What Qualifications Do Tree Surgeons Need

A tree surgeon Coventry, also known as an arborist, is a professional who specialises in the planting, care, and maintenance of trees. The job involves a variety of tasks including pruning, felling, and disease management, and it requires a combination of theoretical knowledge and practical skills. 

Let's delve into the qualifications needed to become a tree surgeon, as well as the path to obtaining these credentials.

Educational Qualifications and Training

  1. Basic Education: Most tree surgeons start with a basic education at the secondary level. While specific subjects may not be required, courses in biology, environmental science, or similar subjects may be beneficial.
  2. Vocational Qualifications: Various vocational qualifications are available that provide specialised training in arboriculture. These include certificates and diplomas offered by colleges and institutions specialising in horticulture and arboriculture.
  3. University Degrees: Although not mandatory, some individuals may pursue a degree in forestry, arboriculture, or environmental science. These programs provide a more comprehensive understanding of the science and management of trees and may offer more advanced career opportunities.

Practical Skills and Experience

  1. Apprenticeships: An apprenticeship is a popular route to becoming a qualified tree surgeon. This usually involves a combination of on-the-job training and classroom learning.
    • How Long is a Tree Surgeon Apprenticeship?: A tree surgeon apprenticeship in the UK typically lasts between 12 to 36 months. The duration may vary depending on the specific program, the apprentice's prior experience, and the complexity of the skills being learned.
  2. Hands-on Experience: Gaining practical experience is crucial for a tree surgeon. This can be acquired through working as an assistant, volunteering, or other forms of hands-on practice.
  3. Specialised Training Courses: Various specialised training courses are available that cover specific aspects of tree surgery, such as chainsaw operation, climbing techniques, and pest and disease management.

Licenses and Certifications

  1. Chainsaw Licences: Operating a chainsaw is often a key part of a tree surgeon's job, and certification in chainsaw operation is typically required.
  2. Pesticide Application Licence: If the role includes treating trees with pesticides, a licence in pesticide application may be needed.
  3. Professional Certification: Professional certifications from arboricultural associations may be sought to demonstrate a higher level of competence and professionalism. These certifications often require a combination of education, experience, and examination.
  4. First Aid Training: Given the potentially hazardous nature of tree surgery, first aid training is usually recommended or even required by employers.
  5. Driving Licence: A driving licence, particularly for larger vehicles, may be necessary if the job involves travelling to different locations with heavy equipment.

Continued Professional Development (CPD)

Continuous learning and development are essential in the field of tree surgery. This can include:

  • Attending workshops, seminars, and conferences.
  • Pursuing advanced certifications.
  • Keeping up with the latest research and best practices in the field.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Qualified Tree Surgeon?

The journey to becoming a qualified tree surgeon can vary significantly based on the path taken:

  • An apprenticeship can take between 1 to 3 years.
  • Pursuing vocational qualifications or a university degree may take anywhere from 1 to 4 years, or even longer if pursued part-time.
  • Gaining sufficient hands-on experience can add additional time to the process.

In total, it can take anywhere from 2 to 7 years or more to become a fully qualified tree surgeon, depending on the combination of education, apprenticeships, and practical experience pursued.


Becoming a tree surgeon is a complex process that requires a blend of formal education, practical training, and professional certifications. It's a career path that demands both physical skill and intellectual understanding of trees and their care.

The qualifications needed reflect the multifaceted nature of the role, encompassing a deep understanding of tree biology, mastery of various technical skills, adherence to safety standards, and a commitment to ongoing professional development.

For those passionate about the environment and outdoor work, and who are willing to invest the time and effort to acquire the necessary qualifications, a career as a tree surgeon can be highly rewarding. It offers the opportunity to play a vital role in maintaining the health and beauty of our natural landscapes, in a profession that blends science, art, and craftsmanship.