How to Become a Certified Arborist in Europe

Becoming an arborist is an exciting and rewarding career path. It offers freedoms that other jobs don’t allow, often combining skill, intelligence and work ethic with a love of the outdoors and trees. However, with a reported 1,015 Million Hectares of trees within Europe’s borders, how are European Authorities keeping track of the standards of the thousands of qualified arborists working on these trees? Enter the European Arboricultural Standard (EAC).

So what is the EAC, and how do they help you become a certified arborist in Europe? The EAC set out a framework for arborists working within the European Union to ensure high-quality tree care operations and a competent level of training in an effort to facilitate the international exchange of tree workers. The certificate is known as a ‘European Tree Worker’ diploma and it allows a level standard of work to be observed all over the continent with set rules, regulations and practices. 

Attaining such a qualification is a sign of career development, so join us below to find out how you can become certified as a European Tree Worker. 

How Do I Become a Certified European Tree Worker? 

Becoming a certified European Tree Worker requires the candidate to first be eligible for the examination, and then to complete the examination to a satisfactory level. This examination is held in many countries across Europe, with assessments taking place at various times throughout the year. 

Find your Certification Centre here

The entry requirements require proof of a sufficient level of competency within the field of arboriculture.

The EAC released a handbook with guides on how to prepare and pass the exam in order to become certified. However, at 56 Euros a copy, we thought that it would be good to run you through every aspect of the examination. Our guide should help you understand the EAC exam with a detailed view of each core aspect and the passing grade expected by the examiners. 

We will take a detailed look at each of the sections of the exam and the entry requirements below. 

What are the Entry Requirements for the European Tree Worker’s Arborist Certificate? 

To apply for a European Tree Worker Certification, there are a number of pre-existing requirements: 

  • The candidate must be 18 years of age or older,
  • Proof of payment of the certification fee,
  • Proof of physical and mental ability to carry out operations surrounding tree care safely with either a medical certificate or a self-declaration of the above,
  • Proof of sufficient chainsaw experience, either at a ground or at a height,
  • Valid qualification in first aid, according to the national regulations, 
  • If the applicant is a climber, adequate proof of aerial rescue must be provided (however, if this can’t be supplied, then you will be required to complete a simulation of aerial rescue on your examination),
  • If the candidate is a MEWP operator, then proof of skills in the use of a MEWP/platform and emergencies must be provided, 
  • The candidate must be fluent in the language of the country in which the examination takes place. No translation will be permitted.

Unlike other nationally recognised certificates (such as the ISA in the USA and the Arboricultural Association in the UK), the European Tree Worker Certificate doesn’t require any formal education qualifications to apply for or pass the exam. 

For detailed information on the application process and qualifications required for UK and USA-recognised arborist certifications, or for more information on how these certifications are recognised internationally, please read our blogs by following the links below. 

What Does the European Tree Worker Examination Consist of? 

The European Tree Workers Examination Consists of 5 core modules and 1 or both additional modules,  including;

With the additional modules of either;

Let's go through each of these in detail to illustrate what is expected of each candidate for each of these areas of assessment. 

Written Theoretical Examination

The European Tree Worker Examination consists of 30 multiple-choice questions and 8 open questions. The 30 multiple-choice questions have 4 possible answers and only one is correct. The 8 open questions focus on the national directives, legal requirements and the special guidelines of the country where the examination is due to take place. Each of the eight questions must be answered in the candidate's own words. 

The written exam has to include 1 open question on the European or national nature protection law, rules and regulations. It is also worth noting that the entire written examination will take 60 minutes to complete.

Pass Rate: 50% 

Oral Examination

The Oral Exam consists of a 15 to 20-minute discussion with visual aids provided to the candidate. Not much information is given to the candidate before the Oral Examination, however, in previous years the Oral Examination has been a simple test of the candidate's basic ability to verbalise arboricultural matters succinctly.

Pass Rate: 50%

Tree Identification Examination

The Tree Identification Exam consists of a visual examination of the candidate’s ability to identify 15 species of regional trees. This will include broadleaf, conifer and palm varieties, where applicable. 

The examination will be completed by the candidate in writing, however, real examples of the trees will be provided for the candidate to assess. 

One point will be awarded for the correct botanical name, species and common name. This equates to 3 points total for each example. 

Pass Rate: 67%

Practical Examination – General

The Practical Examination will be separated into 2 sections, firstly, a pre-assessment will take place where the candidate's safety practices will be assessed. Then the General Practical Examination will commence. 

The Pre-assessment

To begin, the designated area must be secured by the candidate. This is not only for safety purposes, but it also is an assessment of the candidate's ability to work safely from the very beginning of the Practical Examination. 

General PPE practices will be assessed at this stage, too. The national regulations change from location to location, so the candidate is expected to know what is required of them based on the location in which they are taking the assessment. 

The Assessment

Once the pre-assessment has taken place, the candidate will be required to continue onto the assessment stage. 

All trees used in the examination will be a minimum of 15 metres in height, however, the usual height for the examination is usually no more than 10 metres from the ground

The assessment begins with a routine check of all equipment used and a risk assessment, both of which are expected to be carried out by the candidate with no help from the adjudicators. The assessment ends when all climbing equipment is removed from the tree. 

The Practical Examination will be conducted in teams. As such, hand gestures, signals and general communication will be assessed at this stage. The examiners will not play a role in any of the practical parts of the Practical Examination, however, they will be on-site to assess each candidate and their ability to communicate effectively with other members of the team. 

All candidates must undergo an examination on the use of chainsaws while working on trees. During this part of the practical exam, candidates must demonstrate safe usage of the chainsaw on at least five different cuts. The use of a handsaw must also be demonstrated for smaller cuts throughout the entire practical exam. Both live and deadwood pruning techniques will be tested. 

Pass Rate: 50%

Practical Examination – Climbing

The practical examination of climbing is the candidate's ability to climb and prune a tree at height. The candidate's climbing techniques are assessed at this stage over a practical examination which lasts approximately 60 minutes

This practical exam is split into two 30-minute windows, where the first session is an assessment of the candidate's ability to climb the tree and secure themselves into a secure working position, and the other 30 minutes is an assessment of the candidate's pruning techniques

Candidates are expected to show adequate ability in placing an access line at this stage too, as is the ability of the candidate's limb walking ability.

Pass Rate: 50%

Practical Examination – Platform/MEWP

The platform (MEWP) practical examination consists of an assessment of the candidate's ability to prune a tree’s crown with the assistance of a raised platform or MEWP. 

This examination will last approximately 60 minutes.

As before, the candidate must be capable of accessing all parts of the tree, without causing any harm to the tree. They have 60 minutes to carry out the pruning, out of which only 30 minutes can be used for MEWP/Platform setup and accessing the crown to reach the first working position. The remaining 30 minutes are reserved for the actual pruning process.

Pass Rate: 50% 

Practical Examination - Ground Worker

This section is conducted in teams of two, the first will access the tree and the other will assist as a ground worker. This stage of the assessment will take anywhere up to 1 hour, and it will also consist of a 15-minute oral exam.

The candidates’ ability to work as a team is assessed at this stage. Certain aspects of the practical, such as communication and the ability to safely clear the ground are also assessed.

Pass Rate: 50%

European Tree Worker Certifications - Simulations

‘Simulations’ are another aspect of the European Arboricultural Council’s assessment. In this section, 2 simulated real-world arboricultural operations are issued to the candidate. The candidate must show adequate knowledge and ability in these simulations to pass this part of the examination. 

The simulations usually issued to the candidate are:

  • Protection of trees on construction sites
  • Basic tree inspection.
  • Pruning young trees
  • Planting/transplanting
  • Crown stabilisation (tree bracing)
  • Felling & rigging

Pass Rate: 50%

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Pass Rate for Each Module of the EAC Exam?

A pass rate of 50% is applied to each module of the European Tree Worker Certification exam. However, a pass rate of 67% is required for the Tree Identity Examination

What is the European Tree Worker Certificate Useful For? 

Once attained, the European Tree Worker Certificate shows that the workers who hold the qualification can work to a high standard within the world of arboriculture. The certificate also proves that the worker can communicate effectively and sufficiently to work between EU borders.

Does the European Tree Worker Certificate Expire? 

Yes, the certificate expires after a period of 3 years, however, it can be renewed at a National Certification Centre

How to Become Recertified

To recertify as an ETW, you must submit all of the following documents to the exam provider or certification centre:

  • Proof of practical tree care work in 24 of the previous 36 months,
  • Proof of a valid first aid qualification,
  • Proof of physical and mental ability to carry out tree work at height, with a current medical certificate or a self-declaration,
  • Proof of participation in seminars, workshops, or courses related to the ETW curriculum (30 hours over the previous 36 months).

If you fail to meet any of these requirements, the national board may refuse to recertify you or revoke your certification status. This can happen due to unsafe, unprofessional work, or unprofessional conduct.

Finding Your Next Role in Arboriculture With

Once you have become qualified, you will be able to work across Europe’s borders, opening yourself up for travel and possibly a more rewarding career. 

Finding work in another country can be intimidating and a little confusing. Fortunately, Arbjobs is the world's largest jobs board for Tree Surgeons, Arborists and  Technical Arborists positions.

Finding work in your country, or another country is easy using our search tools, where you can filter out positions, regions and sectors. This allows you to find the perfect role suited to you and your preferred skills or location. 

Starting at our Jobs Page, find Tree Surgery firms hiring in your chosen location and open up many new possibilities in the world of arboriculture with us here at Arbjobs.