While formal education is not required for a position as a landscape contractor, many postsecondary programs exist that could be beneficial for individuals seriously considering this career path. Not only does postsecondary coursework introduce students to topics like landscape drafting, plant maintenance and turfgrass management, a degree or certificate might also help landscape contractors obtain professional certification and more advanced positions in the future. Some landscaping projects may require contractors to have appropriate licensure as well.
Landscape contractors train and oversee groundskeeping technicians performing such services as garden enhancement, irrigation design, horticultural management and hardscaping. They combine art and science to create safe, functional and attractive indoor and outdoor spaces for commercial and residential properties. Though there is no traditional path to employment in this field, 2-year programs are available in community colleges and technical schools.
|Required Education||None specified; certificate and degree programs are available|
|Other Requirements||Licensure, depending on the state; training with the Professional Landcare Network recommended|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||6% (for grounds maintenance workers)*|
|Average Salary (2015)||$27,460 (for landscaping and groundskeeping workers)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Landscape Contractor Degree Programs
There are no particular academic requirements set by the industry for landscape contractors, but there are certificate and degree programs that can help professionals find better job options, advance in the field, qualify for licensure or open a landscaping firm. An educational program in landscape contracting often involves instruction in greenhouses and ornamental planting, landscape planning software and equipment operation. These programs can often be found through community and technical schools.
The three fundamental areas in most landscape contracting programs are horticulture, small property design and landscape construction. A program typically runs for two years, and graduates may receive an associate's degree. Topics covered often include the following:
- Introductory botany
- Landscape plants
- Herbaceous plants
- Plant maintenance
- Turfgrass management
- Soil testing and maintenance
- Insects of ornamentals
- Landscape drafting
- Construction materials
- Landscape estimating and bidding
- Financial and managerial accounting
- Business concepts for the landscaping industry
Training for Landscape Contractors
Students in landscape contractor programs typically gain hands-on experience in grounds maintenance projects by working in landscape and construction firms or other relevant establishments. These jobs and internships allow them to practice tree and shrub pruning, applying fertilizers, installing plants and mowing. They may also learn how to maintain irrigation systems, install path lights and renovate landscapes.
In some areas, landscape contractors may need to obtain licensure to qualify for large jobs or municipal work. Professional organizations often offer guidance for contractors who are looking to get licensed. Additionally, some schools may offer landscape contractor courses that help candidates meet requirements and pass exams. These licensing bodies often offer insurance programs, marketing support and quality standards.
Additionally, landscape contractors can obtain training through industry organizations, such as the Professional Landcare Network (www.landcarenetwork.org). Contractors can attend seminars and webinars on various industry topics. They can also obtain landscape industry certification that signifies they meet certain standards.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), grounds maintenance workers in general could expect a 6% job growth from 2014-2024, and landscaping and groundskeeping workers in particular could also look forward to a 6% growth in employment during that same time. In 2015, the BLS reported an annual average salary of $27,460 for landscaping and groundskeeping workers, with the highest levels of employment in the services industry for buildings and dwellings.
Landscape contractors need to be able to make outdoor spaces both aesthetically pleasing and safe, which is where a postsecondary education might prove useful. Additionally, completing an internship with a construction or landscaping firm is a good way to experience hands-on training and become acquainted with some of the tools and practices of the trade. Further training opportunities are offered through professional organizations like the Professional Landcare Network, which features both webinar and seminar training as well as certification.