Your Guide to Becoming an Arborist in NSW

So you want to become an arborist? Working with trees can be a highly satisfying and enjoyable career if you enjoy the outdoors and being physically active. Yet there is more to this profession than simply lopping down trees, and you will need to be qualified to work in the field.

This article will explain everything you need to know, including what to expect, when you want to become an arborist.

What is an arborist?

You can think of an arborist as a ‘tree doctor’; they address the health and wellbeing of trees and the surrounding environment. Some of the tasks they perform include:

  • Tree, site and hazard assessments
  • Tree identification
  • Tree planting and maintenance (including pruning)
  • Tree felling
  • Traffic management
  • Report writing
  • Safely preparing, using and disposing of chemicals
  • Driving and operating machinery.

Salary and job outlook

Tree doctors earn an average salary of $61,000 in Australia. Projected job growth is strong.

How to become one

To work as an arborist you will need to obtain an accredited qualification. In NSW, this is at a minimum a Certificate III in Horticulture or a related field. This will provide you with a combination of theoretical and practical knowledge – including a boom-type elevation platform licence – to help you succeed. You will also be able to choose to study a number of electives which suit your interests and career goals.

Personal attributes and skills that may be beneficial to this career path include good problem solving and decision making abilities, and being physically active.

Whilst not compulsory, registering with your industry body is also recommended as it is a good indicator of professionalism and will make it easier to attract clients. Registering is quite easy, though there may be a joining fee.

Where to study

You should make sure to study at a registered training organisation that is certified to give you your qualification. Obtaining a qualification from an illegitimate company will not allow you to legally work as an arborist, so check to ensure they are registered. The most common training organisation used in NSW is TAFE.

Further study

Once you have gained some experience working as an arborist in NSW you might want to further your knowledge by obtaining a Diploma of Horticulture or a related field. This qualification will allow you to work as a consultant, manager or supervisor and earn a higher rate of pay using your expert knowledge and experience. This qualification can also be obtained through TAFE NSW.

Finding work

When looking for arborist jobs, online job boards and word-of-mouth referrals are always a good idea. Industry bodies also post job listings on their website. Alternatively, you might want to start up your own company and work for yourself! If you choose this option, you will need to ensure you have all necessary equipment and licences. A course in business management and finances might also be beneficial.

Equipment needed for work

When working for an existing firm you are likely to be provided with the gear you need to work. If you are expected to bring your own equipment, or if you are working for yourself, you may require the following:

  • Harness with leg & gear loops
  • Helmet
  • Gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Hearing protection
  • Ropes, wrench and hitches
  • Pulley
  • Chainsaw
  • Tree cables
  • Cherry picker
  • Gear bag
  • Working boots and spurs.

Working as an arborist can be a lot of fun, but it can also be dangerous. As such, it is important to help manage risks and stay safe by obtaining a certified qualification and gaining experience by working with qualified professionals.