Licensing legislation was proposed by industry groups and passed by the New Jersey legislature on January 16, 2010. The legislation is known as the Tree Expert and Tree Care Operators Licensing Act and on April 17, 2017, the Tree Expert and Tree Care Operators Licensing Law's rules were adopted and promulgated.

The Act creates a licensing program under which individuals may become Licensed Tree Experts (LTEs) or Licensed Tree Care Operators (LTCOs) by passing an examination and demonstrating good moral character. Licensees will be required to complete continuing education requirements, abide by standards of professional conduct and ethics, and adhere to safety standards, as well as industry practice standards. No individual shall represent himself or herself to the public as a licensed tree expert or a licensed tree care operator or use any title, designation, word(s), letter, or abbreviations tending to indicate that such individual is a licensed tree expert or a licensed tree care operator without obtaining licensure as a tree expert by the Board of Tree Experts.

Tree care services in New Jersey are defined by the Act as meaning tree care operator services and tree expert services as established by N.J.S.A. 45:15C-11 et seq. Licensed Tree Experts can perform tree expert services which means and includes tree pruning, repairing, brush cutting or removal, tree removal, stump grinding or removal, tree establishment, fertilization, cabling and bracing, lightning protection, consulting, diagnosis, and treatment of tree problems or diseases, tree management during site planning and development, tree assessment and risk management, and application of pesticides or any other form of tree maintenance. Licensed Tree Care Operators can perform tree care operator services which means and includes tree pruning, repairing, brush cutting or removal, tree removal, and stump grinding or removal.

Licensing can be obtained through the LTE/LTCO examinations (LTE/LTCO Test Application), or for 360 days (until April 12, 2018) an individual can obtain a Tree Care Operator License without sitting for an exam by the "grandfathering" clause within the Board's Rules. An individual must submit the LTCO "Grandfathering" Application that would contain documentation to show they have engaged for seven years in the practice of Arboriculture preceding the date of rule adoption, or the Board may, at its discretion, grant a license through Reciprocity to any person who is the lawful holder of a substantially equivalent license or certification issued by another jurisdiction. The License by Reciprocity application form must be used in this instance. The Board of Tree Experts have approved a process to determine Licensed Tree Expert (LTE) Reciprocity, based on a developed Reciprocity Checklist. To be considered for LTE Reciprocity, applicants should review the LTE Reciprocity Checklist, to make sure the required points total is achieved. Documentation to support the points total for LTE Reciprocity should be submitted along with the License by Reciprocity application form.

Current Certified Tree Experts (CTE) in good standings will be able to convert to a Licensed Tree Expert within 360 days (until April 12, 2018) with the submission of a copy of their current Certified Tree Expert Certification Card and the CTE to LTE Application.

Licensees will have to abide by adopted industry standards: ANSI A300 American National Standard for Tree Care Operations – Tree, Shrubs, and Other Woody Plant Management including Part 1 through Part 10, ANSI Z60.1 American Standard for Nursery Stock, ANZI Z133 Safety Standards for Arboriculture Operations, OSHA, Federal Motor Coach Safety and FHA regulation set forth in Z133 and each of the Best Management Practices published by the ISA.

Licensees will also abide by the Canons of Professional Ethics and Standards of Conduct for Licensees.

Consumer Protection

The Law and the adopted rules set industry tree care standards within New Jersey and empower the New Jersey Board of Tree Experts to remedy complaints against both licensed and unlicensed individuals that seek to defraud the public by revoking or suspending licenses or instituting civil penalties.

The following requirements must be met in order to be eligible to take the NJ Licensed Tree Expert examination:

The licensed application fee and completed LTE/LTCO Exam Application, including three letters of recommendation, must be received by the Board office prior to the posted deadline.

Any verification documents specifically requested by the board must be received by the board no later than two weeks prior to the date of the examination.

A candidate for the examination must meet the following qualifications. He/she must be:

  • a person 18 years of age or older; a person of good moral character;
  • provide three (3) letters of reference from professionals in the field of arboriculture or in a closely related field, who have first-hand knowledge of the candidate's work and moral character;
  • a graduate of a four-year college with a degree in forestry, arboriculture, ornamental horticulture, botany, nursery production, plant biology, plant physiology, ecology, horticulture, environmental planning and design, landscape architecture, natural resources, or the equivalent (as determined by the Board of Tree Experts) and one year of continuous employment in the practice of arboriculture for one year or,
  • a person who has been continuously employed in the practice of arboriculture for at least three years immediately preceding the date of his/her test application or
  • a person who has completed two years of college, with passing grades in at least three college courses related to arboriculture, such as botany, soils, plant science, plant biology, plant pathology, plant physiology, entomology, forestry, natural resources, ecology, horticulture, plant propagation, landscape construction or dendrology and has been continuously employed in the practice of arboriculture for at least three years preceding the date of his/her test application.
  • Include the License Application Fee of $50.00 with the completed exam application.

The following requirements must be met in order to be eligible to take the NJ Licensed Tree Care Operators examination:

The license application fee and completed LTE/LTCO Exam Application, including three letters of recommendation, must be received by the Board office prior to the date of examination.

Any verification documents specifically requested by the board must be received by the board no later than two weeks prior to the date of the examination.

A candidate for the examination must meet the following qualifications. He/she must be:

  • a person 18 years of age or older; a person of good moral character;
  • provide three (3) letters of reference from professionals in the field of arboriculture or in a closely related field, who have first-hand knowledge of the candidate's work and moral character;
  • a graduate of a four-year college with a degree in forestry, arboriculture, ornamental horticulture, botany, nursery production, plant biology, plant physiology, ecology, horticulture, environmental planning and design, landscape architecture, natural resources, or the equivalent (as determined by the Board of Tree Experts) or,
  • a person who has been continuously employed in the practice of arboriculture for at least five years immediately preceding the date of his/her test application or
  • a person who has completed two years of college, with passing grades in at least three college courses related to arboriculture, such as botany, soils, plant science, plant biology, plant pathology, plant physiology, entomology, forestry, natural resources, ecology, horticulture, plant propagation, landscape construction or dendrology and has been continuously employed in the practice of arboriculture for at least three years preceding the date of his/her test application.
  • Include the License Application Fee of $50.00 with the completed exam application.

NOTE: The next LTE/LTCO Exams are scheduled for Tuesday, September 26, 2017, at Meadow Lakes, East Windsor, NJ. Please use the LTE/LTCO Exam Application to apply. The deadline for applications to be received is September 18, 2017 by 4:00 pm.

The Board of Tree Experts has developed examinations for the Licensed Tree Expert (LTE) and the Licensed Tree Care Operator (LTCO) to evaluate the knowledge, ability, and fitness of applicants to perform as tree experts or tree care operators, respectively. Examinations will be held at a minimum of twice a year and will be announced on the web-site as to when and where the examinations will occur. The Licensed Tree Expert examination is composed of two separate parts: a written section and a field section. The field section is generally given outdoors during the morning and the written section indoors in the afternoon. The Board of Tree Experts may change the time of day the test sections are given due to weather conditions; however, the test will be held on the scheduled day rain or shine. The Licensed Tree Care Operator examination is comprised of a written examination only. Once a candidate has been qualified by the New Jersey Board of Tree Experts to take the licensure examination based on their submitted LTE/LTCO Application for Examination, a candidate will receive written notice from the Board that they are qualified to take the licensure examination. A qualified licensure applicant shall then register using the Examination Registration Form (to be posted soon) to take the for the LTE written, the LTE field and the LTCO written (posted soon).

For the LTE examination, the candidate is allotted 3 hours to complete each section (field and written) of the test. The combined passing grade for both sections of the examination is 70%, with a minimum of 70 % for the written section and 65% for the field section. For the LTCO examination the candidate is allotted 2 hours and 15 minutes to complete the written examination. The passing grade on the LTCO examination is 70%.

Licensed Tree Experts Examination – Knowledge of the following subject matter is tested during the written section of the examination.

  • General tree knowledge and safety.
  • Tree physiology, including the functions of all parts of a tree and their interrelationships.
  • Proper tree planting procedures and theories.
  • Soil characteristics, including how factors such as fertilizer, lime, soil amendments, pH and soil organisms affect the health and appearance of trees.
  • General pesticide procedures and usage.
  • General tree health and maintenance, including proper methods of pruning, fertilizing, soil aerating, soil amending and pesticide applications.
  • Impact and remediation techniques to trees from construction activities or other man-made impacts to a planting location.
  • Insect and disease damage and control methods.
  • Abiotic (environmental) factors and impacts affecting trees, such as pollution, drought, etc.
  • Structural repair or preventative measures to trees, such as cabling, bracing, bark tracing and lightning protection.
  • ANSI Z133 for safety standards and ANSI A300 for practice standards.
  • Tree Pruning.
  • Tree Climbing and related equipment (saddles, ropes, snaps, carabiners).
  • Tree Removal and Rigging.
  • Limbing and Bucking.
  • Chainsaw Safety and Operation.
  • Chipper Safety and Operation.
  • Aerial Lift Safety and Operation.
  • Stump Grinder Safety and Operation.
  • Electrical Hazard Awareness.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Knowledge of the following subject matter is tested during the field section of the examination.

  • Tree identification (dendrology) including common and botanical names.
  • Insects and insect problems that affect trees and a recommended course of action.  Recommendations can include both chemical and non-chemical procedures.
  • Disease and disease problems that affect trees and a recommended course of action.  Recommendations can include both chemical and non-chemical procedures.
  • Abiotic (environmental) and cultural problems affecting trees and recommendations.
  • Structural problems of trees and recommendations.

Licensed Tree Care Operator Examination – Knowledge of the following subject matter is tested during the written section of the examination.

  • General tree knowledge and safety.
  • General tree health and maintenance, including proper methods of pruning.
  • Impact and remediation techniques to trees from construction activities or other man-made impacts to a planting location.
  • ANSI Z133 for safety standards and ANSI A300 for practice standards.
  • Tree Pruning.
  • Tree Climbing and related equipment (saddles, ropes, snaps, carabiners).
  • Tree Removal and Rigging.
  • Limbing and Bucking.
  • Chainsaw Safety and Operation.
  • Chipper Safety and Operation.
  • Aerial Lift Safety and Operation.
  • Stump Grinder Safety and Operation.
  • Electrical Hazard Awareness.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

For recommended reading on the Licensed Tree Expert Examination, download this study guide.

For recommended reading on the Licensed Tree Care Operator Examination, download this study guide.