How to become a tree surgeon

Starting a career in tree surgery (arboriculture) can be a difficult task. It is a dangerous profession and employers tend not to hire unexperienced due to the risk (perceived or real) of injury or damage which can be caused. This makes it tricky to get experience unless you know someone within the industry.

To use a chainsaw at work you must have a certificate of competency. These are in the form of CS (chainsaw) units from NPTC/ City & Guilds. They are not cheap and I can understand the difficulty in spending several hundred pounds to get a chainsaw licence when you may not have worked in the industry. However, if you have CS30 & CS31 (use, maintenance of a chainsaw and felling small trees) it does show a potential employer that you are committed and eager to work in the industry, and they know you are competent with a chainsaw. You may also consider getting some PPE such as chainsaw boots (the most comfortable you can afford), chainsaw trousers and a helmet with ear  and face protection. You will then have all you need to do a days work for someone

So what’s it like?

Hard work. That says it all really. Its a physically (and mentally) demanding job both for the climber and ground staff. Dismantling a tree large tree (which could be 10 tonnes) and dragging the branches to the front of the property is not an easy task. Everyone has to pull their weight.

The worst case scenario is a large tree over numerous targets (sheds, green houses, patios, houses, conservatories etc). Every branch has to be lowered and there is no room for error. Everyone has to be aware of the situation and work together to get the job done on time whilst putting safety first. Saw dust gets everywhere as do green-fly in the summer and its dirty sweaty work, even in the dead of winter.

On the plus side, there is nothing like it. Most jobs can be done in a day or two so there is a constant change of environment. Every tree, and every location is different, each has its own set of problems and requirements so you are guaranteed never to be bored. There is also a great sense of satisfaction in helping people manage their tree(s) whether we are removing some overgrown leylandii or pruning a mature oak away from the owner house.

Climbing trees is also fun and there are some amazing views to be had, if you can enjoy being 80ft above the ground with a chainsaw in your hand!

View of Wolverhampton from Penn on a fine day in winter.

View of Wolverhampton from Penn on a fine day in winter.

Further education

There is more to tree surgery than just climbing trees hacking limbs off (tree limbs, not your own). It’s important to know what you are doing to the tree and what effect it will have. This is the key difference between a tree surgeon and an arborist. An arborist will know about the physiological changes they are making, how the tree will react and why they are doing it. There are academic courses from level 2 up to doctorate level if you are that way inclined. The Arboriculture Association has produced a guide about the educational opportunities which can be found at

Hopefully this mini guide has helped you. If you have anything to add please drop us a line in the comments below.