How to Become a Private Groundskeeper: Career Information

Jul 29, 2018

Find out how to become a private groundskeeper. Research the education and training requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in groundskeeping.

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  • 0:00 About Private Groundskeepers
  • 0:57 Step 1: Consider College
  • 2:16 Step 2: Become Licensed
  • 2:40 Step 3: Find…
  • 3:11 Step 4: Earn Credentials
  • 4:03 Step 5: Advance Your Career

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About Private Groundskeepers

Private groundskeepers manage and maintain yards, facilities and landscapes. They complete a variety of job duties, including mowing and fertilizing lawns, trimming trees and hedges and planting flowers and shrubs. They maintain all features of a home's grounds and provide upkeep for planters and water features.

Jobs for private groundskeepers are generally most plentiful in the spring, summer and fall months, but this can depend on the location of work. These professionals spend a great deal of time outdoors, and their work can be physically demanding and repetitive. The work can be dangerous, due to the use of machinery like chainsaws and exposure to pesticides. Despite these risks, the earnings are generally meager. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, landscaping and groundskeeping workers earned an average yearly salary of $27,460 as of May 2015. Now let's take a closer look at the steps you can take to become a private groundskeeper.

Common Requirements
Degree Level High school diploma may be necessary; formal education sometimes preferred
Degree Field Landscape design, horticulture or arboriculture
Licensure Required by many states for pesticide use
Certification Optional certification is available
Experience No experience is necessary for entry-level positions
Key Skills Private groundskeepers should have strong listening, speaking skill, and critical-thinking skills; ability to stay motivated is also essential
Technical Skills Experience with mowers, tractors, snow blowers, chain saws, sod cutters, fertilizer spreaders, edgers, and soil pulverizers
Additional Skills Physical stamina for bending, shoveling, and lifting motions; may also work in inclement weather

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ONet Online

Step 1: Consider College

The first step along this career path is to consider postsecondary education. There are no formal education requirements for private groundskeepers; however, some employers may prefer candidates who have completed some postsecondary education. You might earn a certificate in grounds maintenance, which typically includes coursework in equipment repair, landscaping and plant care. Students may also receive instruction on sprinkler systems, including maintenance practices. These programs generally take 1 year or less to complete.

You could also earn an associate's degree in landscape management, which combines general education requirements and landscape management courses in the curriculum. Students may study soil and plant science, grass management, irrigation procedures, landscape design, environmental law, ornamental plant materials and pest control. Such 2-year programs can be found at community colleges and technical schools. Students may also benefit from taking business classes to prepare for groundskeeping management positions.

Success Tip:

  • Complete an internship. Some formal education programs provide internship opportunities for students who wish to become private groundskeepers. Students should take advantage of these internships since they allow the chance to gain valuable hands-on experience working in the field and becoming familiar with the tools of the trade.

Step 2: Become Licensed

Next you should obtain a license if necessary. Some states require that groundskeepers who use pesticides obtain licensure. The licensing requirements vary from state to state, but generally include passage of an exam assessing knowledge of insecticides, fungicides and herbicides. In some cases, there might be additional mandatory training. Aspiring groundskeepers should research the specific requirements for their states.

Step 3: Find Entry-Level Employment

With training in the necessary licensure, you can now seek entry-level employment. Entry-level groundskeepers begin with simple tasks, such as mowing lawns and trimming hedges. This brief period of on-the-job training helps new employees become familiar with the grounds and the expectations of the job. New hires may work alongside more experienced groundskeepers or with supervisors in order to gain experience with small engine maintenance, like repairing blowers or servicing chain saws. Additional duties may include digging trenches and maintaining hand tools.

Step 4: Earn Credentials

After gaining experience, you can move on to the certification phase of this career path. Although employers do not require private groundskeepers to be certified, certification may improve job opportunities. Certification is available through several professional organizations. One such organization is the National Association of Landscape Professionals, which offers seven different certification designations ranging in terms of both area of specialization and level of expertise. Groundskeepers must pass an examination, sometimes after completing a course of self-study, to hold these credentials.

Additionally, the International Society of Arboriculture offers the Certified Arborist and Certified Tree Worker Aerial Lift Specialist designations, among other certification options. Experienced groundskeepers may earn these certifications by successfully completing an exam.

Step 5: Advance Your Career

Lastly, private groundskeepers can advance their careers by joining professional organizations. Professional organizations offer networking opportunities, access to continuing education and opportunities to attend conferences. With work experience, continued education and certifications, it is possible to advance to positions like grounds manager or facilities manager, or you might start a private business.

There are no strict requirements for becoming a private groundskeeper, though you might prepare for the career with a certificate or associate's degree related to grounds maintenance and, if necessary, pesticide licensure. You can advance your career by earning certifications and joining professional organizations.

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