Urban forestry is a multidisciplinary field with several broad career paths. This is an exciting opportunity because people with diverse interests in trees and the outdoors can find a career that suits their talents, interests, personality, and financial goals.

In terms of professional identity, the most common job titles are Urban Forester and Arborist.

The biggest distinction in urban forestry career paths is between the private sector and the public sector.

Private Sector

  • Tree care industry: Companies that provide tree planting, maintenance, and removal services to residential, commercial, and governmental clients. A profit-driven, business-oriented setting with some of the highest urban forestry salaries. Learn more about the tree care industry through the Society of Commercial Arboriculture and the Tree Care Industry Association.
  • Utility forestry: Jobs working directly for an electric utility service-provider or a sub-contractor. Trees and vegetation are managed along utility right-of-ways to ensure reliability and safety of electricity distribution to homes and businesses. Strong emphasis on environmental regulatory compliance and conflict resolution. Learn more about utility forestry through the Utility Arborist Association.
  • Consulting: Servicing a diversity of clients who request urban forest management plans, tree risk assessments, tree appraisals, expert witness testimonies, and tree health diagnostic reports. A mid- to late-career profession that requires extensive field experience and advanced credentials. Learn more about urban forestry consulting through the American Society of Consulting Arborists.

Public Sector

  • Municipal forestry: Working as an employee of a city, town, or county to plan and manage urban forests in public spaces such as parks, greenways, and streetscapes. May also have regulatory duties for forest conservation during private land development. Learn more about municipal forestry through the Society of Municipal Arborists.
  • State and federal agencies: Working for a natural resource or forestry agency at the state or federal level to deliver education and technical assistance programs for urban forestry to citizens and communities. May also include administering grants and overseeing environmental regulatory compliance. Learn more about agency work through the National Association of State Foresters and the US Forest Service.
  • Non-profits: Assisting communities with a broad range of initiatives and issues related to trees and urban forests. Non-profits may operate at the local, regional, or national scale. Requires a strong personal commitment to service, advocacy, and outreach. Learn more about non-profits through the Alliance for Community Trees and the Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition.

Alumni of the Virginia Tech Urban Forestry Program have successful careers in both the private sector and public sector. Learn more about their accomplishments on our Alumni Page.

The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) is the leading professional organization of arborists worldwide. Learn more about careers on their website.

Want to see interviews with professional arborists and learn about careers in the tree care industry? Visit OutsideCareers.Org.

North Carolina Urban Forest Council: A College Senior’s Exploration of Urban Forestry Careers

Looking for an urban forestry job or internship? Check out these websites:

Tree Care Industry Association Career Center

International Society of Arboriculture Career Center

State and Federal Agency Urban Forestry Jobs


Natural Resources Job Board

The College of Natural Resources and Environment can help you with all stages of your career preparation.Start building your professional network today by becoming a Student Member of the International Society of Arboriculture.