A horticulturalist can work in any number of environments containing plants, including an arboretum or garden center. Their responsibilities involve various tasks, from cultivating, planting, harvesting, feeding, and pruning plants, to treating plants that might be infested with pests or infected with a disease. A high school diploma is typically the only education needed for entry-level work in this field.
Horticultural workers perform various gardening duties in settings like nurseries, parks and botanical gardens. They work under the direction of a supervisor and may advance to a supervisory position after several years of on-the-job experience. Horticulture workers may obtain an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree for the purpose of advancing their careers.
|Required Education||High school diploma; an associate's degree in horticulture is recommended for advancement|
|Other Requirements||Physical fitness|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||-9% (farmworkers and laborers, crop, nursery, and greenhouse)*|
|Median Salary (2016)||$39,495 annually (horticulturist)**|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com
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Horticultural Worker Job Description
Under the direction of a supervisor, horticultural workers grow, sell and harvest flowers, plants, shrubs and trees. They are employed at nurseries, botanical gardens, landscape companies, parks and arboretums. Horticultural workers often perform arduous labor in varying weather conditions. Gardening requires horticultural workers to bend, pull, push, stoop and stand for long periods of time.
Horticultural Job Duties
Horticultural workers prepare seed beds, transfer plants to containers, move container plants around the work site, till the soil and unload shipments of packaged soil and other gardening products. They may also propagate new plants through grafting and other measures, as well as prune plants and trees.
Wearing protective gear like dust masks, safety glasses and protective clothing is essential to the horticultural worker's job. The use of fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals exposes horticultural workers to substances that may be harmful. Caution when using gardening equipment and tools is also necessary for horticulture workers to avoid injury.
Some horticultural workers analyze plants to figure out whether they are nutrient deficient, infected with disease or infested with pests. They then determine the best measures to remedy the problems. Horticultural workers also use numerous gardening tools and equipment and clean and care for them to keep them in good condition.
Arboretums and botanical gardens employ horticultural workers who strategically place plants to create natural-looking settings. Horticultural workers are knowledgeable about soil conditions, irrigation needs, nutrient requirements, light intensity, plant pathology and plant insects. They also prune and weed areas to keep plants healthy and vigorous.
Horticultural workers in nurseries are involved with filling orders and packing plants for shipping. They transplant or dig up plants, flowers, trees and shrubs into individual containers to prepare them for selling. Keeping the landscape around the nursery well-maintained may also be part of horticultural workers' duties.
Horticultural Worker Career Advancement
To advance their careers, horticulture workers may consider completing postsecondary educational courses and programs. Technical schools and community colleges offer certificates and associate's degree programs in horticulture that include classes on botany, plant propagation and soil science. Students considering a career in sales or management may consider courses in nursery operation and ornamental plants, while those looking for careers in landscaping may take courses on landscape design, weed management and pesticides. Students may also complete bachelor's degree programs, which generally offer a stronger foundation in plant biology, plant materials, growing practices, chemistry and business management.
In 2016, PayScale.com reported that the salary range for most horticulturists was $23,166- $54,398. The median salary for these professionals was $39,495.
A horticulturalist's job often involves a lot of physical exertion, such as lifting heavy plants or pots, bending over, and digging, and these tasks might take place outdoors in various weather conditions. Horticulturalists must also be prepared to handle harmful chemicals, such as pesticides or fertilizers, and to use gardening tools that could be dangerous.