Tree surgeon and arborist are job descriptions that are mostly used interchangeably. Some people use one for the other and sometimes think that they have the same meaning. It is true there is a similarity between the two professions. However, there are distinctions between an arborist and a tree surgeon.

Tree surgeons take pride in having the qualification and vast experience in looking after trees and maintaining them. Their work involves mostly climbing and pruning them. However, tree surgeons are not always trained fully in the advanced care of trees. Also, they may not manage many biomechanical and biological issues facing trees and woodland. 

A tree surgeon can comfortably remove a tree stump or branch. They can also do hedge trimming and tree felling. But a professional inspection of the tree and proper management advice necessitate more expertise.

An experienced and qualified arborist, also called an arboricultural consultant, extensively understands early tree failure symptoms. They are capable of providing the right management recommendations. A tree surgeon cannot competently inspect tree condition as well as performing BS5837 surveys thereby assuring tree’s safety. If something goes wrong, a consulting arborist has Professional Indemnity Insurance to cover it.

Tree Surgeon

A Tree surgeon is skilled with safe tree pruning, removing and felling trees, including removing tree stumps. This is not a job that can be performed by anyone with a saw. It is the same way you would never allow your neighbour to operate on you without having practised as a qualified surgeon.

Fully qualified tree surgeons carry out very difficult jobs that are mostly dangerous. They can take on those tasks with precision, care, and professionalism. They must always ensure work is completed safely. For example, felling a tree requires a great deal of accuracy that cannot be attained without adequate training. There are many wrong things that can happen during felling trees such as bringing down surrounding trees when target trees crash into them.

Tree Surgeon


If you consider a tree surgeon as a medical surgeon, then an arborist can be considered as a doctor. The arborist is capable of identifying tree diseases accurately by observing symptoms that are displaying on the tree. They then provide the right recommendations to treat the tree. Treatment may involve passing the tree to a tree surgeon when required.

There are many interactions within ecological systems that make them very complex and vary widely according to the environment. Therefore, forestry agencies and gardeners cannot always mix groups of plants like trees together and expect harmony among them. It’s unfortunate that things cannot work that way all the time.

Arborist John Fryer

There are many similarities and some differences between a Tree Surgeon and an Arborist. An Arborist is trained and qualified to offer expert management and advice in all tree care aspects. In addition to tree work, their job involves evaluation of trees as well as surrounding area. They then perform only minimum tree work required to protect trees and environment as per the British Standards Recommendations.

A tree surgeon is trained to perform work like tree felling and pruning. Tree surgeons offer tree maintenance services such as pruning, tree felling, reducing, and removing dangerous trees from confined areas as per British BS3998:2010 Tree Work Recommendations.