Horticulturist – Horticulture Careers
Thinking about a career in horticulture? Here is a description of the job, pros and cons, outlook, and income information to help you determine if entering the industry is the best path to take.
Horticulture Job Description
Horticulturists can specialize in a number of fields. As a result, what you will actually be doing in your job will vary depending on the field you are in. A few areas you can specialize in include:
- Landscaping: Designing and maintaining commercial and residential grounds using your eye for design and knowledge of irrigation, plants, flowers, and trees.
- Nurseries: People in this profession grow plants from seedlings and make sure they make it through their entire lifecycle.
- Research: In this field, you may study plant genetics or develop plants that have natural immunity to diseases and resist environmental damage.
- Horticultural Therapy: You would use your knowledge of plants and design to help patients with cognitive and physical disabilities.
There are many other areas that may be more or less appealing to you. It is best to determine what your interests are and find the area of specialty that fits your preferences.
The Benefits of a Horticulture Career
A horticulture career can take you almost anywhere you want to go. It comprises many things including plant breeding and genetic engineering. Horticulturists nourish people by improving food quality and increase how much food a crop yields as well as beautifying physical spaces. The interesting thing is some positions in the industry don’t require any prior knowledge or experience to do while you must have a Ph.D. for others.
Other benefits of becoming a horticulturist Includes:
- Stable employment, particularly in the food industry
- A wide variety of career opportunities and work environments
- About a 12% job growth rate; Jobs will be available when you graduate from college
- Some positions don’t require a formal education
Disadvantages of a Horticulture Career
- Higher paying work, like research and biotechnology, require extensive formal training
- Limited jobs in research and teaching
- Some occupations pay poorly (landscapers make below $26,000 per year)
- Exposure to hazardous or toxic chemicals
The salary you earn will depend on your position in the industry. The average yearly wage for landscapers and groundskeepers was $26,000 for 2011. People who worked in nurseries, greenhouses, and on farms made $20,000. Plant and soil scientists, however, earned about $64,000 per year.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts an average of 12% job growth in the horticultural industry between 2010 and 2020. Job opportunities for landscapers, groundskeepers, and nursery workers are expected to grow 18% while plant scientists can expect about 16% more jobs by 2018.
Training and Education
Because of the wide range of jobs available in the field, educational requirements vary. In general, the more specialized the field, the more education you will need to enter it. Low-paying general horticulture jobs like landscaping or nursery don’t require a degree, but employers prefer to hire people with at least an associate’s degree in horticulture or similar program of study. Horticultural therapist must have at least a bachelor’s degree in the subject. While research scientists and educators can enter entry-level positions their respective fields with only a bachelor’s degree, most people have Ph.D.s or doctorates.
Coursework typically includes plant physiology, plant breeding, pest management, entomology, and plant pathology.
Licensure and Certification
Most horticulture jobs don’t require any type of licensing unless you work with pesticides. The chemicals in pesticides are dangerous and most states require people who handle them as part of their job to pass an exam. In some states, landscapers and contractors may be required to obtain credential in addition (or prior) to licensing. It is best to check with the licensing department in your state for more information about local requirements.
However, you can earn any number of voluntary credentials, which often look impressive on a resume and can give you an edge in the job marketplace. Landscapers can earn one of seven certifications through the Professional Landcare Network. To be eligible to sit for one of these tests, you must complete an independent study course. Afterwards, you are required to complete several hours of continuing education to maintain the credential.
Horticultural therapists can register with the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA). To sit for their credential exams, you must have a bachelor’s degree in horticulture (or have taken coursework in the subject) and complete a 480-hour internship. American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) also offers the Certified Horticulturist credential which is good for anyone in the field including nursery workers and landscapers. Information about their education and experience requirements can be found on their website.
As with many jobs, formal education and licensing is usually only the first step. Some employers have additional qualities they look for in applicants. For example, landscaping companies typically look for people who are physically fit and have the stamina to work for long periods of time outdoors. Here is a sample of requested qualifications pulled from job advertisements found online:
- Landscaping job: physically fit, aesthetic eye, and experience working with plants, fertilizer, and landscaping tools
- Nursery job: can lift at least 50 pounds, and ability to use common gardening tools to take care of the flowers and plants (pull weeds, trim leaves, etc)
- Research job: Master or doctorate degree in horticulture or related field, and experience in plant breeding
What employers are looking for most are people who have experience working with plants. Therefore, it may be very beneficial to work in a professional garden or on a farm where you can learn about the different plants, and the tools (rakes, shears, etc) and machinery (tractors) used to maintain them.
Other Horticultural Fields
If you are a highly creative person but landscaping just doesn’t appeal to you, you can become a floral designer. People in these jobs use their eye for art and design to create colorful floral arrangements for a variety of events like funerals, weddings, and anniversaries. No formal education is required to enter the field, though you can earn a number of credentials to prove your expertise. Those with horticulture degrees would do very well in this field since you will be cultivating and maintaining an assortment of flora. There is a high turnover rate in floral design, so job opportunities will be plentiful.
Another interesting horticulture career is botany. This is for people who are deeply interested in how plants work. Botanists don’t get their hands dirty handling plants. Rather, they study their inner workings and may specialize in plant diseases, the life cycle, or how plants interact with their environment. You can get started in the field with just a bachelor’s degree, but most high-level positions require a master’s or doctorate degree. Unfortunately, job opportunities are limited because the field of botany is so small.
There are numerous opportunities in horticulture. Follow your passions for a rewarding career.