The recently announced TCAF funding will support the collaborative roll out of both training and exam opportunities for VETcert, to support the creation of a pool of internationally recognised professional expertise, at both practising and consulting levels, for the care and management of Ancient and other Veteran Trees (AoVTs).

What is VETcert?

VETcert is a pan-European certification scheme for veteran tree specialists developed to raise the standard in veteran tree management across Europe. It provides individuals with the opportunity to have their skills and expertise recognised, increasing opportunities for work, both at home and across Europe. It also makes it easier for organisations procuring veteran tree management services to identify and select suitable professionals.

The VETcert certification scheme was developed by an Erasmus+ funded project which ran between 2016 and 2019. The project brought together seven partners from ten European countries, including the UK, Sweden, Belgium, Spain, France, Czech Republic and Germany.

How do I go about becoming VETcert?

Each participating country has a Veteran Certification Centre which will be responsible for arranging and organising the exams. In the UK, the Arboricultural Association is the Veteran Certification Centre.

The certification scheme is available at two levels, Practising and Consulting. Practising is aimed at professionals who are ‘on the tools’, those who physically undertake the management (e.g. soil management, climbing, pruning, etc.). Consulting is aimed at professionals who provide advice (e.g. tree officers, consultant arboriculturists or ecologists).

Are there any pre-requisites?

Yes. The tables below detail the prerequisites for each level. Recognising the diverse range of backgrounds within the discipline of veteran tree management, there are two options that allow for those with an academic background (route 1) or a vocational background (route 2).

Please note that if you are unable to provide the necessary evidence that you meet the prerequisites, then your booking may be cancelled, and you may be charged. If you have any questions, or wish to check your prerequisites before booking an exam, please email VETcert@trees.org.uk.

Practising level

Route number



Applicant holds a level 3 arboricultural qualification.


Chainsaw, climbing and/or platform certifications.


Minimum 5 years relevant experience.


Applicant can prove knowledge and experience at an equivalent level to the qualification detailed above.


Chainsaw, climbing and/or platform certifications.


Minimum 5 years relevant experience.

Consulting level

Route number



Applicant holds a level 6 arboricultural qualification (or similar topic).


Minimum 5 years relevant experience in total, of which 3 should be in an advisory role.


Applicant can prove knowledge and experience at an equivalent level to the qualification detailed above.


Minimum 10 years relevant experience in total, of which 5 should be in an advisory role.

Booking Exams

We have had an overwhelming response to the VETcert exams this year and for the time being we need to close our Expression of Interest form. Further exams are planned for the future and we will open a new application process as soon as possible. Thank you for your interest.

What will the exams cover?

The exams seek to test the wide breath of expertise required to manage veteran trees. The Veteran Tree Management Standards form the basis of the VETcert exam, these are available from the VETcert website.

The standards comprise twelve units and cover all aspects of veteran tree management:

  1. Veteran trees; recognition and values
  2. The development and aging of trees: the role of physiological function and dysfunction
  3. Roots of veteran trees and the soil environment
  4. Veteran trees as ecosystems
  5. Veteran trees: their value for people
  6. Veteran trees; their cultural history values
  7. Surveying of veteran trees and veteran tree sites
  8. Legislation and official guidance in relation to veteran trees
  9. Veteran tree risk management
  10. Veteran trees: planning for urban development and infrastructure
  11. Veteran tree management in all its aspects
  12. Personal skills

Whilst both levels cover similar areas, the Consulting level demands a higher level of knowledge and understanding than Practising. There are also some key differences in the requirements of each unit. Taking unit 10 (Veteran tree management in all its aspects) as an example, the Practising level focusses on how work is planned and undertaken, whereas Consulting level focusses on providing management advice.

What format will the VETcert exam take?

Both exams, for Consulting and for Practising, are each delivered over one day, with two examiners.

The Practising exam consists of a 2-hour written exam (multiple choice and short written answers) plus a 2-hour outside exercise including oral questioning, both on generic topics and on individual trees with a given work specification. Candidates are not required to climb, use a platform or carry out pruning during the exam, but will be expected to describe in detail how and why work would be planned and carried out. The overall time of the exam, including breaks, is around 5 hours.

The Consulting exam also consists of a 2-hour written exam plus a 2-hour outside exercise including oral questioning. The oral questioning covers some generic topics and then focuses on specific, individual trees which the candidate is required to survey and consider appropriate management recommendations. The Consultant exam includes a third session in which they are required to produce a management report on the trees they have surveyed on site. Candidates are provided with a report template which sets out the topic areas and level of detail required and need to prepare this on the day within 2 hours. The overall time of the exam, including breaks, is around 7 hours.

What is the pass mark?

The pass mark for both exams is 75%. However, in addition to achieving 75% or above overall, each candidate must also achieve at least 50% in each section of the exam; if they fail to achieve this minimum score in a section but have scored 75% overall, they will be required to undertake that individual section again.

How long is the certification valid for?

The qualifications are valid for three years, after which there will be a requirement to submit evidence of CPD and continuing veteran tree work experience, in order to renew their certification for a further three years.

What is the cost of an exam?

The full costs for candidate registration, examination and certification in the UK are as follows:

Certified Veteran Tree Specialist


£500 + VAT

Certified Veteran Tree Specialist


£600 + VAT

The recently announced TCAF funding will allow a significant reduction in these fees for a limited number of bursary places at each exam. The bursary places are available to anyone who meets the pre-requisite requirements and will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. The bursary place exam fees are as follows:

Practising level: £67.50 + VAT, plus a £200 deposit* = £267.50

Consulting level: £90.00 + VAT, plus a £200 deposit* = £290.00

*deposits will be returned in full provided that you attend the exam and complete the post exam survey.

Once your pre-requisites have been checked and you have formally been offered a candidate place, we will require full payment (or a Purchase Order) before your place can be confirmed.

Terms of Cancellation or Amendments to details

Exam places are only secured on receipt of payment or a Purchase Order (PO), after candidates have formally been offered a place.

We reserve the right to cancel exams and refund applicants if there is insufficient demand.

A FULL charge will be applied to any booking cancelled less than 10 working days before the event.

A £30 administration charge may be applied to changes made to bookings that have been received and acknowledged.

For all VETcert enquiries, please email VETcert@trees.org.uk.

When will I find out whether I passed the exam?

Candidates will be informed whether they passed or failed within 4 weeks of sitting the exam. VETcert certificates and cards will be issued within 8 weeks of sitting the exam.

Do I need to attend a training course before sitting a VETcert exam?

No, there is no formal requirement to attend a training course. However, we would strongly recommend that you take advantage of the materials and training that is availble as listed below:

What training material is available to prepare me for the VETcert exam?

A new two-day training course, Understanding and Managing Veteran Trees, has been developed. The course builds on the work of VETree project; VETree developed an introductory 1-day course on the topic of Valuing and Managing Veteran Trees and a 3-day ‘train the trainer’ course designed to provide people with the skills and materials to deliver the 1-day course. The two-day course tackles more complex topics than the one-day course, including:

  • Tree architecture, a new way of thinking about how trees age.
  • Fungi and hollowing.
  • Soil and roots.
  • Managing the land around the tree.
  • Assessing your tree.
  • Tree species differences.
  • Tree pruning, including unconventional pruning techniques.
  • Management planning.
  • Biodiversity, populations and veteranisation of young trees.

The 2-day VETcert course is ATF's most advanced course, so to get the most from attending, it is necessary for delegates to have some pre-existing knowledge of basic tree biology and ecology. Previous attendees from ATF's 1-day course would have gained a suitable level of knowledge, but equivalent sources of knowledge are also acceptable, such as accredited arboriculture qualifications. Please get in touch with the Ancient Tree Forum if you have any questions about this.

These courses are delivered by the Ancient Tree Forum, see their website or sign up to the Ancient Tree Forum newsletter for more information.

The Ancient Tree Forum have also produced a series of videos titled ‘Walking you through the standards’. These videos explore the Veteran Tree Management Standards that underpin the examinations. They aim to encourage candidates to self-assess their knowledge and skills, providing confidence to move forward and sit take a VETcert exam. See www.ancienttreeforum.org.uk/resources/vetcert-videos and vimeo.com/ondemand/327443 for more information.

New videos

To supplement existing training material, a new suite of videos has been produced. These include eight videos with Professor Lynne Boddy of Cardiff University on fungi and trees. The full range of video titles are:

Introduction to fungi
Introduction to mycorrhiza
Managing mycorrhizas
Different types of wood decay
Introducing heart-rot and hollowing
Heart rot and hollowing of beech and oak
Colonisation of sapwood following wounding
Colonisation of sapwood in the absence of wounding
Pole thinning an old pollard
Unconventional pruning techniques
VETree - Aging processes in trees, with special reference to oak and beech
VETree - Common sense risk management of veteran trees
VETree - Creation of decaying wood habitats
VETree - Halo clearance for veteran trees
VETree - Management of veteran fruit trees
VETree - Management of veteran pollards still in a regular cycle of cutting
VETree - Techniques for crown reducing a veteran tree
VETree - The importance of the land around a veteran tree
VETree - What to assess in trees before considering management options

These videos and more can be found here.

Fact Sheets, Case Studies and Illustrations

To complement the training courses and videos a range of other resources have been produced. These include a series of factsheets, case studies and illustrations.

The fact sheets are concise documents that comprise a combination information and signposting to other sources of information. Topics covered are:

  • Cable, bracing and propping
  • Definitions of a veteran tree
  • Economic valuation methods for trees
  • Legislation
  • Wildlife species associated with veteran trees.

Case studies have been produced to ‘tell the story’ of management of particular trees. Features include managing the land around a tee, treating soil compaction around a tree, removing competition around a tree, propping, cabling and crown reducing a tree.

Concepts such as functional units and different types of pruning (e.g. tip pruning, reduction and pole thinning) are difficult to describe in words. These terms/approaches are explained by a series of illustrations.

All training resources are available on the VETcert website under Training Products.

Ancient Tree Forum Courses

The Ancient Tree Forum (ATF) are run VETcert training courses in preparation for the VETcert exams: