How to train to become a tree Surgeon

NPTC/City and Guilds Certification

Do you need NPTC/City and Guilds qualifications?

What training is essential to get started in arboriculture

If you have found this article you are likely to be considering a job or career in arboriculture. You may also be considering how best to get started, how long this initial phase will take, and how the journey will begin.

If so, then carry on reading, as some guidance is only a few paragraphs away.

Looking to train to become a tree surgeon? It may be easier than you think

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People are attracted to working with trees for lots of different reasons. It may be due to an interest in trees and the natural world, a desire to make a difference through preservation and conservation, or an interest to climb and study these majestic living structures up close. Whatever the motivation, there is a starting point for everyone working with trees, where the journey begins.

Gaining a good understanding of trees can take many years, however, there is a relatively quick and easy route into practical tree management. That route is training to become a tree surgeon (or arborist) and it can provide a fantastic starting point for lots of people. Like many things in life becoming a highly skilled and knowledgeable arborist takes time, practice, and experience. However, taking a few, short training courses will provide you with the skills and understanding to make a start in the arboricultural industry. From this point- knowledge, experience and progression can be achieved, largely through a working career with some continued professional development alongside.

Training background and key information

There are 2 bodies that set training in the UK for the Arboricultural and forestry industries. These are: City and Guilds NPTC and Lantra.

City & Guilds/ NPTC qualifications are certificates of competence and are gained for attending short courses at a college or an accredited training provider, like Arbsystem. These courses are designed for learners – they’re flexible and easy to balance with a working life. They are generally independently assessed, are highly respected in the UK are recognised qualifications internationally. Therefore, it is possible to find employment in other countries using these qualifications. These include; Australia, New Zealand, Canada, The USA and many European Countries. Whilst Lantra qualifications hold the same validity and level as NPTC/City and Guilds Certificates of Competence, NPTC/ City and Guilds qualifications are generally more sought after within the industry.

Training is not strictly essential initially, as some employers may take you on prior to any training. However, we would highly recommend taking a few key courses. Gaining these qualifications will make you much more employable and help you to progress more quickly.

Key training to get started as a tree surgeon

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The most important initial training is a chainsaw course. This course delivers practical skills, health and safety guidance and knowledge relating to maintaining a chainsaw. Chainsaws are an essential piece of equipment for all tree surgeons and therefore this is vital training. For more information take a look at our ‘Chainsaw Maintenance and Crosscutting training’ blog.

The chainsaw maintenance and crosscutting course can be linked to another course: felling small trees. This is an important course and will enable learners to be more proficient with a chainsaw, as well as learning some different cuts and techniques used to fell trees. These skills will also transfer into future tasks as a more experienced tree surgeon.

The third course and probably second most important is a tree climbing and aerial rescue course. This training includes learning how to climb trees and how to rescue someone else from a tree. The latter is important for everyone starting out, both for people who wish to become a ground-based arborist (or ‘grounds person’) or a climbing arborist. Keep a look out for our upcoming blog which will have more information regarding this course: ‘Tree Climbing and aerial rescue training – how to get your arboricultural career off the ground and feel like a kid having fun whilst doing it!’

Below is the list of the described City and Guilds NPTC Certificate of Competence courses:

⦁ Chainsaw Maintenance and Cross-cutting (level 2)- unit 201/202 (formerly CS30)
⦁ Felling Small Trees up to 380mm (level 2)- unit 203 (formerly CS31)
⦁ Tree Climbing and Aerial Rescue (level 2)- unit 206/306 (formerly CS38)

You can also find more information on the relevant courses within our booking schedule page.

Summary of training considerations

Beginning your training journey to become a tree surgeon can be a quick and straight forward process, with relatively low financial or time investment. The 3 courses highlighted can be completed in 2 weeks, albeit usually separated. This means that the period between the point of having no experience or qualifications, to then applying for employment, can be very short.

We would recommend gaining all 3 courses, to maximise the chances of finding employment, especially if you have no prior industry experience. However, if it is important to minimise your time and financial outlay, then we would recommend focussing on the Chainsaw Maintenance and Cross-cutting course and the Tree Climbing and Aerial Rescue course.

If you are still unsure if this is the right step for you, then get in touch at to register your interest in a taster day in tree management, which we are looking to launch shortly. Find out more about this in our previous blog: Taster days in arboriculture and forestry.

Finally, in our opinion, having a desire to work with trees is the most important attribute you can possess right now. If that is coupled with some determination and hard work along the way, in our experience, most other things will fall into place. So, take a considered approach but try not to be deterred by unknowns for now. We at Arbsystem, like many other industry professionals, will be here to help you along your journey if you need assistance.

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