Becoming an Arborist in Singapore
Looking to become a Certified Arborist in our tree-lined streets of Singapore but are unsure how to go about it?
Confused if the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborist Preparatory Programme offered by the Centre For Urban Greenery and Ecology (CUGE) is a mandatory course for aspiring Arborists or if you can sign up directly for the ISA Certified Arborist exams instead?
We prune away the overlapping branches of technical jargon to reveal the scaffold branches of information that you need to know!
It all starts off with a love for trees and some experience in the industry, but what exactly do you need to be eligible to take the Certified Arborist certification exams?
The following is extracted from the CUGE website:
“To be eligible for the exams, you need to fulfil one of the following criteria:
Minimum of three-years full-time experience in arboriculture (as at application submission); OR
Two-year degree in arboriculture and two years of practical experience; OR
Four-year degree in a related field and one year of practical experience; OR
Assessment-based Certificate Program (Diplomas, Certificates)
Acceptable experience includes the practical use of knowledge involved in pruning, fertilisation, installation and establishment, diagnosis and treatment of tree problems, cabling and bracing, climbing, or other services that directly relate to arboriculture.”
In the local context, points 1, 3 and 4 would be the most relevant. Relevant 4 year degrees offered by local universities may include majors like environmental science, biological science, geography and landscape architecture. Relevant diplomas and certificates may include the Diploma in Landscape Design & Horticulture, Nitec in Urban Greenery & Landscape, WSQ Diploma in Landscape and so on.
Is it mandatory to attend the ISA Certified Arborist Preparatory Programme
No, it is not.
Think of the ISA Certified Arborist Preparatory Programme as a bootcamp that educates you on all relevant topics that may be tested in the Certified Arborist Exam. It is helpful, but not necessary.
You can study for the Certified Arborist Exam by diligently going through the Arborists' Certification Study Guide. This guide can be purchased directly from the ISA website or bought locally. Check in with your fellow colleagues who may still hold on to their copy after passing their exams, that can help you save a pretty penny!
To sign up for the Certified Arborist Exam directly, first check out the dates for the exam on the ISA website here. Afterwards, apply for the Certified Arborist Exam directly on the ISA website under “My Dashboard”. There is a fee involved for taking the exams, so do take note when registering for it.
Maintaining your Certified Arborist certification
The ISA Certified Arborist certification is valid for 3 years from the date of issue. After a 3 year period has passed, you must renew your certification if you wish to continue being a Certified Arborist.
There are 2 prerequisites to the renewal process:
Acquiring 30 CEUs (Continuing Education Units)
Paying a recertification fee of $230 USD (as of 25 Nov 2023)
What are CEUs?
CEUs, also known as Continuing Education Units, are points that can be obtained by attending courses, workshops and seminars that are relevant to the arboriculture profession. These ensure that the Arborist is sufficiently up to date with the best arboricultural practices and is able to effectively perform their job. These can include topics ranging from tree biology and tree risk assessment to attending the ISA international conference.
Most of these courses are run by CUGE, and popular examples include the following:
Fun fact: the ISA International Conference was run virtually for the past few years due to Covid-19, allowing participants from around the world to easily access the conference to learn from the seminars, network with other arborists and to gain CEUs.
The recertification fee can be paid via credit card through the ISA website under My Dashboard -> My Credentials -> Apply for an ISA Certification / Make Your Recertification Payment.
If you are working for a company that requires you to remain certified as an Arborist, do check with your Human Resources on company policies on reimbursement of fees paid for attending programmes that provide CEUs and for the recertification as an Arborist.
Attaining the Certified Arborist certification and retaining your status as a Certified Arborist requires a continual commitment to the profession, similar to other fields (Doctors, Counsellors, Professional Engineers and so on) to ensure the Arborist employs the most up to date methods in their practice. If you have further queries on this, do check out the ISA website and/ or the CUGE website for details.
In our next article, we will further elaborate on the different pathways an Arborist can pursue in his/ her career (Climbing Arborist, Consulting Arborist etc), each requiring their own unique skill sets and training.
International Society of Arboriculture, accessed at:
National Parks Board, accessed at: