How to Become a Forest Nursery Supervisor

Learn how to become a forest nursery supervisor. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in the field of forest nursery supervision.

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Should I Become a Forest Nursery Supervisor?

Forest nursery supervisors manage the various functions of nurseries that grow trees for use in forests, woodlands, parks and similar private and public areas. They manage the business operations and oversee the technical work, scheduling and training of employees. They also oversee the horticultural practices to optimize plant growth for up to thousands of trees. Job duties often include developing production schedules for different types of trees, managing automated irrigation systems, identifying and effectively treating pests and diseases, testing soil, pruning, weed control and cover cropping.

Supervisors generally need both experience performing these tasks and extensive botanical knowledge to effectively oversee employees. They should be comfortable working in outdoor environments in all types of weather, as well as indoor office environments, since the job does involve a good deal of record-keeping and office work.

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Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Horticulture, forestry, agriculture, soil science, botany
Experience Employers may seek applicants with up to two years' related experience
Licensure and Certification State pesticide applicator license required in many states, other licenses and certifications may be required
Key Skills Reasoning skills, time-management, problem-solving, decision-making and critical-thinking abilities, database management and accounting software skills, nursery equipment skills, ability to successfully grow and care for trees
Salary (2014) $57,980 per year (median salary for all foresters)

Sources: O*NET Online, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, City College of San Francisco, CareerOneStop.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Although some forest nursery supervisors work their way up to supervisory positions, most employers who posted on job boards such as Indeed.com and CareerBuilder.com in October 2012 were seeking candidates who possessed both a bachelor's degree and work experience. A bachelor's degree in fields such as horticulture, botany, forestry, agriculture, soil science or landscaping was often preferred.

Success Tips:

  • Complete an apprenticeship or internship. Aspiring forest nursery supervisors should consider completing an apprenticeship while in school. Such a program provides on-the-job training and the opportunity to learn about the industry, develop relevant skills and acquire horticultural knowledge. Additionally, an apprenticeship may provide the work experience sought by most employers.
  • Engage in volunteer work. If the student's college does not offer an internship or apprenticeship program, volunteering at a local greenhouse nursery or finding a part-time, entry-level job at a plant nursery, tree farm or crop farm could provide hands-on learning opportunities. On-the-job learning is a common way for aspiring forest nursery supervisors to acquire basic operational knowledge and start building a work history.
  • Take business courses. Individuals who plan to seek supervisory or management positions can benefit from courses in management, business communication, organizational structure and other business-related topics. These courses can provide individuals with essential management and business skills to communicate with employees and keep operations running smoothly.

Step 2: Obtain an Entry-Level Position

Aspiring forest nursery supervisors who have earned an undergraduate degree and who have acquired relevant work experience while in school should have good prospects when seeking entry-level positions. Jobs can be found at forest tree nurseries, greenhouses or ornamental tree nurseries, which grow trees for landscaping.

Step 3: Obtain Necessary Licenses and Certifications

A state driver's license is usually required for jobs in this field. Many states require that nursery workers obtain a State Pesticide Applicator's license within 6 months of hire. Some states offer Certified Nursery Landscape Professional programs that involve experience requirements, an exam, and continuing education requirements. Depending on the employer, different jobs may require other industry-related licenses and certifications.

Step 4: Advance Your Career

Individuals may advance their career by moving into supervisory positions after gaining experience working at nurseries or in managerial positions. Before being promoted, these workers generally need to develop a thorough understanding of tree planting, tree growth and disease prevention, as well as accompanying tools and products, such as fertilizers, chemicals and irrigation equipment. Additionally, some employers prefer candidates who possess any supervisory experience, meaning that you could benefit from supervising a landscaping business, a lawn and garden store or another plant-related business.

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