Arborists plant and take care of trees and other woody plants. They make sure that trees are healthy, safe and protected from damage and disease. They are sometimes called tree surgeons.
You could be:
carrying out surveys and assessing trees using specialist equipment
taking a variety of measures to control or get rid of diseases
growing seedlings or cuttings, planting young trees and shrubs and caring for them
pruning and carrying out tree surgery, including climbing trees (with a rope and harness) and using a chainsaw to cut branches
felling, reducing and thinning trees
driving vehicles, including tractors with trailers, possibly with lifting equipment
planning new areas of woodland or conserving existing ones
recruiting and training staff
giving advice on how to look after trees.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
Apprentice arborists will be paid the minimum wage for apprentices in Scotland. The apprentice rate, for those aged under 19 or aged 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship, is £5.28 an hour (1 April 2023).
Starting salaries for arborists at assistant or technician level range from £16,000 to £19,000 a year. Skilled arborists earn from around £24,000 a year. The earnings of arborists who are self-employed will vary. They charge a fee which is based on the job to be done.
There are posts in both urban and rural areas.
Most of your working time would be spent outdoors.
Your working conditions could be wet, cold, windy, dusty and noisy.
You have to climb and work high up in trees, sometimes carrying heavy equipment (using safety gear).
You would wear protective clothing and footwear, including gloves and boots.
Working hours are normally 35-40 a week, but vary at different times of year.
There is no single entry route to this career, but a good general education is useful.
You could start as an arboricultural worker and study part time for qualifications to allow you to move up to more senior positions.
You may get in through a Modern Apprenticeship leading to an SVQ. There is a framework available in Trees and Timber at SCQF Level 5 and 6.
Full time courses in arboriculture, amenity horticulture, forestry and related subjects are available at a variety of levels, from NC/NQ (SCQF Level 4-6) to HNC (SCQF Level 7) and HND (SCQF Level 8).
The entry requirements for NC and NQ courses vary from no formal requirements to 4-5 subjects at National 4 or 5. For HNC and HND courses, the normal requirement is 1-2 Highers and subjects at National 5, or other relevant national qualifications.
You could take a degree (SCQF Level 9/10) in forestry or a similar subject. Entry requirements are normally 4-5 Highers, sometimes including 2 from Maths and science or technological subjects.
Previous work experience in a tree nursery, or in forestry or agriculture is helpful.
You usually need a full, clean driving licence.
You need to be fit as there is a lot of active work including climbing.
You could work for a local authority, national park, private estate, landscaping firm, garden centre or private contractor.
You would also study part time for qualifications at a level appropriate to you. There are various relevant short courses at local colleges.
You would work towards certificates of competency, such as using chainsaws with safety equipment and harness.
The Modern Apprenticeship in Trees and Timber at SCQF Level 5 leads to an SVQ in Trees and Timber. At SCQF Level 6, there is a choice to specialise in either Arboriculture or General Woodland and Forestry Treework.
You might be able to take a part time or distance learning course leading to an SVQ, a degree or a postgraduate qualification.