An arborist and a tree service are two professions that involve the care of trees and other woody plants. While the terms are often used interchangeably, there are some critical distinctions between the two.

An arborist is a certified professional knowledgeable in all aspects of tree care, from planting to pruning to pest management. An arborist must have an advanced understanding of tree biology and physiology and a thorough knowledge of proper pruning techniques, insect and disease identification, soil health and fertilization, tree structure evaluation, and hazard assessment. 

To become certified, an arborist must complete an academic program accredited by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). They must also pass an exam that evaluates their knowledge of tree care best practices. Once certified, they must complete continuing education classes every three years to maintain their certification.

A tree service is a business or organization that provides services related to caring for trees, such as trimming, removal, stump grinding, spraying for pests and diseases, cabling and bracing weak branches, and crown cleaning. Tree services are not required to be certified by any specific organization but may hire individuals with ISA certifications or other relevant training. They typically focus on providing practical solutions to everyday problems, such as overgrown limbs causing property damage or dead trees that pose safety threats.

The main difference between an arborist and a tree service is the level of expertise each profession requires. An arborist has extensive knowledge about all aspects of tree care, including biology, anatomy, and pathology, while a tree service focuses primarily on practical maintenance solutions for existing trees. While both professions are essential for maintaining healthy urban forests, it’s important to understand which type of professional you need for your particular situation to get the best results possible from your project.