Tree Surgeons – Training, Qualifications, Experience and Who to Choose

A tree surgeon needs to have a wide array of training and experience in order to carry out his work in a safe and professional manner. If you employ the services of a tree surgeon, whether a company or an individual, you should be employing someone who not only knows how to care for your trees, but knows how to do so safely. I say safely because tree work can be hazardous and potentially dangerous. The job involves using dangerous machinery and more often than not the operator is working at height. Sometimes this takes place in awkward locations and in poor weather conditions, all at the same time! Needless to say, employing someone with the right knowledge and experience is essential.

Therefore it would be fair to say that there are three main areas of concern when it comes to considering whether a particular tree surgeon is suitable to carry out your work. Where possible, it’s best to employ the services of someone who is knowledgeable, competent and experienced.

How does a tree surgeon gain knowledge, competence, qualifications and experience?

Arboricultural Knowledge and Qualifications:

This is the knowledge and expertise required to investigate a tree’s health, identify and understand any apparent problems, and where appropriate, make suitable recommendations. Those who have studied arboriculture can attain professional qualifications. These vary in level from the ISA Certified Arborist Scheme, aimed at the working arborist (tree surgeon), right through to National Certificates and Diplomas for Consultants. Amongst the many subjects covered, training may include: species identification, tree biology, soils, fungi, pests and diseases, trees and the built environment and decay detection.

In situations where valuable trees are not at their best and are either succumbing to disease, pests or environmental conditions, causing problems to buildings or present a potential concern over safety, it is wise to thoroughly investigate the causes of the problem before considering taking any other action at all. This may initially involve employing the services of an Arboricultural Consultant, but should ensure that any work specified is both appropriate and not unnecessary. Any recommendation made by the Consultant can be provided to the tree surgeons as a basis for their quotations, thus ensuring suitable and comparative quotes.

Competence and Safety:

Certificates of Competence are available for many hands-on tasks that a tree surgeon undertakes. These are awarded when a tree surgeon undertakes training and satisfactory assessment of the required skills. Certificates of Competence may include chainsaw use, brushwood chippers, tree climbing, aerial rescue, risk assessment, first aid, highways signing and guarding, mobile elevated work platforms (MEWPS), pesticides and manual handling. For tree surgeons, training in these areas is mandatory under health and safety law. In the UK these training courses and certificates are provided by organisations such as LANTA, City and Guilds and NPTC.


As with any skill, tree surgery is learned over time and there is little substitute for time spent actually working on the job. A trainee will spend at least 5 years gaining the skills and experience to work safely, skilfully and at commercial speed. A trainee will be under close supervision of a skilled team leader and will learn from working as part of a team. The team will consist of both climbers and ground staff. Any tree surgeon you employ ought to have spent several years on the job, learning from others whilst building their portfolio of skills and experience. (You wouldn’t want to employ a tree surgeon who had only worked on hedges and small fruit trees to carry out a complicated dismantle of a mature tree over the roof of your house!).

Choosing your Tree Surgeon

There are some important questions you ought to ask when choosing a tree surgeon for your work. Asking questions at this stage is better than having regrets later on.

Will you provide me with a fixed price written quotation?

Unless the work you are asking for is open ended, then a fixed price quotation is a perfectly reasonable request. The written quotation should clearly lay out the specification for the work, the arrangement for dealing with the debris, the final price and if applicable the VAT. It should also include the company address and phone number (land-line). Other things to look for on the quote are reference to BS 3998:2010 and who is responsible for obtaining consent from the local planning authority (if the trees are protected).

Are you insured?

You can ask to see insurance certificates for Public Liability and Employers Liability. Never use a tree surgeon that is not insured!. (Tree Consultants will also have Professional Indemnity insurance).

What qualifications do you have?

As already mentioned, it’s best to have someone suitably qualified. Certificates of Competence for chainsaw use are compulsory, so don’t be shy in asking to see them!

Do you hold membership of any professional organisations?

Some tree surgery companies and individuals are members of professional organisations such as The Arboricultural Association and The International Society of Arborists. The Arboricultural Association, for example, has many members, but a select group of these are ‘Approved Contractors’. Arboricultural Association Approved Contractors are rigorously assessed every 3 years on all aspects of their professional work and a list of the contractors can be found at


Whatever qualifications and training a tree surgeon has it’s always worth having someone recommended by a trusted source, a friend or colleague, for example, who may know a tree surgeon they have used and been happy with before. It takes years for a tree surgeon to build a good reputation and a reputable one will want to keep it!

Looking for experienced Tree Surgeons? Call Tree Maintenance Ltd.
on 01285 760 466 and know you’ll be in safe hands.

Speak to an expert member of our team today
Jon Usher

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