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Arboriculture is the care of trees, shrubs, and other woody plants. An arborist is a professional who cares for these plants. Many career opportunities are waiting for arborists in the tree care industry.

Arborists are people who like to work outdoors with their hands, enjoy helping the environment, take pride in their work, and prefer work that is physically and mentally challenging. Arborists combine physical skills, technical knowledge, and a sincere interest in trees to gain personal satisfaction and earn a good living.

Trees have enormous value. They produce oxygen, filter impurities from the air and water, and help to control erosion. They provide shade and can significantly lower heating and cooling costs. When properly selected, planted, and maintained, they greatly increase property values.

Trees are the largest and oldest living things on Earth. It may seem strange to think that trees need help to survive in urban and suburban conditions. But without regular care, they can quickly change from a valuable resource to a costly burden. That's when the skills of the professional arborist are needed.

Arboriculture involves many types of activities. Arborists select and transplant trees. Arborists prune, cable, fertilize, plant, and remove trees. They treat trees for harmful insects and diseases. In short, arborists ensure that the trees in their care grow well and remain structurally safe so that people can enjoy them for generations to come.

There are arborists who work for cities and towns, utility companies, and colleges and universities. By far, however, the largest employer of arborists in North America is the commercial tree service industry. Commercial arboriculture involves individuals, partnerships, and companies. Commercial arborists work for homeowners, property managers, golf courses, power companies, and government agencies.

Career opportunities in commercial arboriculture across the United States are plentiful. Most employers eagerly accept applications and readily train people with the right attitude. Employers commonly provide on-thejob training for entry-level positions, which means that inexperienced employees can prepare for advancement while they earn a living. Training prepares the fledgling arborist for advancement into such positions as tree climber and crew leader. Promotions into sales or management positions are common.

Specialized training is available at technical and vocational schools and community colleges. Many four-year colleges and universities have programs in arboriculture, forestry, horticulture, plant science, pest management, and natural resources.

Wages and benefits available in arboricultural careers vary widely, depending upon the employer's size, geographic location, and other factors. The National Arborist Association conducted a survey of commercial tree service companies across the United States. It showed that in 1999 the average hourly wage paid to an entry-level employee without an advanced degree was $9.51.

As computers and new electrical tools enter the profession, the need for skilled, educated professionals will grow. Modern arboriculture demands decisions and treatments based on an understanding of a tree's biological and chemical systems. Working with trees offers a unique chance to challenge oneself both physically and mentally.

The arboriculture profession has diverse employment opportunities. Where one starts depends upon attitude, education, and experience. The same opportunity for advancement is available for everyone. With a career in arboriculture, advancement opportunities and potential financial rewards are wide open. Finally, working in the field of arboriculture is stimulating, personally rewarding, and beneficial to the environment.

see also Forestry; Tree Architecture; Trees.

Peter Gerstenberger