There is a lot of diversity in the field of landscaping. Landscapers can be service personnel with no additional or specialized education that cut grass, trim hedges and rake leaves. A landscapers can be a gardener who is an expert in caring for plants that are native to the region you live in. It can even be someone with an advanced degree in landscape architecture that can expertly design large parks or estates.
Landscapers usually work outdoors, but some work with indoor planting or in nurseries. Some landscapers become arborists who work with trees, irrigation specialists working on farms or golf courses or hardscapers designing patios and retaining walls. There are many options in the field of landscaping which means there are opportunities for advancement, additional training and higher earning potential.
The Bureau for Labor Statistics is estimating a large increase in the number of positions available for landscapers. The career is growing much faster than average. Since it is done outside, this is a job that can be completed even during times of quarantine or isolation. As people spend more time at home and working from home becomes the norm, homeowners want a comfortable place to spend their time.
Average salary depends greatly on education and experience. The average yearly salary for landscapers is $55,000. Landscape designers make an average of $57,000 and with the most education and experience landscape architects can expect to make about $69,000.
After completing high school or passing the GED, you can further your education formally or informally to start a career in landscaping. Some people simply choose to join gardening clubs to learn more about plants, trees and flowers that flourish in their climate. If you have a botanical garden near-by, you can volunteer to learn more about the details of keeping the garden green.
Another option is to look for an apprenticeships program. You can talk to local landscapers to see if they are willing to take on an apprentice. The National Association of Landscape Professionals works with landscapers across the country who are willing to train apprentice landscapers. After 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and additional classroom learning, you will receive a certificate of completion. You can further your education with programs for basic landscape management certifications and training in specific areas such as exterior technician, interior technician, lawn care manager and horticulture technician.
You could also further your education through trade school, an associates degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree. Programs that would lead you to a career in landscaping include:
- Landscape Architecture
- Landscape design
Landscape architects are required to complete a four year degree. The American Society for Landscape Architects (ASLA) website can help you find degree and certificate programs in landscape architecture and prepare you to take the Landscape Architect Registration Examination.
Licensing requirements for landscaping vary from state to state. Be sure to check the requirements where you live. You may need to register with the Department of Agriculture or have a contractor’s license. You also may be required to take and pass an exam.
For some tasks like mowing lawns and shoveling snow, there will often be no regulations. But if you are handling pesticides or other chemicals, you will be required to be licensed. Some suggested certifications include:
- OSHA Construction Safety Course- This 10-hour class is a great introduction to safety training for any landscape professional. It will help you identify hazards and avoid potential dangers.
- Pesticide Safety Education Program- This is regulated by the EPA on a national level, but certification is done on a state level. Each state lists certifying agencies and their requirements for classroom hours and examinations.
Specializations in landscaping
Landscaping is a large category with many specializations. While a landscaper may maintain the grounds of a businesses or apartment building another landscaper may be a professional in designing elaborate outdoor spaces. Some are experts in flowering plants or trees or irrigation systems. Each of these areas requires unique training programs and very niche knowledge.
Assess your interests in landscaping and find the program that will help you achieve those specific goals. Some educational programs you may want to consider include:
- AmericanHort- They strive to include every member of the horticulture industry including greenhouses, landscapers and distributers. Their website is a wealth of information and provides learning opportunities through online classes and in person events.
- Irrigation Association- IA offers 25 classes that include turf management, golf course irrigation and agricultural irrigation. They also host online classes developed by the Irrigation Training and Research Center.
- Snow and Ice Management Association- For some landscapers, winter weather means dealing with snow and ice. If you plan to make this part of your business, you can earn your Certified Snow Professional or Advanced Snow Manager certificates to show that you can use chemicals to deal with winter weather.
- International Society of Arboriculture Certification- To be an ISA Certified Arborist is to be recognized as a highly competent landscape professional. You can take the online classes through their website and then sit for the exam. After obtaining the Certified Arborist designation, the ISA has a number of advanced courses available at a low cost that will improve your work in landscaping.
- Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS)- Their membership includes both independent landscapers and those employed by institutions such as colleges, cities, theme parks, businesses complexes and more. You can use their training program to become a Certified Grounds Manager or a certified Grounds Technician.
- Interlocking Concrete Paving Institute (ICPI)- For pros who are interested in hardscaping and design, the ICPI’s Hardscape Institute offers multiple certifications from basic installation training to residential and commercial specializations.
- EPA WaterSense- A certification for those working with sprinkler and irrigation systems, this designation shows you can perform water audits and understand the correct functioning of irrigation systems.
Additional certification options
After you start your landscaping career, you may find there is a demand for professionals trained in specific knowledge areas. You may consider pursuing additional certifications and expertise in niche areas such as:
- Golf course management
- Urban forestry
- Treecare Safety
- Interior landscaping/ floriculture
- Nursery Professional
With many options for careers and specializations, you are sure to find a niche that meets the needs of your community.
Landscaping is a growing field of business. Homeowners, businesses, parks and farms all need landscapers trained in maintaining lawns, irrigation, tree care or hardscaping. It’s a career choice that you can start quickly and gain expertise and certifications as your business grows. Landscapers can own their own businesses or be employed by cities, business parks, nurseries and more.
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