What Is The Difference Between a Tree Surgeon and an Arborist?

What Is The Difference Between a Tree Surgeon and an Arborist?

It is common for people to get easily confused between a tree surgeon and an arborist. When looking for a local tree surgeon online, one of the first things you notice is that two names appear to crop up – tree surgeon and arborist.

But the question remains for people unfamiliar with tree care or any tree work: what is the difference between a tree surgeon and an arborist?

Tree Surgeon vs Arborist: What you need to know

This blog post will guide you in reaching the right person for the tree service you require, and with this new acquired knowledge you can pass this onto your family and friends. You will know the difference and the similarities between a tree surgeon and arborist. Moreover, if you wish to learn more about tree biology, hazards, and disease, some further educational resources are available.

The professionalisation of the tree industry

It has been a long and winding journey to becoming a more professionally recognised industry for every tree surgeon and arborist. Several significant “acts of God,” acts of parliament, and educational milestones have occurred along the road, including the following:

  1. The Local authority hired the first tree officers in the 1970s. The majority of local authorities today have arboricultural offices and staff that deal with planning, TPOs (Tree Preservation Orders), and tree planting and maintenance.
  2. During the great storm in 1987, the authorities and the public woke and realised how destructive a falling tree could get.
  3. The publication of The Body Language of Trees: A Handbook for Failure Analysis in 1995, and The Principles of Tree Hazard Assessment and Management in 1999.
  4. In 2000, the Diagnosis of Ill-Health in Trees was published. It included pathogens from the UK. Nearly all UK tree problems are addressed in this book. It also had legislation on preventing and treating diseases and pests, tree safety, and decay and tree diseases.
  5. Forestry Commission guidance following the discovery of Chalara Ash Dieback disease.


Tree surgeons and arborists: the difference

As a result of their education, tree surgeons and arborists are well-versed in tree ownership and science and legislation. You will be able to distinguish a professional arborist from a tree surgeon because of his main focus. Moreover, there are also different things they cater to.

Tree Surgeon

A tree surgeon will be educated and trained in the proper use of chainsaws, tree climbing, and working to the current health and safety guidelines. The following are a tree surgeons primary concerns:

  • Tree felling and tree pruning
  • Clearance of trees and shrub
  • Clearance of the area
  • Stump removal or grinding
  • Removal of a dead or dying trees
  • Removal or windblown or storm damaged trees

Tree Arborist

Arborists or arboriculturists are professionals in the management and care of trees.

As opposed to tree surgeons, arborists offer a more comprehensive range of services than just tree care and tree removal. Arborists are trained professionals able to identify the symptoms of poor tree health and importantly provide advice, whether it is recommendations on planting new trees that are suitable in the conditions available, or accurately identifying diseases in trees and providing suggestions to manage these.


Arborists are knowledgeable in the art and science of tree care and must have the necessary qualifications and certifications in in tree biology, science, and ecological management to claim the job title.

Listed below are a few of the areas arborists are involved with:

  • Methods of Arboriculture Statements dealing with reports on the impact of new construction on tree roots in the area.
  • Surveys of the Topography
  • Strategies for tree preservation
  • Diagnosing and treating pests and diseases
  • Assessing and managing tree risk, and removing trees if necessary
  • Offering consulting services and preparing arborist reports
  • Protecting and preserving trees during construction and development projects
  • Selecting and planting trees appropriate to the environment
  • Offering consultation services to homeowners, private companies and government agencies in matters relating to tree care, tree planting strategies, tree-related education programs, and tree risk assessments.

As ever a note of caution:

Not all tree surgeons or arborists go about in vans marked “tree surgeon, arborist” You may be dealing with a cowboy dealer.

Cowboy traders abound, claiming to undertake “tree work” without required equipment. Before making a booking, check for tree surgery advertising, insurance, qualifications, and client reviews.

Final Words

Whether a tree arborist or a tree surgeon, every tree expert is important for maintaining tree health and safety. You have to know which tree service you need. Does your property require an academic or scientific assessment, or are you satisfied with someone who focuses solely on physical tree maintenance?

If you need a professional tree surgeon, don’t hesitate to reach out to The Glasgow Tree Surgeon. When you hire them, you can rest assured that your trees will be treated with the utmost care and respect while experiencing the least amount of inconvenience possible.


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