What is the difference between a tree surgeon and an arborist?

“Tree surgeon” is the well-known term for someone who can help manage and care for your trees, yet there is often confusion regarding the more in-depth role of an aboriculturist or arborist.

The skills and experience of a tree surgeon can vary widely.  Someone can be a tree surgeon if they have passed the exam for climbing with a chainsaw; they may have no knowledge of how to manage trees.  However, other tree surgeons will have many years of experience and knowledge.

An arborist will be expected to have additional expertise and qualifications to carry out professional tree inspections and related consultancy services.  They should also have professional indemnity insurance. 

Please be aware that the terms ‘tree surgeon’ and ’arborist’ (etc.) are not legally protected – unlike Vets, Registered Gas Engineers and Architects – therefore anyone can call themselves by their label of choice. We recommend that you ask for evidence of qualifications and experience before employing any contractor or consultant.

What does a tree surgeon do?

Many tree surgeons can boast appropriate qualifications and a great deal of experience in maintaining and looking after trees, usually by climbing and pruning the tree.  However they are not always fully trained in tree care and the many biological or bio-mechanical issues your trees and woodland may face.

A tree surgeon will be fully capable of removing a branch or tree stump, tree felling and hedge trimming, however a professional tree inspection or appropriate management advice will require the additional expertise of an arborist.

What does a tree arborist do?

A qualified and experienced arborist, or ‘arboricultural consultant’, will be able to understand tree physiology and biomechanics. An arborist will be able to assess tree defects and safety and provide appropriate management recommendations in order to reduce risk to an acceptable level.  

A consulting arborist will be fully competent to perform tree inspections and BS5837 surveys and assure the continued safety of your trees. Always ensure the arborist has the appropriate qualifications and Professional Indemnity insurance, in case something goes wrong.

Qualifications and experience

A consulting arborist will continue to improve their practical and academic knowledge throughout their career, attending seminars and conferences, maintaining professional memberships, studying relevant literature and sharing knowledge with colleagues.

I am the Proprietor of Arbor Vitae Arboriculture, a fully qualified consulting arborist and tree surgeon (prior to 2010) with over 16 years of experience.

As a senior arborist, my qualifications include:

  • LANTRA Professional Tree Inspector Certificate
  • Level 4 Award in Arboriculture
  • Certificate of Competence in ‘Bats & Tree Related Works

My current professional memberships include:

These memberships and qualifications – plus 16 years of experience in tree surgery and arboricultural consultancy – make me a senior arborist and allow me to state professional expertise in tree inspections and BS5837 surveys.

Further skills and experience

I continue to develop further skills via training courses and voluntary work, including climbing giant rainforest trees under the instruction of ecological researchers.  

I have plentiful experience in tree services including lighting, tree planting, soil de-compaction, tool-less trenching, woodland design and management.

Arborist and consultancy services

Myself and the Arbor Vitae team work with many residential and corporate clients in Scotland including large construction firms, councils and utility providers.

We provide professional consultancy services such as pre-development surveys, inspections for bats in trees and soil de-compaction as well as the essential care and management of trees and woodlands.

Find out about our services and my own extensive knowledge and experience:
Arboricultural Reports & Surveys
Tree Planting & Care
About Mike

If you would like further information regarding any of our services, or if you need a recommended tree surgeon in the Edinburgh area, please don’t hesitate to get in touch:

Mike Charkow (Senior Arborist)
07917 335 066

View Mike Charkow's profile on LinkedIn

About Arbor Vitae Arboriculture
Mike Charkow CV (May 2023)

This is an edited Blog post, original posted on February 17th 2017