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Landscaping Careers: Job Options and Requirements

A career in landscaping can require either significant or little formal education depending on the occupation. Learn about the degrees, job duties, licenses and certifications necessary for a landscaping job.

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On-the-job training is required to become a landscaping and groundskeeping worker. Landscape architects, however, need a bachelor's or master's degree, and landscape designers are required to have at least an associate's degree to prepare for their careers. Licensing and certification requirements vary by career and state.

Essential Information

Individuals interested in landscaping can find a wide variety of career choices, ranging from manual labor to professional design. A bachelor's, master's or doctorate degree is needed for higher paying positions in landscaping, while lower wage jobs require an only a two-year degree or certification.

Careers Landscape Architect Landscape Designer Landscaping and Groundskeeping Worker
Required Education bachelor's or master's in landscape architecture, doctorate for advancement associate, bachelor's or master's in horticulture, botany, or soil science on-the-job training
Other Requirements internship, certification, license varies by state certification certification in landscape design, horticulture or arboriculture, license for pesticide use
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 5% 5% for all landscape architects 6% for all grounds maintenance workers
Median Annual Salary $63,810 (2015)* $44,073 (2016)** $25,030 (2015) for landscaping and groundskeeping workers*

Sources: *Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com

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Career Options

A landscape architect or designer demonstrates the ability to interact with clients and follow their guidelines in order to artfully design outdoor spaces. Landscape groundskeepers must have experience with pesticides, power tools and irrigation systems. To work in all landscaping occupations, you need to have extensive knowledge about plants, shrubs, grass and trees.

Landscape Architects

Landscape architects analyze, design, and oversee the implementation of outdoor spaces such as parks, historic areas, corporate property, highways and subdivisions. They often work with engineers and biologists to determine how to incorporate roads, walkways, structures and plantings with landscaping.

Landscape architects can expect slower than average job growth, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which projects the number of new jobs to increase by 5% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The median annual salary for landscape architects was $63,810 in May 2015, the BLS reports.

Although landscape architects may be drawn to the field because of their enjoyment of the outdoors, much of their work is performed indoors: analyzing client needs, using computer-aided design (CAD) software to create plans, writing reports and making presentations to clients.

According to BLS data, the top employer of landscape architects is the architectural and engineering services industry. Other employers include building and dwelling service businesses, local and state governments, and lawn and garden stores.

Being a landscape architect requires creativity, the ability to plan, and an interest in designing outdoor spaces. Landscape architecture is a highly regulated field and requires advanced education. Most landscape architects have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in the field. Some have a master's degree or a Ph.D.

Nearly every state requires landscape architects to pass one or more licensing exams to work in the state. In addition, some states have continuing education requirements, according to the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Landscape Designers

Although landscape architecture can involve landscape design, the latter career focuses on smaller spaces, such as residential property and gardens, and especially on the horticultural aspect of landscaping. A landscape designer selects which plants will look and grow best in a given area.

Some landscape designers are self-employed or work for landscape architects. Designers can also work for garden supply stores and nurseries, landscape service companies or design firms. Landscape designers in the United States earned a median annual salary of $44,073 with a pay range between $33,507 and $58,641 as of October 2016, according to PayScale.com. The BLS lists landscape designers under the title of landscape architects. Job growth for landscape architects is projected to increase by 5% for the years 2014 to 2024, according to the BLS.

A landscape designer must have good knowledge of plants and creative design skills. According to the BLS, landscape designers often earn an associate or bachelor's degree. Designers can earn degrees in fields such as botany, horticulture or soil science. Some colleges offer landscape design as a concentration in a bachelor's degree program in plant sciences, as well as a master's degree in landscape design.

Landscape designers with at least four years of experience in the field can also earn certification from the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD). The APLD evaluates applicants' educational background and work as part of the certification process and requires taking classes and passing exams for continued certification.

Landscaping and Groundskeeping Workers

Landscaping workers may also be called grounds maintenance workers, gardeners, greenskeepers, turfgrass managers or tree trimmers. The basic goal of groundskeeping workers is the care and upkeep of plants and the structures around them, such as pools, walkways and sprinkler systems.

Landscaping and groundskeeping workers are employed by many businesses, including corporations and institutions with campuses, lawn and garden services, parks, golf courses and athletic fields.

They use their knowledge of plants and gardening tools to install landscaping, maintain it, and protect it from pests and harsh weather. Specific tasks may include mowing, fertilizing, aerating, irrigating and trimming. These workers can lay sod, build concrete structures and install sprinkler systems.

The BLS projected a 6% employment growth for grounds maintenance workers from 2014 and 2024. The median annual wage for this occupation was $25,030 as of May 2015, according to the BLS.

A desire to work outdoors and the ability to perform the tasks are the main requirements of landscaping and groundskeeping workers. Fewer than half of these workers have a high school diploma, according to O*Net OnLine (www.onetonline.org). Many learn their required tasks on the job. Those who work with power tools and large equipment may need formal safety training.

Some community colleges offer a 1-year certificate program in landscape technology or horticulture for workers interested in improving their skills. These programs cover plant identification, pest management and basic landscaping principles.

In addition, groundskeepers can become certified through professional associations, such as the Professional Landcare Network. Certification options available through the Professional Landcare Network include Landscape Industry Certified Technician-Exterior and Landscape Industry Certified Horticultural Technician.

A career creating and maintaining outdoor spaces, such as parks, golf courses, or gardens, can mean working as a landscaping and groundskeeping worker, or as a landscape architect or designer. Landscape architects create plans for large outdoor spaces, while landscape designers focus on smaller ones, and landscaping and groundskeeping workers tend to plants and lawns. All of these professionals can expect slower than average job growth in their field from 2014 to 2024.

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