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Horticultural Therapist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a horticultural therapist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about education, training and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

Horticultural therapists focus on improving lives by combining gardening activities with social services to help their clients with physical and mental health issues. They typically complete a certificate or bachelor's degree in horticultural therapy to prepare for their career. Professional certification is an option to those with a bachelor's degree and at least 480 hours of practical experience.

Essential Information

A relatively new field, horticultural therapy combines gardening and social services to improve the lives of people with physical and mental health problems. Requiring horticulture and social science skills, horticultural therapists may work with people from all walks of life. While there are no specific education requirements, most horticultural therapists have either a certificate or a bachelor's degree in horticultural therapy or a related field. Optional certification through the American Horticultural Therapy Association is available to candidate's with a bachelor's degree and adequate field experience.

Required Education No standard requirement; certificate or bachelor's degree is typical
Optional Certification Horticultural Therapist Registered credential from the American Horticultural Therapy Association
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 27% for all occupational therapists
Median Annual Salary $80,150 for all occupational therapists in 2015*, $40,362 for all horticulturists in 2016**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

Job Description of a Horticultural Therapist

Horticultural therapists can be found working in a wide variety of settings, such as rehabilitation centers, hospitals, schools, community gardens, retirement centers, and correctional facilities. They often collaborate with health care practitioners and mental health experts to help clients reach therapeutic and vocational goals. Through the use of gardening and plant-cultivation activities, therapists assist clients in fostering a more positive attitude and sense of accomplishment. They can also help improve patients' strength and balance as well as relieve their stress. Therapists may also design gardens for health care facilities or other organizations.

Horticultural Therapist Duties

Horticultural therapists plan gardening-based activities, either on a per-session basis or incorporated into a larger curriculum. Therapists who are independent contractors or who don't have a garden to work with on location may provide plants and gardening materials for their clients. They teach patients how to plant seeds, care for plants, and sell the end-results. For some therapists, their job duties might include planning the design of a community, school, or other public garden.

Requirements to Become a Horticultural Therapist

Although there were no set requirements as of April 2011, aspiring horticultural therapists can learn the required skills by completing a program in horticultural therapy. Some colleges and universities offer bachelor's degree and certificate programs in horticultural therapy, while others may offer it as a concentration within the horticulture major. Students can take such classes as botany, plant propagation, horticultural therapy techniques, and landscape design.

Horticultural therapists who wish to showcase their credentials to potential employers may apply for professional registration. The American Horticultural Therapy Association offers the Horticultural Therapist Registered designation, which is awarded to therapists who have earned at least a four-year degree and completed 480 hours of field experience. Some course content related to horticultural therapy is also required.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) does not provide information specific to the field of horticultural therapy, the BLS did project that the employment of occupational therapists will likely grow by about 27% between 2014 and 2024, a rate significantly faster than the average predicted for all occupations. The BLS indicated in May 2015 that the median annual salary earned by such therapists was $80,150. According to PayScale.com in January 2016, horticulturalists earned a median of $40,362 annually, with salaries falling in the $29,885 to $58,640 range at that time.

Horticultural therapists plan activities related to gardening for clients who may have mental health or physical health issues. They may also be responsible for planning public gardens at schools or other locations. Jobs for occupational therapists of all types are expected to increase tremendously over the next few years.


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