Careers in Turf Management: Job Options and Requirements

Turf management includes many job options in groundskeeping and greenskeeping, especially for sports fields and golf courses. Continue reading for an overview of the educational requirements as well as employment and salary information related to some career options for graduates.

Though you may qualify for a number of jobs in turf management with just a high school diploma, you may find it to be advantageous to earn an academic certificate or degree to go along with your on-the-job training. Licensure is often required, depending on whether your job includes the use of pesticides

Essential Information

Turf management professionals must be physically capable of doing the work under various conditions, especially outdoors. Although many academic institutions offer undergraduate programs in turf or turfgrass management that prepare students to take on supervisory roles and other positions, a high school diploma is often the only educational requirement for entering this type of position. Individuals who work with pesticides may require state licenses.

Career Titles Grounds Maintenance Workers Tree Trimmers & Pruners Pesticide Technicians (Handlers, Sprayers & Applicators)
Education Requirements A high school diploma and on-the-job training OR a certificate or degree program in turfgrass management A high school diploma and on-the-job training OR a certificate or degree program in turfgrass management A high school diploma, on-the-job training and licensing OR a certificate or degree program in turfgrass management and licensing
Projected Job Growth (2014 - 2024)* 6% 6% 4%
Median Annual Salary (May, 2015)* $29,220 $33,500 $32,540

Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Jobs in turf management may be found at athletic fields or golf courses for universities, professional sports teams, municipal parks and private clubs. Career titles may include assistant golf course superintendent, landscape operations manager, turf scout, pesticide technician, tree trimmers, lawn care specialist, landscaping crew supervisor and sports field manager, among others. Turf managers may also work as consultants or sales representatives. Details of a few career options are shown below.

Grounds Maintenance Workers

Grounds maintenance workers care for and beautify the outdoor properties of businesses, homes and public parks. In addition to raking leaves and maintaining groundskeeping equipment, they plant flowers and water lawns. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), grounds maintenance workers were expected to see a 6% increase in job opportunities from 2014-2024. The BLS also reported that this group earned median annual wages of $29,220 in May 2015.

Tree Trimmers and Pruners

Tree trimmers and pruners ensure the health of trees by removing their excess and dead branches. They also make certain that trees don't obstruct utility wires or overhang sidewalks and roadways. An employment expansion rate of 6% was predicted for the 2014-2024 decade. The median annual earnings for tree trimmers and pruners as of May 2015 was $33,500.

Pesticide Technicians

Pesticide technicians control the effects of weeds and insects on plants by applying herbicides. They also use soil fertilizers to promote plant growth. The BLS projected that jobs for pesticide handlers, sprayers and applicators would increase by 4% during the 2014-2024 decade. Median annual salaries were $32,540 as of May 2015.

Turf Management Job Requirements

Individuals pursuing careers in turf management need good oral and written communication skills, in addition to being able to follow directions and learn quickly. Because turf management professionals may work with minimal supervision, they should be self-motivated. Employers may prefer to hire workers with driver's licenses, since driving is often included in the job duties. Workers must be able to lift heavy objects and operate machinery. They also need to tolerate a variety of weather conditions.

The College Foundation of North Carolina states that it's helpful for sports turf managers to play the game that takes place on their grounds in order to understand playability and safety. For example, golf superintendents may play golf on their courses and other courses in order to make comparisons. Those in management positions need strong decision-making, budgeting and problem-solving abilities.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), licensure is required in most states for grounds maintenance workers who use pesticides. A common requirement for licensure is to successfully complete an exam that covers fungicide, insecticide and herbicide application and disposal.

Turf Management Education Requirements

The BLS stated that while a postsecondary education isn't required for grounds maintenance occupations, it may improve employment prospects. A variety of undergraduate options are offered in turfgrass management, from certificate to bachelor's degree programs. The curriculum typically covers such topics as soil science, machinery maintenance, pest management, weed control, ornamental plants, horticulture, plant diseases, irrigation and golf course design. Some programs offer internship opportunities.

Though you may only need to hold a high school diploma to land a job in turn management, you may find that a certificate or even a degree can stand you in good stead and increase your marketability. Such a certification may be particularly to your advantage seeing that employment opportunities are projected to increase, at best, only as fast as those for all occupations through 2024, so competition may be somewhat stiff. If your job includes the use of pesticides, most states require you to be licensed.

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