This chart was developed by ASCA to help the consumer select the best suited Consulting Arborist to meet their needs. Each title listed has different levels of skills and experience to consider. Consulting arborists may come from a diverse background including foresters, landscape architects, practicing arborists, and different specialties in arboriculture. They may specialize in their work and possess diverse skills. Consulting Arborists are professionals and have ethical standards to meet in the delivery of their services.
The most competent arborists will possess a combination of technical experience, training, communication skills, and education that they utilize in their chosen specialties.
Arborists may serve as field arborists, supervisors, diagnosticians, consultants, tree and landscape appraisers, expert witnesses, educators, and other titles. Different titles and qualifications allow clients to better choose an arborist's services. The practice of arboriculture requires specialized training and experience to best understand what may be affecting tree health or how to best assess a tree's situation.
The public is best served when they find the most competent arborist who possesses the necessary level of technical, communication; report writing skills and experience for their particular situation.
|Title||Specialization or Chief Skills|
|ASCA Registered Consulting Arborist® (RCA)||Has demonstrated higher skills in certain technical areas related to trees and tree care, providing objective, independent opinions, with training for higher communication, presentation and/or report writing skills.|
|ISA Board Certified Master Arborist (BCMA)||Has demonstrated higher skills in certain technical aspects of tree care and equipment used as an arborist, with higher knowledge of arboriculture.|
|ASCA Member||Has demonstrated higher skills in certain technical areas related to trees and tree care, providing objective, independent opinions with improved communication and presentation skills.|
|Educators, Researchers, and Cooperative Extension staff||Have demonstrated higher education and skills in diagnosis of tree growth and conditions, with improved communication and presentation skills; may lack field experience.|
|Landscape Architect License / Registration||Requires a 4 or 5 year college degree and range of 1 to 5 years of design experience to take the license exam; has demonstrated a higher competency in design and planning; may lack field experience with trees.|
|ISA Certified Arborist specialties
(Municipal, Utilities, and Tree Risk Assessor)
|Has demonstrated higher knowledge and skills in the subject specialty of arboriculture.|
|ISA Certified Arborist||Has demonstrated basic knowledge to inspect trees and perform tree care. Required state arborist statute designations or licenses. Has demonstrated basic knowledge to perform tree care, with required minimum qualifications (individual and/or business) to meet statute requirements for the specific jurisdiction.|
|State Licensed or Professional Forester||Has demonstrated basic knowledge of forest practices and forest management plan. Required in some states to write plans for forest management; forestry is generally not required in urban areas; may lack field experience with individual trees.|
|Certified Urban Forester (CaUFC) or Certified Forester (SAF- CF)||Has demonstrated a higher level of knowledge and experience in urban forestry and urban forest management; may include fire suppression, and Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) property mitigation/ Basic knowledge and experience in Forestry.|
|ISA Certified Tree Worker||Has demonstrated a basic knowledge of tree care to assist certified arborists in performing tree care services.|
Explanation of Skills and Experience Required for Each Designation
Following is an explanation of the necessary training and skills required to achieve the different designations in the chart above:
Registered Consulting Arborist® — American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA) Membership (qualifications listed below), graduation from ASCA Consulting Academy, 420 of approved Continuing Education Units (CEU). Submits and passes two consulting reports for technical writing review. Thirty (30) Continuing Education Units required every two years to maintain registration.
Board Certified Master Arborist — an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborist in good standing and have combination of additional education and/or experience to qualify, passing an exam. Sixty (60) Continuing Education Units every three years to maintain certification.
American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA) Membership — Five or more years of industry experience, and four-year degree in arboriculture or a related field, or 240 or more approved Continuing Education Units earned for degrees, course work, and industry conference attendance, or have BCMA. Membership eligibility is determined through an independent, objective review of these qualifications. Members are also required to read and abide by the Standards of Professional Practice. Must receive thirty (30) Continuing Education Units every two years.
Educators, Researchers, and Cooperative Extension Staff in the field of Arboriculture or Urban Forestry — Have a Masters or PhD degree in a field related to tree care. May perform research and provide outreach to the public and professionals.
Landscape Architect — Must have a 4 to 5 year Bachelor or Masters degree and 1 to 5 years of experience, in addition to education, to qualify, pass an exam. License required in 49 states; training mostly focused on design, architecture, and planning. Recertification required in many states through continuing education.
ISA Certified Arborist specialties (Municipal and Utility) — an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborist in good standing and have achieved additional education and three years specialized experience to qualify, passing an exam. Forty-two (42) Continuing Education Units every three years to maintain certification.
Tree Risk Appraiser Qualification — an ISA Certified Arborist, Registered Professional Forester in British Columbia, or Registered Forest Technician in British Columbia in good standing and has taken risk assessment course, passing an exam. Re-certification by exam every four years.
Certified Urban Forester (California) — Have one of the following designations, ISA Certified Arborist, California Registered Professional Forester, ASCA Registered Consulting Arborist®, experience and pass an exam. Experience may include: Thirteen years of verifiable experience in Urban Forestry (may include summer employment and/or internships), an accredited Associate Degree in Urban Forestry or related fields and 9 years of verifiable Urban Forestry experience, a Bachelors Degree in Urban Forestry or related fields and 5 years of verifiable Urban Forestry experience, an Advanced Degree in Urban Forestry or related fields and 3 years of verifiable experience in Urban Forestry. At least 2 years of field experience must be at the supervisory or program management level. Thirty (30) continuing education credits every three (3) years to maintain certification.
ISA Certified Arborist — A professional arborist with a minimum three years of full-time experience in arboriculture, passing an exam. Thirty (30) Continuing Education Credits every three years to maintain certification.
Required arborist statute designations or licenses — State or municipality required arborist designations or licenses allowing an individual or their company to perform business as a tree care company. Experience may be similar to the ISA Arborist Certification and knowing state or local laws and protocols. Statute attainment and re-certification and CEU requirements vary by state and municipality. Most states do not require an arborist license to practice tree care, but do require an occupational/contractors license. Some municipalities may require a tree service or arborist license to practice tree care.
State Licensed or Professional Forester — Have seven years of experience in forestry work; a Bachelor of Science degree in Forestry may count towards four years of work experience. Pass a comprehensive examination that is administered by the Professional Foresters Examining Committee. May lack field experience with individual trees.
SAF Certified Forester — Have accredited 4 year degree; 5 years professional forester work experience in the past 10 years in one of four forestry related areas: Resource Assessment, Stakeholder Analysis and Relations, Management Planning, Execution of Management Plan, passing an exam. Sixty (60) hours of continuing education each 3 years; may lack field experience with individual trees.
ISA Certified Tree Worker — A professional tree worker with eighteen months experience in arboriculture climbing or aerial lift operation with documented training, passing a knowledge and skills exam. Fifteen (15) Continuing Education Credits every three years to maintain certification.
Consulting Arborist Special Skills
The special skills and services Consulting Arborists can provide:
Arboricultural Consultant. An ASCA member, a professional engaged in arboricultural consulting, also known as a Consulting Arborist. ASCA and the RCA credential were developed, in addition to advanced knowledge about trees, to improve consulting skills and focus on the ability to communicate and present conclusions and recommendations in a clear manner.
Arboricultural Consulting. A profession which involves the independent and objective application of technical knowledge, analytical skills and professional judgment to arboricultural-related facts and circumstances in order to provide observations, conclusions and appropriate recommendations.
Consulting Forensic Expert. An expert who, in a dispute, assists one side to understand evidence, factual elements of the dispute or relative strengths and weaknesses of issues. A Consulting Forensic Expert does not testify before a trier-of-fact and is distinguished from an Expert Witness/Testifying Expert by applicable legal procedural rules.
Expert. A person who possesses special knowledge, skill, experience, training or education in a specific field, vocation or occupation.
Expert Witness. A witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training or education in a particular field. An Expert Witness assists a trier-of-fact to understand evidence or determine a fact in issue by testifying - in the form of an opinion or otherwise - to scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge. An Expert Witness is also known as a Testifying Expert and is distinguished from a Consulting Forensic Expert by applicable legal procedural rules.
Forensic Expert. An Expert who offers or provides expertise in courts of justice or other public forums for the resolution of disputes and who may act either as a Testifying Expert (Expert Witness) or as a Consulting Forensic Expert.
Independence. Freedom — in fact and appearance — from influences that could prejudice objectivity.
Independent. Acting with, or possessing Independence, based on honest convictions and judgments.
Profession. (1) An occupation or vocation requiring advanced education and training; collectively, the members of such an occupation or vocation. (2) Activity based on an organized body of specific knowledge and expertise and which may be characterized by:
- an advanced level of knowledge, training and experience (which may be evidenced by a professional accreditation, certification, designation or license)
- the use of judgment in reaching conclusions
- the acknowledgment of the trust and special confidence which is placed in the profession by laypersons due to their reliance on professional expertise which the layperson does not possess and cannot easily acquire
- adherence to a body or code of professional ethics; i.e. arboricultural consulting as practiced by ASCA members is a profession including all of these characteristics.
Professional. (noun) A person who belongs to a learned profession or whose occupation requires a high level of training and proficiency.
Related Consulting. Activities that involve the independent and objective application of technical knowledge, analytical skills and professional judgment to provide observations, conclusions and appropriate recommendations in areas related to arboricultural consulting (such as Forestry, Horticulture, Soil Science, Wetlands, Wildlife, and so forth). These areas related to arboricultural consulting may be:
- conducted as part of an arboricultural consulting assignment or case; or
- offered or provided in the context of arboricultural consulting; or
- offered or provided with the ASCA Designation, ASCA Logo or ASCA Seal.
Report. (noun) The oral or written presentation — by a Consulting Arborist to a client, employer or other user(s) — containing the observations, conclusions, opinions, recommendations or other results of consulting activity in an arboricultural consulting practice; described in the ASCA Bylaws as 'the normal work product of a Consulting Arborist.'
Standardized Definitions for Use in Permits, Ordinances, or Specifications
Arborist Report is an independent report prepared by a qualified professional arborist containing specific observations and information on tree identification, size, condition, location, tree health. It may also include: recommended actions, potential impacts of development, and mitigation measures relating to one or more trees on an individual lot or project site. The report may require amendments as conditions change over time. The report may address specific requirements for a project or jurisdiction.
Certified Arborist is an individual who is certified as an arborist by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) with a current and active ISA certification number. Will agree in writing to perform all work in accordance with ANSI A300 standards. Different certification titles should be specified as appropriate for the specialties or advanced designation that best fits the project.
Certified Tree Worker is an individual who is certified as a Tree Worker by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) with a current and active ISA certification number; will agree in writing to perform all work in accordance with ANSI A300 standards.
Consulting Arborist is an individual with five or more years of professional experience as a certified arborist and who has documented report writing training and experience and 240 hours of approved education units; or a member of ASCA. Will agree in writing to perform all work in accordance with ANSI A300 standards.
Registered Consulting Arborist® is an arborist that is identified by ASCA as an RCA by having met the required experience and education (see Explanation of Skills and Experience Required for Each Designation above). Will agree in writing to perform all work in accordance with ANSI A300 standards.