Prospective horticulture students who would like to earn a degree in the field may want to consider an on-campus program, since much of the training is practical and can't be easily substituted in an online course of study. However, a few bachelor's degree programs are offered via distance learning.
Some bachelor's degree programs are available fully online, but programs more commonly offer a mix of online and on-campus coursework, and students may need to visit their school to perform laboratory work. Practical fieldwork may also be required, and students may complete an internship at a local greenhouse or farm. It's recommended to have previous hands-on experience with plants if students want to complete one of the few fully online programs.
There are a few other programs available that aren't detailed in this article. Students seeking entry-level training could consider an on-campus associate's degree program in horticulture that offers some online classes. Those seeking professional development may look into graduate certificate and master's degree programs in horticulture.
Bachelor of Science in Horticulture Programs
Horticulture programs provide education in plant biology and genetics, plant pathologies, soils, pest management, seed production, cultivation and plant identification. Distance learning programs may emphasize ornamental or edible plant horticulture, or include both. Bachelor's degree programs in horticulture also include business and marketing courses, as well as studies of the social and environmental aspects of food production. Previous study or experience with plants is helpful, along with access to a garden and local nurseries.
As with any baccalaureate degree, core education courses such as literature, math, writing, chemistry, and history are also required. Students can also explore online undergraduate programs in agriculture, agronomy, environmental science, and natural resources, because these fields typically include a strong horticulture component.
Program Information and Requirements
Distance horticulture studies programs are often a mix of online courses with research labs and internships that must be taken in person. In-person work may be done at a local university or college; field studies at a farm or nursery are also possibilities. Distance learning students also have online access to on-campus libraries and technical assistance for research.
Online horticulture students must have a computer with Internet access and e-mail. Online teaching methods can consist of the Web, DVDs, interactive media, and streaming video. Adobe Acrobat Reader may also be required. At some schools, students may need to purchase special software, such as Blackboard or Camtasia, as well as textbooks. These may be available through the school at a discount. The purchase of mail-order kits for horticulture lab research projects may also be necessary.
List of Common Horticultural Courses
Horticulture offers a wide variety of topics and themes, from urban forestry to pest control and the economics of food. Students can focus on a scientific or business perspective. Most core education requirements can be met online as well.
Organic Gardening and Farming
Students learn about the methods and philosophy of producing organic food. Environmental and biological aspects are examined, along with the growing emphasis on locally produced food. This course is often a hybrid of online learning and field work.
Plant Pests Management
An important component of online horticultural programs is learning ways to keep plants safe from insect pests, weeds and plant diseases. Students learn pest identification, pesticide and herbicide safety, and alternative methods of management.
This distance learning course covers the spectrum of information needed to create and operate a greenhouse. Internal environment, construction of greenhouses, growing plants and pest control are included. Also explored are the marketing and management aspects of a greenhouse business. This type of class may require previous environmental or plant experience or education.
A blend of art and science, this online class teaches students to select and analyze a planting site and creates a landscape design. Selecting the best plants for both suitability and appearance is also featured. These skills can be applied to personal, commercial or residential projects.
Nutrition for Plants
The physiology of plants and how they absorb nutrients is presented. Specifics online topics include how to provide different types of plants with the right minerals in various soil conditions, along with the diagnosis of nutritional problems.
An online education program in horticulture provides an educational foundation for careers in grounds maintenance; graduates of these programs may find jobs as landscaping workers, groundskeepers, greenskeepers, pesticide handlers/applicators or tree trimmers and pruners. From 2014 to 2024, employment for these workers is expected to increase by 6%, which is about as fast as the national average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As of May 2015, the median hourly wage for all grounds maintenance workers was $12.31.
Graduates may also pursue careers as crop farmers, horticultural specialty farmers or aquaculture farmers. They may also oversee operations of farms, nurseries and other horticulture-related organizations as agricultural managers. As of May 2015, the median annual wage for farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers was $64,170, per the BLS. Employment for these professional is expected to decline by 2% from 2014 to 2024, but agricultural managers are expected to have the best job prospects.
Many options are available for horticulture continuing education, both for professionals and hobbyists. Online Master of Science and graduate certificate programs are available for those who wish to learn specific topics in more depth, such as soil science or arboriculture, or to study global issues in horticulture. Many individual courses from bachelor's degree horticulture programs are also widely available for online continuing education or as part of a distance learning graduate certificate course.
In an online bachelor's degree program in horticulture, students get a general education as well as an introduction to the fields of farming, gardening and landscaping. Lectures, assignments and class discussions take place within virtual classroom, while hands-on work with plants may be completed on-campus, in the student's home or in real-world field settings.