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Ornamental Horticulture Education and Career Information

Sep 19, 2019

Floral designers, landscape managers and golf course superintendents need little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and certificate requirements to see if any of these careers are right for you.

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A career in ornamental horticulture, or cultivating gardens or outdoor spaces for beautification, does not require post-secondary education. Vocational training or a degree program may help aspiring ornamental horticulturists to develop their creativity and skills.

Essential Information

People interested in using plants and other natural elements to beautify their surroundings may want to study ornamental horticulture. High school graduates may find some entry-level jobs in the field. They may also complete a certificate program, or earn an associate or bachelor's degree, depending on what specialization they choose.

Careers Floral Designer Landscape Manager Golf Course Superintendent
Required Education High school diploma or associate's degree in floral design High school diploma or associate's degree in horticulture High school diploma or associate's degree
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* -14% 9% (first-line supervisors of landscaping, lawn service, and groundskeeping workers) 9% (for grounds maintenance workers)
Median Annual Salary (2018) $27,200* $48,220* (first-line supervisors of landscaping, lawn service, and groundskeeping workers) $55,141 (2019)**

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

Career Options

A career in ornamental horticulture is for the person who enjoys working outside, and has a desire to learn about plants, lawns, and trees. Qualifications for ornamental horticulture include strong physical endurance, an ability to supervise, creativity, and good customer service and organizational skills.

Floral Designer

Floral designers work with fresh, dried or silk flowers and arrange them in displays of various sizes. They may use flowers in combination with containers, ribbons and greenery to create centerpieces, bouquets and other arrangements to meet the needs of their clients.

Some flower shops and greenhouses may hire floral designers who have a high school diploma or equivalent. These workers usually develop their skills through on-the-job training.

Floral designers who wish to enhance their earning power or hold a management position may want to pursue a certificate or associate degree in floral design, horticulture or a closely related field. Classes in a certificate program may include special occasion design, wedding design, business management and an internship or apprenticeship with a local nursery or other organization in the field.

An associate of science degree program for floral designers is usually completed in two years and may add courses in art history, drawing and plant science courses to those listed above. Learners may also study pest management and complete a design project.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for floral designers were expected to rapidly decline between 2018 and 2028; however, the BLS notes that job seekers may also look for employment with general merchandise stores and floral departments in grocery stores . Designers who are willing to work in these marketplaces should have good opportunities to find employment. The mean annual salary for floral designers in 2018 was $28,900.

Landscape Manager

A landscape manager plans pleasant outdoor spaces around residences or small businesses and supervises a crew of workers that implement the plan. Managers use their knowledge of soils and plants to choose the best foliage and vegetation for a particular area.

Some landscape workers begin their career with a high school diploma and learn the necessary skills through on-the-job training. They may move into management positions after gaining several years of experience. Landscape managers must be able to schedule and supervise a team of workers and inspect work that has been completed to be sure it meets the requirements of the plan. They must also be able to prepare estimates of work costs for clients and manage project budgets.

Many landscape designers and managers earn an associate degree in ornamental horticulture or a related field. Such programs require about two years to complete and typically include classes in landscape design, water conservation, irrigation technology and computer-assisted design classes. Students who hope to operate their own landscaping company may also want to study small business principles.

The Professional Landcare Network (known as PLANET) offers several certifications for workers in the field who have at least two years of experience (www.landcarenetwork.org). Eligible candidates must complete a qualifying exam to earn the designation. Exams are offered in a variety of specialties and landscapers who earn a certificate are allowed to display the organization's logo, which may enhance their credibility and earning power.

The BLS puts landscape managers in the occupational category called first-line supervisors of landscaping, lawn service and groundskeeping workers. The BLS projects jobs in this category are expected to rise faster than the average between 2018 and 2028. The median hourly wage for first-line supervisors of landscaping, lawn service, and groundskeeping workers in 2018 was $23.18 and workers in the 90th percentile or higher earned $77,500 or more, per year.

Golf Course Superintendent or Turf Manager

Workers who manage golf courses or athletic facilities may receive some of the same training as landscape managers, but they specialize in caring for grass instead of other kinds of plants, trees and shrubs. Turf superintendents may also find work at sod farms, parks and cemeteries.

Although some high school graduates may be employed as groundskeepers at golf courses and other venues, management positions at such facilities are usually reserved for those with further education in the field. Some community colleges offer two-year programs specifically for turf managers that include courses in ground cover management and irrigation principles.

The Professional Grounds Management Society offers a certification process for supervisors in this field who have an associate or bachelor's degree and/or the prescribed number of years of experience. Candidates for certification must take a proctored exam along with an open book test that calls for workers to document their work sites and habits.

The BLS stated that employment of grounds maintenance workers is expected to increase faster than the average during the decade from 2018-2028. As of 2019, Payscale.com noted that golf course superintendents salary ranged from 37,000 to 93,000 per year.

While florists, landscape managers and golf course superintendents have very different roles and responsibilities, they all must possess an ability to use plants and/or the outdoors to create an aesthetically pleasing product or setting. Degree or certificate programs in ornamental horticulture would be good preparation for a career in one of these positions, as well as on-the-job-training.

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