Feb. 10, 2020

By Kevin Juhasz
For Jameson Tools

Knowledge is power when it comes to your salary.

Government data for arborists is hard to pin down, since the U.S. government puts arborists in the same category as ground maintenance workers, but the future looks good as far as employment over the next decade.

One thing the data does is spilt tree trimmers and pruners into its own category, even offering a few statistics on those who perform work around utility lines.

Under the category of grounds maintenance workers, tree trimmers are the specialty that has the rosiest outlook at job growth. The industry is expected to grow by 10% over the next decade as cities continue to increase tree planting in urban areas, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

Local governments typically pay the best annual salaries, with an average salary of about $51,000. Your next best bet for decent pay is trimming trees around utility lines, which isn’t far behind with an average of $46,000 per year. 

Local governments are the second biggest employer for tree trimmers, and some smaller municipalities will hire trimmers to help clear areas around some power lines. Generally, this work is required to be handled by utility companies, especially around high-voltage lines. Tree trimmers face many of the same dangers as linemen, so these companies are usually looking for people who are well-trained in the craft.

How well you can do as a tree trimmer is dependent on where you live. One positive is that this is an industry where every state needs employees. The higher the population, the higher the number of tree trimmers. Warmer states where tree growing lasts longer are also good areas for jobs. The states with the highest employment are California, Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida, and New York. Of these states, only New York pays in the top five, along with Washington, Minnesota, Illinois, and the District of Columbia.

Glassdoor salary reports are about the same as the government’s figures. Data from more than 4,500 reports shows a salary range of $22,000-$61,000. The bottom is significantly lower than the government statistics, which has a floor of $31,000. 

When looking at regional data, it’s important to keep in mind that the data is not absolute for all areas of the state. You can find pockets of well-paying jobs in areas where the state has low wages. You can also find affordable places in states where the cost of living is high. The urban data tends to bring costs higher, and the rural areas tend to bring overall salaries down. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics has data available by county if there’s a specific area you’re looking at.


arborist salary northeast states


Employment – As far as finding a job, this region is one of the best in the nation. Pennsylvania is ranked third in the nation for the number of jobs, and New York is fifth. Of the remaining states, Maryland and Massachusetts are strongest, but there’s also lots of opportunities in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and West Virginia. The only weak states in this region are New Jersey, along with the nation’s smallest states,  Vermont and Rhode Island . Those two smallest states had low overall jobs but were ranked first and second respectively for concentration of jobs, which still makes them a pretty good bet for finding employment. Both Connecticut and Virginia did not report jobs numbers.

Wages and Cost of Living – The Northeast is an area that is good for jobs, good for salaries in some areas, and a nightmare for cost of living in some areas. The best area for wages is New York and D.C. but cost of living in those states is the highest in the nation, especially in urban areas. D.C. is even higher than new New York, and with Amazon moving in the region, it’s expected to grow even higher. Pennsylvania and the rural areas of Virginia have lower cost of living, but also lower salaries. The worst place in the northeast is Maine. The state pays low wages and has a very high cost of living.

                             Mean Wage      Cost of Living Index

Connecticut          $41K-$45K       127.7

Delaware              $41K-$45K      108.1

D.C.                      $46K-$61K      158.4

Maine                   $36K-$41K      117.5

Massachusetts     $46K-$61K      131.6

Maryland              $46K-$61K      129.7

New Hampshire   $41K-$45K      109.7

New Jersey          $46K-61K        125.1

New York             $46K-$61K      139.1

Pennsylvania      $36K-$41K       101.7

Rhode Island      $41K-$45K       119.4

Vermont              $36K-$41K       114.5

Virginia               $41K-$45K       100.7

West Virginia      $31K-$36K       91.1


arborist tree trimmer salaries southern states

Employment – Another good area for employment, particularly along the coast. North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida all have the highest employment in the area, and Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee are close behind. Florida is ranked 4th in the nation for employment. Lousiana, Mississippi, and Alabama are a little lower than the rest of the area. Arkansas is the only state that lacks a high amount of jobs.

Wages and Cost of Living – The southern region is an area that has low wages in almost the entire region. Only in Mississippi and Alabama do you have a shot at going over $40,000 per year. The rest of the states will have you looking at a $30,000-$40,000 range. The upside is that this one of the most affordable regions in the country to live. Every single state ranks below 100 in the cost of living index. Mississippi is the best area in the region, offering the highest range of salaries and the lowest cost of living in the region. The coastal states move a little higher but are still below the national average. Florida is on the bottom in this region with a low wage and the highest cost of living.


                          Mean Wage         Cost of Living Index

Alabama           $41K-$45K           89.3

Arkansas          $31K-$36K           86.9

Florida              $31K-$36K          97.9

Georgia            $31K-$36K          89.2

Kentucky          $31K-$36K         90.9

Louisiana         $36K-$41K         93.9

Mississippi       $41K-$45K         86.1

North Carolina $31K-$36K         94.9

South Carolina $31K-$36K        95.9

Tennessee       $36K-$41K        88.7


midwest states arborist salary


Employment – This is a region that is all over the map when it comes to jobs. Texas ranks second in the nation for jobs, and Missouri and Michigan are also solid areas for tree trimmers. Other areas that rank higher are Oklahoma, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Kansas, Illinois, and South Dakota offer less positions, while North Dakota and Iowa are the lowest employers in the region. Nebraska did not provide employment statistics to the BLS.

Wages and Cost of Living – The wages for the Midwest are much like that of the jobs. Even though Texas is a place where you can get a job, it’s not a place where you’ll make much in salary. The pay is low there, along with Oklahoma and Nebraska. The top states are Minnesota, ranked third in the nation, and Illinois, ranked fifth in the nation. Both of these states carry a slightly higher cost of living, but the Midwest is much like the south. Illinois is one of the best areas with its wages and low index. 


                        Mean Wage          Cost of Living Index

Illinois              $45K-$61K            94.5

Indiana            $36K-$41K            90.0

Iowa                $41K-$45K .          90.1

Kansas            $41K-$45K            89.0

Michigan         $36K-$41K             88.9

Minnesota       $46K-$61K            101.6

Missouri          $41K-$46K             87.1

Nebraska        $31K-$36K             90.8

North Dakota   $41K-$45K            98.8

Oklahoma        $31K-$36K            87.0

Ohio                 $36K-$41K           90.6

South Dakota   $36K-$41K           99.8

Texas               $31K-$36K           91.5

Wisconsin        $36K-$41K           97.2


Employment – This is a tougher area to gauge for employment, since this region had the most states that didn’t provide data for the BLS. Employment numbers are unknown for Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming. For states that did report, the most jobs are available in California, which ranks at the top nationwide. Colorado, Oregon, and Washington are other areas to look. Montana, Utah, and Arizona are on the lower end.

Wages and Cost of Living – Like the east, the best wages in the west can be found along the water. Washington is ranked second in the country for wages, and Oregon and California also in the group. All of these states occupy the top four spots for cost of living in the West. The only non-coastal area that pays high is Montana. Idaho and Arizona are a little better at wages. The pay drops slightly in Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. The lowest payer in the region in the Colorado, which is also the worst place to consider for a job. The cost of living is higher in Colorado, and it’s on the bottom of the nation along with Maine and Hawaii when comparing wages and cost. Wyoming also didn’t report for this category either. There may be tree trimming jobs there, but the state’s not saying how many or how well they pay. Wyoming does have a great cost of living index.

                      Mean Wage        Cost of Living Index

Arizona           $41K-$45K            96.9

California        $46K-$61K            151.7

Colorado         $31K-$36K            105.5

Idaho              $41K-$45K             92.3

Montana         $46K-$61K             106.9

Nevada          $36K-$41K              108.5

New Mexico   $36K-$41K              87.4

Oregon           $46K-$61K             134.2

Utah               $36K-$41K              98.4

Washington   $46K-$61K              110.7

Wyoming       Not Available            89.3

Alaska and Hawaii

Arborist salary in hawaii and alaska

Employment – Only two states so a pretty easy analysis. Hawaii doesn’t have a lot of jobs, and Alaska has more but not a lot more.

Wages and Cost of Living – Both states pay in the higher range of salaries and they are both expensive places to live. Hawaii ranks the lowest of all the states. While the wages may be better, the jobs are not plentiful, and the cost of living is almost double what it is everywhere else.



                Mean Wages           Cost of Living Index

Alaska        $45-$61K                129.9

Hawaii        $45K-$61K              192.9

Sources: Mean Wages – Bureau of Labor and Statistics

Cost of Living Index – Council for Community and Economic Research

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