What is an Arborist?

Posted by Joseph Barnes on Jul 8, 2024 7:35:07 AM

It would be tough to overstate the importance of trees in commercial landscapes. Besides the natural wonder they offer in boundless shapes and sizes, trees can increase property values, attract shoppers to retail spaces, and provide health benefits like improving air quality and regulating blood pressure.

With that kind of value, these special landscaping elements need specialized care that only an arborist can provide. 

An arborist is a professional with extensive training in the care and management of trees and shrubs. There’s so much more to this profession than the ability to climb and operate a chainsaw. Arborists play a vital role in a property’s overall landscape through:

  • Developing comprehensive tree management plans (often for entire communities)
  • Diagnosing and treating diseases and pests
  • Tree selection for planting
  • Pruning and trimming for health, function, and aesthetics
  • Removing dangerous or unwanted trees

Arborists use their expertise in arboriculture to ensure the safety, beauty, and longevity of trees. This impacts a landscape as a whole, and that’s why Yellowstone Landscape believes that our arborists should be a part of the property’s landscape service team, rather than a standalone service, separate from the rest of the landscape.

Definition of an Arborist

What is an arborist—exactly? The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) defines an arborist as:

"A professional who possesses the technical competence gained through experience and related training to provide for or supervise the management of trees and other woody plants in residential, commercial, and public landscapes."


As you can tell, this is a serious profession that requires a love of nature, dedication, and extensive training. However, there are many paths to becoming a certified arborist (our company assists with certification). 

The ISA can provide you with the basics of arboriculture with a 40-hour course that covers:

  • Tree biology and identification
  • Climbing techniques
  • Safety standards
  • Chainsaw training

To become a certified arborist, you need at least three years of full-time working experience in arboriculture to qualify for the ISA exam. What qualifies as experience?

Employment at a tree care company, nursery, or landscaping business. Tree-related work for utility companies and municipalities may also count.

However, less on-the-job experience is required if you have a degree.

  • Two-year degree reduces experience needed to two years
  • Four-year degree in a related field reduces experience needed to one year
  • Associate degree with a minimum of two arboriculture courses reduces experience required to two years

Of course, many outlets offer preparation courses for the ISA Certified Arborist Exam. Your employer may pay for prep exams and the ISA exam fee (ISA members pay $170. Non-members pay $280. Computer-based testing is an extra $125).

The Role of Arborists in Landscaping

Since trees impact everything around them, including turf, shrubbery, flowers, and buildings, an arborist is a vital asset to commercial landscapes. Commercial tree trimming is only a tiny part of the picture. Arborists guide property owners and developers on tree selection and planting best practices to ensure trees thrive and need less maintenance.

What do arborists understand that provides this level of guidance?

  • Available space (presently and for future growth)
  • The right tree for the right environment
  • Ideal soil conditions
  • Local climate

A certified arborist sets the stage for success and maintains it with proper pruning techniques (critical to tree health and aesthetic appeal). Professional trimming can be the difference between costly removal a decade later and a tree that lives for sixty-plus years. Not only that but having an experienced arborist doing health assessments and treatments helps prevent pest infestations that might ravage multiple trees.

Three more arborist roles:

  • Long-term tree management planning
  • Risk assessments (i.e., tree hazards)
  • Tree removal and stump grinding

Removal is typically the last resort. When necessary, the importance of an experienced arborist is highlighted. They ensure safety for people, structures, and utilities, along with minimizing damage to the surrounding landscape. Yellowstone Landscape Arborists work with our landscape designers and crew to plan for new plantings once the tree’s removed and stump grinding is complete.


When to Hire an Arborist

With so many scenarios that call for arborist expertise, we’ll list as many as possible before looking at what an arborist brings to the table in certain situations.

  1. Tree planting and selection
  2. Health assessments and treatments
  3. Tree hazard evaluation
  4. Mitigating tree and limb risks
  5. Construction projects
  6. Neighbor disputes over trees
  7. Storm damage assessment and clean-up
  8. Utility line clearance
  9. Preserving heritage trees
  10. Landscape design plans
  11. Tree appraisals
  12. Urban forestry management
  13. Ecological projects
  14. Expert analysis for tree-related accidents

That list shows that arborists are extremely valuable professionals who can make a positive impact with their expertise. Their preventative care protects trees from pests and disease while managing proper nutrient additives.

Prevention is especially crucial for highly-valued specimen trees. Professional pruning, fine-tuned fertilization programs, and integrated pest management strategies are essential for preserving trees and their inherent benefits seen below:

  • Trees promote physical activity and mental health
  • Reduce stress fatigue, and recovery time after medical procedures
  • Lower crime rates and create a sense of community
  • Provide privacy and muffle noise
  • Reduce UV exposure and skin cancer risk
  • Increase worker productivity and reduce absenteeism
  • Act as natural air fresheners by absorbing odors

Further benefits of hiring an arborist include having a guide for regulations related to tree care and management, while reducing liability concerns for property owners. Considering the enormous long-term savings (avoiding tree loss, fewer maintenance issues, property damage, legal problems, etc.) consulting an experienced arborist is financially wise.

Arborist Qualifications and Training

We broke down ISA Certification requirements and how Yellowstone is happy to assist our employees in their pursuit of arborist certification. But since this profession requires world-class safety practices and professionalism, ongoing training is mandatory.

Continuing Education Units are usually required every three years. Workshops, conferences, webinars, online courses, and safety programs can count toward these units. Safety is pivotal, as it protects more than trees, property, and passers-by. Continuous training ensures the arborist and team get through each day safely. Training can cover equipment, electrical hazards, and rescues.

Yellowstone arborists participate in our weekly Safety Rodeos with their crews (more on what our arborists’ workdays look like coming up).

We recommend arborists enhance their knowledge with industry events hosted by the ISA and Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA)—next event is November 7 - 9, 2024. These events connect arborists with new research and techniques that they can share with their teams and mentor employees interested in becoming an arborist. 

*Indeed.com reports the average arborist salary is $60,675.


A Day in the Life of Our Arborists

One of the best things about being a Yellowstone Landscape arborist is the freedom to get outdoors, visiting unique locations each week as you talk with commercial property owners. It’s a great position for nature lovers who enjoy protecting beauty and adding more of it to the world.

Yellowstone arborists also work with landscaping teammates to present large proposals to HOA boards with land and tree care needs. 

Other duties include:

  • Scheduling
  • Routing
  • Overseeing work
  • Developing tree healthcare plans
  • Tree assessments

Detailed Services Provided by Arborists

All the training we’ve covered means arborists can handle a wide range of tree and woody plant services and ensure the meticulous details are covered.

Precision pruning and trimming protect trees’ structural integrity, health, and aesthetics. The steps can include crown thinning, reduction, and cleaning. Tree and plant healthcare can entail nutrient adjustments, treating fungal diseases, soil analysis, and bracing (for structural support).

Then you have emergency tree services that are critical after storms wreak havoc on utilities and structures. Arborists not only manage clean-up crews but also make necessary assessments beforehand. By the way, storm damage can be mitigated through risk assessments long before bad weather strikes.

But when damage is done, and trees are lost, arborists provide planting and transplanting guidance. Choosing ideal trees for specific locations protects property owners’ investments in their landscape. The same goes for new developments.

A few more services that get overlooked but are just as important in arboriculture:

  • Tree Appraisals: Assessing the value of trees (i.e., insurance claims, property transactions, or disputes).
  • Preservation: Tree protection planning during pre-construction and root zone management.
  • Urban Forestry: Managing public trees and green spaces, and ordinance guidance.
  • Expert Witness: Tree-related investigations (i.e., arborists hailed as heroes after 9/11).

Arborists often go on rescue missions. Many volunteered to try to save a 150-year-old banyan tree damaged by the Maui fires of 2023.

Want to learn about Yellowstone Landscape arborist careers? Apply here.

How to Choose the Right Arborist

All the top arborists have several characteristics in common that go beyond owning a bucket truck and a pole saw—(just search YouTube for arborist fails).

The best arborists have a deep desire to care for trees, their customers, the crews they lead, and the environment. 

They also care about their craft. Top-notch tree experts know that ongoing training is mandatory, yet they also invest their free time in sharpening their skills.

This dedication to the craft is what keeps trees thriving, landscapes healthy, and gets tree crews home safely day after day. 

These qualities are a must when choosing an arborist to service your commercial property. It’s also vital to verify certifications, necessary licenses, insurance, and that they have the right equipment for the job and location. Use online reviews, but also call around to ensure reviews’ legitimacy (phone call testimonials are hard for companies to fake).

Another tip for choosing the right arborist? Consider your entire landscape needs. For example, most commercial tree trimming companies only handle trees and aren’t professional landscapers. The majority won’t have certified landscape designers to help plan for what comes after the tree work. 

Yellowstone’s arborists are more than tree experts. They’re a key part of our landscaping team.

The Impact of Proper Tree Care on Commercial Landscaping

Trees make a world of difference on commercial properties. This is never more obvious than when you notice a property without any trees at all—something is clearly missing. And it isn’t just their natural beauty. All the benefits like erosion control, privacy, and refreshing shade are missing, not to mention the economic value. 

Arborists play the number one role in creating new and ideal spaces for trees, while providing expert care for existing trees. Without these professionals, all the benefits of these living, breathing landscape elements would be sorely diminished. 


We covered exactly what an arborist is, all the training required for becoming a certified arborist, and the unique range of services they provide. This profession’s importance is highlighted by all the benefits of maintaining healthy, attractive trees.

And it’s good to reiterate that an arborist's tree management impacts the entire property, from structures to turf to shrubbery to the people using the property. This is the case at Yellowstone Landscape because our mission is to provide comprehensive landscaping services and our arborists are integral to that mission.

Contact us today to work with our certified and seasoned arborists for optimal tree management.



Meet with Us

Are you ready to discuss your property's specific challenges?

Request Quote
Joseph Barnes

About The Author

Joseph Barnes

Joseph Barnes has served as Marketing Manager of Yellowstone Landscape since 2013. He writes on a variety of topics related to the commercial landscaping industry.