How to Become an Arborist

Matt Ostrowski is the owner of Tree Medicine Tree Service in Denver Colorado. He was nice enough to discuss his career as an arborist here…

What educational requirements are necessary to be an arborist?

The educational requirements to start a career as an arborist are minimal. Often, a high school diploma or equivalent is sufficient to apply for an entry level position with a local tree care company, parks department or municipality as a laboror and start the path to becoming an arborist. With on the job experience, company and industry training, or college courses a person can obtain the qualifications and knowledge to care for trees and become an arborist.

What certifications do you have? What organizations are they with?

Currently, I have been recognized as a “Certified Arborist” by The International Society of Arboricultutre. This certification was awarded after passing an industry written and oral test showing proficiency in the in the field of urban tree care and arboriculture. Also, I have tested with the Colorado Department of Agriculture and have obtained a level “Qualified Supervisor” which allows me to apply pesticides to trees as well as to educate others on the practices of safe pesticide application.

How did you choose this career?

I chose a career as an arborist for several reasons. One reason was the ability to work outside, which I appreciate everyday. Another reason was that I like to work with my hands, and see the results of my labor. Trimming a tree is an art from that has to consider tree health, aesthetics and function to be done properly. Driving through town and seeing trees that you have worked on is a real thrill. Lastly, my grandfather, my father and my uncle are all arborists, and I would be taking over a family business.

Is it hard to find a job in the tree care industry?

Finding a job in the tree care industry is not difficult. Most cities have numerous tree care companies that are hiring. The best time of the year to apply is in the spring when tree work is picking up and companies are becoming busy again from the winter slow down. An Internet search of local tree care companies will give you all the leads that you need. A simple phone call to their office will let know know if they are hiring.

What type of project are you currently working on?

Currently, I am cutting down trees for a highway expansion project. As soon as the trees are removed and the stumps or ground out, they can begin construction.

What’s your favorite part of your job? Why?

My favorite part of being an arborist is the satisfaction that is received after you finish a project. After a hard days work you can see the results of the day. Whether its a beautiful maple tree that you have trimmed and is now looking like the perfect tree, or seeing the satisfaction of a customer whose hazardous tree you have removed from their yard and now they can sleep a little better at night. I also like the working with ropes and tying knots and rigging trees to be lowered to the ground. It is always exciting. See also: Tree Planting Jobs

What’s your least favorite part of your job? Why?

The least favorite part of being an arborist is the danger. Tree care is a VERY dangerous profession and the fatality rate is among the highest of all industries. The use of chain saws, bucket trucks, ropes and saddles, wood chippers, stump grinders and other heavy equipment as well as dealing with the hazards of removing very heavy trees safely and 60 feet in the air makes the job dangerous and puts safety at the top of every task. See also: Rope Access Jobs

Can you describe a typical day in the life of you?

The great thing about tree care is that every day is a little different. Some days I deal with customers and giving them estimates on the work they need to have completed, and some days I am grinding out the stump of an enormous tree that I removed the day before. Some days are paperwork, and some days are equipment maintenance. There are many hats to wear and things to do that make each day in the tree care industry different.

Do you have any advice for people who are interested in arborist jobs?

The advice that I have for anyone interested in pursuing a career in the tree care industry is to start out as a groundsman and see what the industry is all about. Also, look around to find a company that is right for you. Not all companies do things the same way, so maybe a very large company with a more professional production minded mentality is what you are looking for, or maybe a smaller company that gives you more control, but doesn’t pay as well. There are many different options. It won’t be long and you can be a high paid climber running a crew and being called an arborist.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I would like to add, that if you want to become an arborist, be professional. Become a craftsman in your chosen profession. A lot of people can cut down a small tree and call themselves an arborist, but a real craftsman continues to learn about trees, studies trees, participates in the industry and ALWAYS…ALWAYS puts safety first.

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