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Qualification A Tree Surgeon Should Have

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  • 07-06-2021
Qualification A Tree Surgeon Should Have

What qualification should a tree surgeon have in the UK? We look at the recognised UK arborists schemes that a tree surgeon should be part of to show they are competent in their work.

What qualifications do you need to be a tree surgeon?

There are a few typical requirements to becoming a tree surgeon. 

You can become a tree surgeon by going through a college course, university course, apprenticeship, or doing jobs relevant to working towards a tree surgeon's role. 

Some of the relevant University courses include Arboriculture, Forest Management or Forestry. There are also various courses available in colleges for level 2 certificates in Arboriculture and Forestry or Level 3 Diplomas in Work-based Timber and Trees. 

If you want to get into the tree surgeon industry, getting some experience is the best option possible. Volunteering with horticultural groups or conservation organisations might be good tree work experience in this area. 

For example, to get experience, it might be best to contact the Woodland Trust and the National Trust about any possible opportunities for work. These are great places to gain experience and knowledge that can be applied later on in life for work

Recognised UK arborists schemes

Within the UK, two main schemes are recognised for certifying the competence of arborists. This is generally through examinations and regular re-assessments throughout their career or CPD (Continuing Professional Development).

The Arboriculture Association (AA)

The AA or Arboriculture Association constantly maintains an online Directory of quality that contains assured surgery businesses that the association assesses. 

These businesses are evaluated regularly for all their health and safety procedures and their office and business practices. Some of these practices include their customer care and the quality standard they provide for their tree work. 

The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA)

Usually for individual arborists certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). 

During the assessment of the candidate, the ISA will assess the individual's knowledge and the ability for the job and trees. If you have an ISA or International Society of Arboriculture certified tree surgeon, they will display the ISA logo.

What does a tree surgeon do?

Tree surgeons are essential for looking after trees and other plant life. Tree surgeons have been known to look after trees and provide as much care and advice as possible to get trees to live longer. 

Some of the roles for tree surgeons include lifting or cutting down trees and taking them away. They are also used when you want to plant new trees properly. Tree surgeons are not generally limited to one specific area. 

Tree surgeons might work on private contracts for other companies, work for the council if asked or work on someone's home when contracted. 

For a tree surgeon manager, some of the day-to-day responsibilities might include organising the different teams in the yards. The managers are also there to take care of everyone's safety. 

This might include making health and safety checks on equipment used and risk management for each job. They are also responsible for the money, such as costs and budgets. 

What skills does a tree surgeon need?

As you might have guessed, fitness is a must for tree surgeons. Tree surgeons are constantly physically and mentally strained each time they work due to the long hours and heavy jobs. 

This can come with some added stress for keeping on time and budget, which might not be as easy as originally thought. Communication and teamwork are also a must when being a tree surgeon. 

With great communication and teamwork, you can get more done by coordinating with your colleagues, and it also helps with time management. 

Communication is also key in safety. The safety of tree surgeons is essential as there are many dangerous situations where you can get seriously injured or killed if any wrong moves are made. 

Tree surgeons will spot each other when they are in the trees and ensure no one is below when you begin to cut and drop branches or chunks of trees from the tree. If not overseen, these pieces falling can kill someone easily or permanently injure them. 

Questions You Should Ask An Arborist

To ensure you are safe legally and physically, there are some questions that you should ask your arborist before they begin any jobs with you. Some of these questions are:

  • Are you insured?- If the answer is yes, you should ask for evidence of their insurance. This is important if any damage occurs to you or your neighbours. 
  • What are the qualifications you and your staff currently hold? - The must for a tree surgeon is a certificate for the use of a chainsaw. This could be an NPTC/Lantra Awards. Some recommended certificates are for other machines and skills. As well as Arboriculture knowledge. E.g. National Certificates and Diplomas in Arboriculture. 
  • Will you provide a written quotation for the job? - If the answer is no, the best option is to deny them the job and look elsewhere. You don't know what issue will arise and whether they can be trusted not to raise the price for any reason. 
  • Are you a member of a professional organisation or association?- Although being a member does not guarantee the work standards will be good, this would indicate that they have a degree of commitment.
  • Can you provide a contact number as a reference who can show me some of your work? - If the answer is yes, the best option is to follow up. You want to know their thoughts on the job as well as the outcome of their job. This will give you a good idea of what you can expect from them.

There are some things that you should check on the quotation they provided you before you accept them and start the job. Ensure that they have added the following items to the quotation:

  • A reference to BS3998:2021 'Tree work - Recommendations'
  • In some detail, the clear work to be undertaken at the residence.
  • What will happen to the brushwood and timber from the property once the job has been completed?
  • What will happen to the tree stumps?
  • Whether VAT is included or not
  • Who is responsible for obtaining the proper permission for cutting back or chopping down any protected trees?
  • What steps are going to be taken to protect you and the property? (This might include a risk assessment for the staff and the property)


This article looks at what qualifications a tree surgeon should have in the UK? If you are looking for tree surgery in Northampton, Milton Keynes and Bedford contact our specialists today.