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Job Spotlight - Landscaping and Groundskeeping

If you love working outdoors and have a green thumb, you may want to consider a future in Landscaping or as Groundskeeper. There is no feeling like working outside and creating something so amazing that people will take time to comment on how beautiful it looks. Imagination the satisfaction knowing that you have made a little piece of heaven right here on earth and it call came from your ability to landscape.
 

Quick Facts: Landscaping and Groundskeeping
2015 Median Pay (Annual) $25,610
2015 Median Pay (Hourly) $12.31
Entry Level Education At Least a high school diploma or GED
Recommended Education Post-secondary education (certificate or degree)
2014-2024 Projected Outlook 6% growth (as fast as average)
2014 Number of Jobs 1,282,000
2014-2024 Estimated Employment Gains 77,600

Resource: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Find a Landscaping Program Near You

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Landscaping FAQs

Even though you can jump straight in to a Landscaping job right out of high school, you might want to know more about some of the education required to make your job better and last longer. We have gathered and answered the most frequently asked questions we have received on Landscaping on this page. If you have other questions or have a suggestion to make this page better, please feel free to contact us.

What is Landscaping?

The art of Landscaping is one of the main ways of controlling an area’s natural environment through the use of design, flowers, plants, bushes, grasses and other mediums to create a new look. Landscapers, also known as groundskeepers, continually add and maintain these areas to adhere to the design and overall appeal of the area. Landscaping is normally performed at residential homes, businesses, buildings or in recreational related areas like ballparks, golf courses or public and private parks.

Landscapers and Landscape Architects work with the idea of using the age old practices of gardening to create an oasis or to beautify an area. This is done through hard work, planning and knowledge of the environmental conditions of an area. Landscaping can be used not only as an art form so make an area more appealing but also for practical means by help alleviate drainage problems or other problematic issues such as dust storms.

Those working in Landscaping are instructed in a number of crafts from working with tools and equipment to knowing which type of plants or grasses would be work in certain areas. Sometimes this work can be backbreaking and workers can be expected to labor in all sorts of weather conditions. However, the end results of a beautifully landscaped yard or park will always bring a strong sense of pride for anyone working in this industry.

How Can I Get Started as a Groundskeeper?

Quick Info: Working as a Landscaper
Typical requirements
• High school diploma or GED
• At least 18 years old
• Valid driver’s license
• Pass a drug test and criminal background check
Education
• On-the-job instruction
• Get a post-secondary education may help you with better job opportunities
Certifications
• Certifications are voluntary
• Certain education and experience requirements must be met
• Can be helpful when looking for a new job

Most Landscaping jobs only ask for a high school diploma or a GED as their educational requirement. You can jump right in and start learning on-the-job. Even though the level of entry is fairly low, you could make yourself stand out by enrolling in a community college or a 4-year college focusing on Landscaping. While you can choose either path, the real decision should be based more on what you are expecting out of this job.

We will break down the pros and cons of the most common routes that people take to become a Landscaping professional. We will also cover common requirements for employment and our recommendations so you have all options on the table to make an informed choice.

Typical Requirements for a Groundskeeper Job

The requirements to land an entry-level Landscaping job can be quite low. Besides a high school diploma, some of the other typical requirements include:

  • Be at Least 18 years old
  • Be able to pass a drug test and criminal background check
  • Have a valid Driver’s License
Post-Secondary Education

Even though most entry-level positions in Landscaping do not require a college degree, it might be something to consider. If you want to make a future as a groundskeeper, pursuing an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree can should be part of your plan. Not only will a formal education help obtain the skills and knowledge necessary to be successful, but it should open up a few more opportunities that you may not have had otherwise.

Over the next few years we will start seeing more employers that are seeking out employees who have some form of post-secondary education in areas such as horticulture and landscape design. The employers that are looking for those with a formal education see it as a step in the right direction when it comes to providing more of their services to their customers. In the meantime, an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree can be beneficial when looking for a job as it will set you apart from your competition.

Pros

  • Potentially more employment opportunities
  • Better chance at promotions and higher salary
  • Provides tools that can be helpful for a long-lasting work history

Cons

  • Cost of tuition may be out of your budget
  • It will take 2 to 4 years to complete your degree
  • No guarantees that it will be helpful in your job search
On-The-Job Learning

If you don’t see college in the immediate future, you may start working in Landscaping by getting hired by a lawn care company. Most lawn care companies have entry-level positions which serve as an on-the-job learning, so to speak. You will work under the supervision of more experienced Landscapers and follow their lead and direction.

Typically you will start out doing some of the more manual labor parts of the job and work yourself up there to more responsibility. It is highly possible that you have a crash course on safety, types of plants and grass along with other basic information. The length of time it takes for you work your way through an on-the-job training type of job greatly depends on how fast you pick things up and the exact structure of the company you work for.

Pros

  • Receive a paycheck while you learn
  • Training by experienced professionals
  • Virtually no classroom instruction

Cons

  • Can be laid off or let go
  • May find yourself working as a grunt rather than really learning
  • Required instruction depends on expertise
Certifications

There are a number of certifications that someone working in Landscaping can earn. These certifications are mainly voluntary but can provide an advantage in job or advancement opportunities. There are several organizations that provide certifications such as the Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS), Professional Landcare Network (PLN) and the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). To be eligible for most certifications you will need to either meet some education requirements and or a certain number of years of experience in the field as well as passing an exam.

Licensing

You can start working as a licensed Landscape Architect by passing the Landscape Architect Registration Examination (LARE). This exam is administered by the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards (CLARB). This isn’t a required license but can be very helpful for employment or finding clients for your own business.

Some states do require special licenses for those in Landscaping. Typically these licenses are for those who handle and dispose of pesticides. The license is obtained by passing an examination that proves you have the competency and knowledge to safely work with pesticides according to local or state ordinances. To find out if you need one of these licenses, contact your local licensing office.

Our Recommendation
If you plan to make Landscaping your life-long profession with better chances at advancement, higher wages or possibly starting your own business, we highly recommend going to college and getting your bachelor’s degree. Not only could this open up more opportunities but it will give you a deeper understanding of the job and what you are trying to accomplish. A college degree can also be helpful if you decide you want to work as a groundskeeper of sports arenas, golf courses and public parks.

Where Can I Find a Landscaping School?

Quick Info: Tips on Finding the Right School
Factors to Consider When Picking a Landscaping School
• Program accreditation
• Types of degree programs
• Location of school
• Cost of tuition
• Commute or relocate
• Extracurricular activities
• Graduation rate
• Student to instructor ratio
• Number of students on campus
• Reputation of the program or school

A few ways to find a Landscaping school is by searching on the Internet, asking your high school counselor or by talking to some people at one of the lawn care businesses around town. By using any of these methods, you should get a realistic list of colleges that offer degrees in Landscaping or one of the specialty fields such as environmental planning. College Landscaping programs normally have both classroom instruction and some amount of practical training. This practical training is where you actually work on-site at one of the environmental labs to work on the basic skills of working with the land. But how do you know which college is right for you?

When you start to compile a list of prospective programs, you should do a little research before you decide which one to enroll in. Check to make sure they school has accreditation or offers the type of degree you are interested in. Investigate the school’s successful graduation rate and how the programs are structured.

Accreditation

One of the top factors when looking at any school or program is to make sure it has been accredited by the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB).  Run by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), a Landscaping program that has been accredited by the LAAB has met the basic standards and is in compliance with the rules and regulations of the ASLA.

Degree Programs

A number of 2 and 4 year colleges offer certificate or degree programs in Landscaping. The types of degrees you should look for are either an Associate of Arts (AA) in in Ornamental Horticulture or a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA). Once you complete your BLA, you may consider going on to graduate school for either a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Environmental Design or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

Geographical Locations

Another factor to keep in mind is where the school and the facilities are located. The location of the school can play in part to the type of Landscaping you will be able to learn from urban to rural areas. Some of the urban schools push a combination urban landscape design and city planning. Rural areas are a little more open using the vast environment to help hone your Landscaping skills.

Are There Any Online Landscape Programs?

If you happen to be in a situation that makes going to a campus based college an issue, say for example you have a full-time job or you are a parent, you can enroll in one of the online Landscaping programs. While these programs can be very helpful in helping you learn the theoretical side of landscape arts, you will most likely miss out on the hands-on portion of the instruction. You should also be aware that your degrees will be slightly different than those who attended a campus program.

Landscaping degrees earned through an online program are considered professional degrees rather than what you get at a campus based school. For example, online students earn a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture (BSLA) rather than a Bachelor of Arts in Landscape Architecture (BLA). However, you can use your BSLA to work towards your career and the LARE license.

As part of the program, you will learn a number of techniques on how to create and shape environments and outdoor areas. Some of the courses include environmental design, landscape architecture history, site engineering, botany, biology, urban and rural landscaping. You also have the ability to take some courses on environmental sustainability and AutoCAD software.

Unlike a lot of other fields, Landscape architecture programs are more hands on thus making it difficult to get a full rounded education as you would at a campus-based program. If you are truly interested in working in Landscaping and online schools are your only avenue, rest assured that you can still get a quality education from any of the accredited distance learning programs.

How Long is Landscape Architect School?

Those who enroll in a landscaping program should expect to be busy for the next 6 months to 4 years. As you might guess, the higher the degree the longer you will be in school. There are also some other factors that could add or subtract the amount of time you will need to spend in the program.

Some of these factors are what you would expect such as how fast you grasp the information, how quickly you can pass the exams or how dedicated you are to studying. Other factors may simply be a personal choice such as taking some time off to just work or unexpected delays. The length of time we are going to present will be the typical duration of the common student. Your time may be longer or shorter.

The amount of time you will spend in Landscaping school will depend on the level of degree you are going to pursue. A certificate program can be completed in roughly 6 months. An associate’s degree normally takes 2 years. A bachelor’s degree can be earned in 4 years. Beyond that, a master’s degree is an additional 2 to 3 years and a PhD is 4 to 5 years above a bachelor’s degree.

What is the Landscaping Jobs Description?

Landscapers and groundskeepers are mainly responsible for ensure the care of the landscaping and area surrounding homes, businesses and other buildings. This includes planting, tilling and mowing among some of the duties involved. A quick list of other duties include:

  • Application of fertilizers and pesticides
  • Raking and pruning plants as necessary
  • Operate vehicles and power equipment
  • Installation of cement, rocks, lighting, water, furniture or other objects as needed
  • Watering of plants and grass
  • Planting bushes, flowers, grass and plants according to landscape design
  • Shoveling of snow and putting down salt during cold months
  • Sweeping or using a leaf blower to keep walkways clean
  • Routine maintenance of fountains or landscape design equipment
  • Spreading of topsoil and straw
  • Keep abreast of new technologies or changes in the field
  • Must have a vast knowledge of plants, flowers, trees and grasses
  • Maintain and repair tools, equipment and structures
Landscape Architect

The job of a Landscape architect is slightly different than that of a landscaper or groundskeeper. The landscape architect or designer is normally the one who helps set up the way the park or area is going to look. This includes picking the type of plants that will be involved and how much time should take to set up. Some of the other duties include:

  • Meet with clients, building architects or engineers to include their ideas and vision
  • Create plans for the site including cost estimates and the specifications
  • Use computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software to create a graphic demonstration of what the proposed plans are to look like
  • Work with client to decide on the type of materials, plants, bushes, trees, flowers or grasses that are going to be used
  • Work with zoning department for permits
  • Provide analysis of land conditions such as drainage and energy usage
  • Meet with Landscaping team to make sure they follow the plans

What is the Median Landscape Designer Salary?

For most people in Landscaping who have not gone to get their degree, the annual median salary is okay. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary is $25,610 a year or around $12.31 an hour. The top 10% is around $38,000 a year while the bottom 10% is a little above $17,000.

However, those who do go to school and become Landscape Architects the salary is substantially higher. This same report shows that Landscape Architects at $63,810 a year or $30.68 an hour. The top 10% can make in excess of $100,000 a year while the lowest 10% make around $38,500 annually.

landscaping salary

These numbers are median salaries and not necessarily representative of the actual pay you could receive. A number of important factors can weigh in on actual pay. Some of these factors are:

  • Location
  • Type of company
  • Experience
  • Education
  • Company pay grades

What is the Outlook for Landscaping Jobs?

The future for Landscaping is looking good with a projected growth over the next decade. The average projected growth for Landscaping is 6% or 77,600 jobs through the year 2024. This is around average of all occupations.

Landscape Projected Job Growth

Landscape Architects are expected to have similar growth percentage wise of 5%. Although the number of actual positions is lower or roughly 1,200 new jobs to be created. Still plenty of opportunities for anyone looking to get started in this growing and dynamic career.

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