In order to test whether field emission from tetrahedrally bonded amorphous (ta-C) is affected by the back contact material we have carried out a series of emission experiments on Filtered Cathodic Vacuum Arc (FCVA) produced ta-C films. The measurements were made on identical films of approximately 25 nm thickness which have been grown simultaneously on various substrates of different work function. For these experiments the substrates used were p-type c-Si, n-type c-Si, SnO2, tungsten, gold, lead, aluminium, molybdenum, chromium and titanium. Threshold fields for emission were generally in the range of 5–15 V/micron and showed no direct dependence on back contact material work function. Films grown on Ti and W however had much higher threshold fields in the range 30–35 V/micron and this is thought to be associated with the native oxide which was present between the back contact and the ta-C film. As grown ta-C is also known to have a 1–2 nm thick sp2 rich layer on its surface and this layer may also have some effect on field emission. The layer was etched in either an O2 or H2 plasma and both etched surfaces led to improved emission efficiency.