Tree Surgeon jobs(Also known as Tree climber, Arborist)
A tree surgeon is a horticultural maintenance engineer who is responsible for felling trees, pruning branches and shrubs, planting, replanting, splitting logs and hedge-cutting. Tree surgery is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, with a high potential for incident due to the heights involved and the powered machinery which must be used to do the job. However, those who become involved with the profession tend to find the role very exciting and continue with it as a long-term career. Being a tree surgeon suits those who hanker after an outdoor lifestyle; the candidate must be prepared to work outdoors in all conditions, and this forms a large part of the appeal in many cases. It is hard, physical work, and keeps the candidate in good physical condition. Hot summer days can often be worse than the cold winter mornings! A good tree surgeon is both an experienced climber and a skilled power-tool technician, and needs to be able to use complicated and dangerous equipment in an elevated and precarious position. It is certainly one of the truly challenging outdoor jobs.
SalaryThe starting salary for an unskilled junior who wishes to join an established company without industry qualifications is £11,500, rising to £14,500 after the first two years experience. After three years experience, and accreditation from the Arboricultural Association (at diploma level), the salary can rise to between £18,500 and £20,500, although this can reach £30,000 depending on arw and size of the business. Often a tree surgeon will operate as a sole trader or small partnership, and fees are based on a day rate. This can range from £60 a day up to £135 per day, depending on experience and demand. It tends to be a career choice for those who crave thrills and outdoor air, as opposed to fabulous remuneration or an easy life.
- Listen to customer requirements for site work and prepare on-site or telephone quotation.
- Arrive at site on the agreed day and commence work at the pre-agreed time.
- Complete the necessary felling, pruning, planting, replanting, log removal and hedge work.
- Tidy site on completion and fulfil removal of waste product from customer’s site.
- Invoice for work and appraise future customer work requirements.
- Ensure all insurance documents for personal injury and public liability are valid.
QualificationsIt is possible to enter the profession as an unskilled trainee with no academic qualifications, and candidates taking this route need to understand that remuneration is quite poor. However, the on-site experience gained from going out with an experienced tree surgeon will stand the candidate in good stead. Also, there are various different certifications and accreditation certificates which can be studied for and achieved, supported by the ongoing work experience. The Arboricultural Association website is the best place to start. It pays to have a pre-defined idea as to the specialisations the candidate wishes to study, to support their rapid career development.
- Be proficient with power tools and other powered equipment.
- Understanding of the dangers and complexities involved with the various aspects of work.
- Be familiar with how best to ensure the safety of all personnel, and of the customer, their family and their staff.
- To be able to complete work in a timely and professional manner.
- Have a desire to push towards further academic professional advancement.
Working ConditionsLogging routinely figures in surveys as the second most dangerous job in the world, behind deep sea fishing; certain elements of the tree surgeon's occupation fall into the same category of risk as logging. This is an extremely dangerous job, with constant threats to health and safety, not just from the use of power tools or falling, but also long term health risks from heavy lifting and repeated twisting movements. Yet, a healthy individual will settle into the rigours of the daily job and become much fitter as a result. It is worth noting that for candidates who wish to enter the profession as self-employed business owners, insurance premiums for personal injury and public liability risks are extremely high; this needs to be factored into operating costs when preparing an initial business plan. Juxtaposed with this high level of risk, there is the converse appeal of being able to work outside in nice weather (on occasion), and breathing clean air all day. Contrast this to the hum-drum, grey existence of many an office job and the appeal for the tree surgeon becomes more tangible.
ExperienceMany candidates who join with zero qualifications do so between the ages of 18 and 25. If the candidate does not wish to study at college before commencing full-time employment, then the younger the better in terms of starting age, as this will allow for quickly developing the skills needed to progress with one’s career in the longer term. After a period of four to five years, candidates who are working for established tree surgery firms should then have a skill set which will enable them to set up their own business, even if their learning process is not yet fully complete.
EmployersAlthough Woodland Solutions UK and Peter Jackson Developments are examples of companies that are larger arboricultural operations, most tend to be entrepreneurial or family-run in nature, and so remain quite small. In the case of dealing with larger customer sites such as hospitals and schools, the contract for the groundwork and maintenance will normally be let as a ‘comprehensive services’ package, and so these contractors (such as the vast Sodexo Corporation) are beyond the scope of this article.
Tom Fellows is a tree surgeon based in Brighton, and owns Arborcura, a successful and well- established tree felling and tree care business.