ISA-certified: What Does It Mean?

Whenever we talk about what makes Birch Tree Care better than the competition, we refer to our ISA-certified arborists, but due to it being an industry term, people outside the tree care industry rarely know what we are talking about. So, in an effort to stick to our mission of open and honest communication, we want to explain ISA-certification.


Often used synonymously, arborist and landscaper are actually two very different job titles.

Landscaping includes landscape and hardscape installation, lawn care, lawn irrigation installation and maintenance, mulching, garden bed preparation and maintenance and sometimes shrub pruning. Landscapers focus mainly on aesthetics.

Arboriculture includes caring for mature trees, tree removal, pruning, cabling, stump grinding and more. Our arborists don’t just bid a job, they look into all aspects of the tree environment, providing recommendations based on your needs and our professional advice.


Now that we have determined the importance of hiring an arborist, we will dive into what makes an ISA-certified arborist extra special.

To put it simply, becoming ISA-certified is not easy. Before even applying to take the exam, a person must have “three or more years of full-time, eligible, practical work experience in arboriculture and/or a degree in the field of arboriculture, horticulture, landscape architecture, or forestry from a regionally accredited educational institute.”

The exam itself is extensive. You can look at the full exam outline on the ISA website, but here is a quick preview:

  • Soil Management
    • Soil formation and horizons
    • Chemical properties
    • Mineral nutrition
    • Soil improvement
  • Tree ID/selection
    • Health/quality/survivability
    • Function
    • Aesthetics
  • Installation and Establishment
    • Impact of soil amendments on tree establishment
    • Tree support and protection system
    • Transplanting principles and techniques
  • Safe Work Practices
    • Recognizing industry standards
    • Work site safety hazards/appropriate actions to be taken
    • Techniques of aerial/bucket rescue
    • Types, use, maintenance, and inspection of climbing and safety equipment
  • Tree Biology
    • Environmental effect & response
    • Wound effects & response
  • Pruning
    • Effects of pruning
    • Effects of timing
    • Types of pruning(all 13!)
    • Utility pruning
  • Diagnosis/Treatment
    • Evaluate what might lead to stress
    • Diagnosis, procedures and techniques
    • Management principles
    • Treatment options
  • Urban Forestry
    • Benefits and costs of trees
    • Appraisal and valuation
  • Protection and Preservation
    • Planning/evaluation
    • Construction techniques
    • Post damage management
  • Tree Risk Management
    • Responsibility/liability
    • Site analysis
    • Tree analysis
    • Tree risk characters

As you can see, it means a lot when we talk about having ISA-certified arborists. They are, by definition, the best people you can have working on your plants and trees.

If you are ready to treat your yard to the best, call us and we will help you improve the healthy and look of your yard.