Tree Surgeon V Arborist – What’s the difference?

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Tree surgeon, Arborists, Arboriculturist, Local gardener… it can be confusing to know which is right choice when all you want is to find someone who can help you with your tree care needs.

How do you know where to start and does it really matter?

Firstly, the term Arboroculturalist is mainly used as a general term of for anyone that works in the tree surgery industry. Really, it is just a longer word for Arborist.

The best way to think of the difference between a Tree Surgeon and an Arborist is to think of your local GP. Your doctor is well versed in the field of general medicine. They can prescribe treatments for short term alignments, run an annual health check-up, help fix broken bones or bad backs and perform routine tests. What your local GP wouldn’t do, is determine a treatment plan for something more serious. For example, say you came down with Pneumonia or Influenza – your doctor would refer to an Infectious Disease Specialist or say you were diagnosed with diabetes, or a thyroid problem, your doctors would support you in the short term, but would refer you to an Endocrinologist for long term care.

In a similar sense, a Tree Surgeon is well versed in tree care and treatment but are limited in their knowledge of how to treat trees in certain situations and with certain types of diseases. There are differences in both knowledge and skills between Tree Surgeons and Arborists.  


To become a Tree Surgeon the process is generally not too lengthy or difficult compared to an Arborist. There are multiple college level 2 or 3 diplomas that can be combined with an apprenticeship or entry level position at a tree surgery company, where a newbie to the industry can work their way up relatively quick. Some academies offer fast track courses where you can learn the basics requirements and skills within 4/6 weeks.

On the other hand, to become an Arborist the training and qualifications is more extensive. To reach Arborist level, you need to pass higher level degrees at recognised education institutes.

Experience is also a factor – A minimum of four years’ work as a Tree Surgeon is required before you can qualify as an Arborist and the time put in working as a Tree Surgeon counts towards your degree.

Arborist will have met the requirements from a technical skills point of view and from a qualifications level, to be fully qualified. They will have credentials such as being a member of The Arboricultural Association and the ISA.


A Tree surgeon is versed in carrying out work on trees, shrubs, and conifers etc. and their studies qualify them to be able to diagnose a problem such as fungi or decay. An arborist would then be one to run furthers inspections, diagnosis and create a course treatment for the diseased tree.

The kind of tasks a Tree Surgeon would carry out are:

Tree Surgeon chainsaw

  • Tree climbing to thin, lift or reduce the crown
  • Groundwork using a chainsaw and a chipper
  • Initial tree inspections
  • Felling and removing trees
  • Stump Grinding
  • Pollarding
  • Hedge work

An Arborist would also be skilled in all the above tasks, having started out their training as a Tree Surgeon. However, they are also qualified in undertaking projects such as the following:

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  • Tree liability Surveys & Inspections
  • Creating tree management plans
  • Maintenance plans
  • Planning applications reviews
  • Site Surveys for development work
  • Reports for building insurance, engineers, and mortgage solicitors
  • Health & safety analysis
  • Provide solutions for environmental issues

The main goal of an arborist is to navigate the constraints and liabilities of trees, to find congruity between those and the requirements, needs and desires of people and businesses who live amongst them. Understanding vast number of species of tree and being able to assess different scenarios and potential impacts on the environment, to ensure arboriculture services are carried out safely, with minimal impact on the surrounding areas. Not only for the job in hand, but future proofing – ensuring the growth of the area as development occurs.

As you can imagine this is a massive responsibility. As a homeowner or a landowner, you want to ensure work carried out that could affect your home or land is done to the upmost standard and you are protected. Orchard Tree Surgery, run by Andrew, a fully qualified and very experienced Arborist can help you with any Tree issues or requests you may have. Fill out the form below to get in touch.

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