How to Become a Tree Trimmer: Education and Career Roadmap

Jan 21, 2022

Research the requirements to become a tree trimmer. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career trimming trees.

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Should I Become a Tree Trimmer?

Tree trimmers, also known as arborists, work on the grounds of businesses, residential buildings, schools or hospitals, and public or utility rights-of-way. In addition, they take care of hotel and mall indoor gardens. Their job involves removing dead or diseased limbs, or preventing tree limbs from obstructing power lines, buildings or other infrastructure.

Trimmers operate a variety of tools, such as pole saws, handsaws and chainsaws, and they use pulley systems to lower cut limbs. They might operate heavy equipment, such as boom trucks, tractors and chippers. Tree trimmers use specialized safety equipment and ladders to climb trees, so candidates interested in this job shouldn't have a fear of heights.

Most employers require applicants to have a high school diploma or equivalent, possess a valid driver's license, and pass a drug test and criminal background check. Training occurs on the job.

Career Requirements

Tree trimmers are expected to have at least high school diplomas or equivalent. Associate's degrees in arboriculture are helpful in gaining employment. Tree trimmers are self motivated, with good verbal and written communication skills. They have physical stamina and strength, know how to operate boom trucks, chainsaws, saws, shredding equipment, pruners and sprayers, and are proficient with the use of climbing hooks, belts, ropes and ladders. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of all tree trimmers and pruners was $41,340 in 2020.

How to Become a Tree Trimmer

How could I become a tree trimmer?

Step 1: Consider Postsecondary Education

Tree trimmers interested in learning about plant science and disease, and the care of tropical trees might think about completing a certificate program in a field like urban tree care. Although most entry-level positions don't require formal education, an associate's degree gives you a competitive advantage when seeking employment. Associate's degree programs in arboriculture, urban forestry, or forest management adequately prepares you for a career in tree trimming. In addition to courses in various aspects of forestry, students learn about harvesting and managing trees, arboriculture and field techniques. A bachelor's degree may be required for those who also wish to manage tree health.

Step 2: Obtain On-the-Job Training

On-the-job training is usually required for new tree trimmers. Trainees typically learn to operate tools and equipment and to properly remove tree limbs to ensure the health of the tree. Site and operations safety are critical components of a tree trimmer's job. Tree trimmers must be aware of surrounding power lines and the location of people and equipment underneath the tree's canopy, as well as their own safety while in the tree canopy.

Trainees also learn to properly use rigging and rope for tree climbing and how to anchor themselves while engaged in trimming and cutting operations. Rope and rigging is also used to secure and lower limbs. Tree trimmers work with a ground-based partner to facilitate the safe removal of tree limbs, so good communication skills are important.

Step 3: Obtain Certification

The Tree Care Industry Association offers the Certified Treecare Safety Professional credential, which focuses on safety associated with tree trimming. Candidates must attend a training workshop and pass a critical thinking exercise and a written exam. Certification is valid for three years and requires the completion of 30 continuing education units for recertification.

The Certified Arborist certification is available from the International Society of Arboriculture. Candidates must have a minimum of three years of experience, which includes diagnosing and treating tree problems, planting and cultivating trees, and climbing, cabling and bracing. Experience requirements are satisfied with a specified combination of education and experience. Certification is valid for three years, and arborists must obtain 30 continuing education units for recertification.

Tree trimmers remove the dead or diseased limbs from trees or prune trees to prevent the obstruction of power lines, buildings, and other infrastructure. They have high school diplomas or associate's degrees along with physical stamina and the ability to operate climbing and trimming equipment. And they earn a median annual salary of $41,340.

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