Learn arboricultural practices and tree management - Online course provides valuable training for work in horticulture, gardening or forestry.

Course Code: VHT090
Fee Code: CT
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 600 hours
Qualification Certificate
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  • Develop knowledge and skills needed to work in arboriculture
  • Lay a foundation for lifelong learning in plant identification, selection and care
  • Work in tree management -start a business, or get a job
  • Start anytime; work where and when you want
  • Study when your mind is sharp; and avoid wasting time and money traveling to a classroom


Arboriculture is the ‘culture’ and 'management' of trees.  It concerns every aspect of growing trees, from selecting the right tree for the right place, to the care and maintenance of established trees. 


Change the way you look at trees forever.

After this course, you will see problems in trees and know appropriate ways to respond, well before issues get out of hand. You will make better decisions more often, saving time, money and manpower; and bringing about better outcomes in the management of trees.


Core ModulesThese modules provide foundation knowledge for the CERTIFICATE IN ARBORICULTURE.
Elective ModulesIn addition to the core modules, students study any 2 of the following 10 modules.

Note that each module in the CERTIFICATE IN ARBORICULTURE is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.

Tree Pruning and Lopping

Trees growing in their natural state manage to attain full size without the help of humans; however there are differences between trees in nature and tree in an artificial environment. For example, public access must be maintained, and branches cannot be allowed to just drop.
The main objectives are:
  1. To shape the young tree in way that it will develop a well balanced crown.
  2. To improve balance in a semi-mature tree.
  3. To remove dead and dangerous branches before they fall.
  4. To remove crossing branches to open up the inside of a crown and to reduce the likelihood of wounds through branches rubbing together.
  5. To thin the crown – this lessens wind resistance, allows more light and air in the centre, reduces demand on roots (desirable if roots have been damaged), renews growth, and lessens likelihood of branches dropping.
  6. Remove lower branches to improve access past or under the tree.
  7. Reduce overall size of the crown where the tree has outgrown its situation.
  8. Repair damage through fire, storm, etc.
  9. To promote flowering or fruiting.
Where to Cut
When you prune a tree you should do the following with each cut you make:
  • Use sharp and clean tools. Your cut should be sharp, no tears!
  • When removing a branch don't cut it only half off – take it right back to where the branch is joined to a more major branch. At this intersection, make your cut from the outer point of the bark ridge (ie. the fold/swelling of growth on the top or inside of the intersection between the two branches) to the outer point of the collar (ie. the swollen section on the bottom of the intersection between the two branches).
  • When dropping a heavy branch you should first cut about 18 inches above where you will make the final cut on the underside of the branch. Next cut about 6 inches further up the branch than this on the upper side. 
  • These two cuts allow you to remove the greater mass of the branch with minimal tearing. You can then make you final "clean" cut.
Why Remove a Tree?
Removing a tree is a big decision; not only because it is a costly and time consuming job; but it can also change the whole environment of the area around it. Places that were cool and shaded can become hot, sunny and exposed;  wildlife may not have a home anymore, and plants that were protected from wind, frost and other extremes may no longer be protected.
Trees may still however be removed for any of the following reasons:
Some trees are more notorious than others for dropping branches. If a tree is badly affected by tree rots, it is more likely to fall over or drop branches. Trees above children's play areas, outdoor living areas or buildings may cause more serious damage if they fall. In these and other risky situations it may be valid to remove all or part of a tree.
Pests and diseases may build up in large numbers on a tree and from there spread to other plants.
Provide an Open Space
Trees are removed to provide space for building or construction work; or to provide an area where sun can enter a garden.
Minimise Maintenance
Trees can create shade keeping areas from drying out and creating difficulty growing lawn or other plants. Branches overhanging buildings may drop leaves in guttering, or rub on buildings when moved by wind. Excessive leaves on the ground in wet weather can create a slippery surface or smother smaller plants, requiring regular raking.
Damaging roots
Trees may be removed because roots cause damage foundations of buildings, block pipes and cause damage to paving walls and other structures.
Trees are sometimes removed as a source of timber, for construction, or fuel.


For a sustained business or career in tree management; you must above all be able to do the job. This is not an industry that requires  high qualifications; but it does require a high level of expert knowledge. You must be able to identify hundreds of different tree species, understand the differences between each, and know how to manage each in an appropriate way for the place in which it is growing.

Most successful arborists will learn some of what they know through formal study, and some through on the job experience.

No course will guarantee you a job - but this course will go a long way toward helping you learn what you must know to be successful as an arborist.

This course may take longer than some certificates; but proper learning takes time.

Learn the Fundamentals first

A good arboriculture education should be broad. When you learn the basic fundamentals first (i.e. the core skills needed to work in the industry in general); other things make more sense and will be remembered better as you encounter them.

This course doesn't just teach you how to chop down trees; but also how to select them, plant them, the right soils, how to care for and maintain them, their pests and diseases, how to perform tree surgery and lastly how to cut them down safely if needed. Learning the basic cultural requirements for trees means that you have more scope should you want to move across jobs (for instance you may work for an arborist but decide that you would like to work in public gardens in tree care - this course would enable you to do that).

Retaining knowledge

There is little point studying a shorter course, passing an exam, then forgetting what you studied. Most of us however will only store knowledge in short term memory, unless you keep revisiting that information. This is the ‘use it or lose it scenario’.

As educators we have found at ACS that the best way to properly learn, is to encounter core ideas about arboriculture periodically throughout the course, in different contexts. We set you problems to solve, research or practical set tasks, rather than just reading and regurgitating facts and figures from text books. You are prompted to rethink what you studied earlier and use that information in different ways, as you progress.

Recalling what you have learned

There is a difference between retaining what you have learned to short term memory and recalling what you have learned years later. Undertaking problem solving tasks and projects are much more likely way to commit information to long term memory. We consider that, along with a passion for what they are studying, to be the key reason our students do so well in their courses, our courses are based on a Problem Based Learning system. Problem based assignments and practical set tasks mean that students have to work at finding solutions and developing skills. These may come from various sources - in the process they gather knowledge through experiential learning, which is more likely to be retained in long term memory.  

So although a course and qualification won’t necessarily get you a job – choosing the right course and learning the right things will certainly help.

Opportunities for Graduates

  • Manage your own Tree management business
  • Get a job such arborist, tree lopper, groundsman, forester or gardener
  • Work in marketing or supply of arboriculture equipment (eg. machinery, climbing equipment)
  • Start a tree nursery
  • Be a tree planting or pruning contractor
  • Become a consultant, teacher or writer to advise others on tree management
Member of the Future Farmers Network

UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112

Alternative Technology Association Member

Accredited ACS Global Partner

ACS Distance Education is a member of the Australian Garden Council, Our Principal John Mason is a board member of the Australian Garden Council

Member of the Nursery and Garden Industry Association since 1993

ACS is a silver sponsor of the AIH. The principal, John Mason, is a fellow. ACS certificate students are offered a free membership for this leading professional body.Provider.

Member of Study Gold Coast

Institute of Training and Occupational Learning (UK)

Principal John Mason is a member of Parks and Leisure Australia since 1974 and a fellow since 1998

Recognised since 1999 by IARC

Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

John Mason (Horticulturist)

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant.
Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK.
He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 70 books and edito

Gavin Cole (Horticulturist)

Gavin started his career studying building and construction in the early 80's. Those experiences have provided a very solid foundation for his later work in landscaping. In 1988 he completed a B.Sc. and a few years later a Certificate in Garden Design. I

Marie Beerman

Marie has over 10 years in horticulture and education in both Australia and Germany. Marie has been a co author of several ebooks in recent years, including "Roses" and "Climbing Plants".
Marie's qualifications include B. Sc., M.Hort. Dip. Bus. Cert. Lds

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