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How to Become a Landscaper: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Research the requirements to become a landscaper. Learn about the job description and/or duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in landscaping.

Should I Become a Landscaper?

Landscapers create and maintain exterior environments for everything from homes and businesses to parks and government buildings. Using their knowledge of horticulture, math, science and landscaping, landscapers make exteriors more attractive and inviting.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), landscapers have a higher rate of injury and illness than the average worker. They often work outside in inclement weather, handle dangerous power tools, and come in contact with chemicals and pesticides. A formal education isn't required for landscapers, but some employers seek applicants who have completed postsecondary programs, or courses in the field. Many states require licensing for those who use pesticides, and optional certifications are available through various industry agencies.

Career Requirements

Degree LevelDegree and certificate programs available
Degree FieldLandscaping technology
Licensure and Certification License for pesticide use, requirements vary by state; certification recommended for advancement
ExperienceWork-related experience is helpful
Key SkillsCommunication and operation monitoring skills, critical thinking, management of personnel resources and time, proficiency with Microsoft Office, Excel, Word, Outlook, and facilities management software
Salary (2014)$24,290 per year (Median salary for all landscaping and groundskeeping workers)

Sources: O*Net Online, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Earn a Degree or Certificate

Many public colleges offer degree and certificate programs in landscape technology, also known as ornamental horticulture. Most of the college programs run two years, and graduates earn an associates degree. In addition to learning the science and mathematics of landscaping, students are taught how to design landscape plans, maintain landscapes and select plants. Typical coursework includes horticulture, landscape design, chemistry and business.

Certificate programs are available and are completed in one year or less. These programs offer an alternative to those seeking a shorter-term program, or who wish to enhance their current knowledge and skills.

Step 2: Explore Career Options

With a degree in landscape technology, students have multiple career opportunities. Besides finding employment as a landscaper, groundskeeper or contractor, graduates may work as a nursery manager, buildings and grounds supervisor, golf course superintendent, or horticulture specialist. Graduates with a landscape technology degree have the necessary background to pursue bachelor's degrees and careers in landscape design.

Step 3: Gain Work Experience

As part of most certificate and degree programs, students are required to take part in internships or fieldwork to prepare them for employment. With completion of a landscape technology program, most students are qualified for entry-level positions in which they plant and maintain vegetation, care for mature lawns and plants, operate maintenance equipment and prune.

Step 4: Pursue Certification for Career Advancement

The Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) offers a host of certification programs, including the Landscape Industry Certified Technician and the Landscape Industry Certified Manager. These certifications, along with others, require passing an exam. Certification from PLANET helps landscapers distinguish themselves from competitors. The Landscape Contractors Association (LCA) offers training programs to assist candidates in preparing for the exam.

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