing, climbing, or other services that directly relate to arboriculture. Applicable volunteer work may count towards eligibility if it is supervised and documentation can be supplied. ”


ISA Testing


After you meet the education and training, you have to take an extensive test that is administered by the ISA. The test consists of questions that are divided up into 10 different areas of knowledge, including:


1. Soil Management 9%

2. Identification and Selection 9%

3. Installation and Establishment 9%

4. Safe Work Practices 12%

5. Tree Biology 12%

6. Pruning 13%

7. Diagnosis and Treatment 9%

8. Urban Forestry 8%

9. Tree Protection 9%

10. Tree Risk Management 10%


The test consists of 220 multiple choice questions, with four options listed for each question. The test is timed. You have 3.5 hours to complete it. The fee for the test ranges from $100-$250 depending on if you are a member of the ISA. There is also a $100 administrative fee. You must score at least a 72 percent to pass the test. If you do not pass the test, you can retake it. Once you pass the test, you have officially gained certification. The certification lasts for three years, after which you must go through a recertification process.


Anyone that has spent time in the tree care industry can become a certified arborist. It isn’t an easy process, by any means, but becoming certified shows a true commitment to the field. With a time and effort, you can be successful.


Stewart Scott is a certified arborist and is the owner of Cevet, a tree trimming company in Columbia, Mo. Cevet has provided tree trimming and other tree care services to mid-Missouri for almost 20 years.


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