Job Duties for Arborists

by Fred Decker

A handful of carefully selected trees can transform an outdoor space, whether it's a backyard or an entire city. They provide shade from the summer's heat, a habitat for birds and squirrels, and often attractive foliage or blossoms. Keeping those trees in top condition is the work of arborists, also known as tree trimmers or tree surgeons. Their work includes a range of specific duties.

Cosmetic Services

Some of an arborist's work is aesthetic. Building managers, governments, architects, landscaping firms or individual property owners often consult with arborists to choose, position and plant suitable trees for a property. They must be chosen to match the site's soil type, drainage, climate and sunlight, as well as meeting the client's requirements for an attractive appearance. Arborists also provide trimming and pruning services, shaping and directing the growth of trees to provide the most cosmetically pleasing appearance or to manage the amount of shade a tree provides.


Like any other living thing, trees can become ill and need professional care to recover. At times a tree might be attacked by bacterial or viral infections, insect infestations or molds and fungi. Skilled arborists can treat many of these conditions, using injections or sprays to attack the pests. They can also diagnose environmental factors that affect the trees' health, including poor soil, inadequate or contaminated water, or nearby forested areas that provide a breeding ground for pests. Some trees might need to be cut down and removed if they're too badly damaged, or if required by local legislation.


Sometimes an arborist's work centers around safety factors. If a tree is damaged by storms, lighting or disease, the arborist might need to cut away the damaged sections to prevent the whole tree being lost. Municipal arborists trim trees on civic properties to keep them from obstructing streets and pedestrian areas, and utility company arborists trim trees to keep them clear of power and telephone lines. For homeowners, arborists can assess the likelihood of a tree damaging the house or other properties and trim branches or trunks as needed. In some cases, a tree might need to be uprooted and removed to prevent damage to a home's foundation.


Aside from their hands-on work with trees, some arborists have advanced skills in tree-related legal and environmental issues. Governments or developers might hire a consulting arborist to assess the environmental impact of a proposed development, or to plan the preservation of specific trees in a work area. They can appraise trees and establish their value as part of a sale or civil lawsuit, sometimes acting as an expert witness in court. In liability disputes, a consulting arborist can determine whether a tree has been adequately cared for or whether there are grounds for a negligence complaint.

About the Author

Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

Photo Credits

  • Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images News/Getty Images