Careers in Horticulture

Opportunities in horticulture provide responsibility, challenge, achievement, satisfaction, personal growth, and financial reward. For many professionals in the industry, the opportunity to work with nature is the most important reward. Growing trees, shrubs, and other plants, touches nearly every aspect of human life. Need money to make it happen? The TNLA Education and Research Foundation offers valuable scholarships for those interested in or currently studying horticulture. 

Career Prospects in Horticulture

The U.S. Census reports approximately 77% of US households from 2001-2007 (approximately 85 million) participated in lawn and garden activities. It is important to look at the trends of the green industry. The impact of the Green Industry continues to grow as the population rises in the U.S. Information from the National Gardening Association: Garden Market Research.

The American Nursery & Landscape Association predicts that the industry will continue to have attractive openings for a wide range of college graduates, and many technical or two-year school students.

Opportunities in horticulture provide responsibility, challenge, achievement, satisfaction, personal growth, and financial reward. For many professionals in the industry, the opportunity to work with nature is the most important reward. Growing trees, shrubs, and other plants, touches nearly every aspect of human life.These natural products protect and improve the environment. Research shows that, among many benefits, plants help purify our air and water, they guard against erosion, and provide shelter, warmth, cooling effects, windbreaks, food, and beauty.

Current research even tells us that beautiful natural views enhance our well-being. Professionals in the nursery/landscape industry bring these benefits to the public in a variety of ways.

For potential horticultural careers, a wide variety of interests and educational/employment experience is valuable to the industry. Just to name a few: agricultural sciences, business administration, biology, agronomy, forestry, horticulture, soil management, mechanics, marketing, advertising, communications, sales, retailing, landscape design, educational research, packaging, and transportation.

To search for current job opportunities, visit TNLA JobLink!

Defining the Industry Workplace

Industry opportunities involve every facet of plant care - among them growing, selling, and using plants in landscape design. Here are some descriptions of industry businesses.

Wholesale Nursery - operations focus on production; they grow plants for sale to retail nurseries or landscape contractors.

Retail Nursery/Garden Center - sells plants, items for use in lawn and garden work, and related consumer products.

Landscape Contractor - offers special services to design, prepare, and install landscapes for large and small sites.

Mailorder Nursery - grows plants for retail sale to consumers through the mail.

Online Nursery - mostly marketing at this time, buying form grower outlets.

Career Descriptions

Career opportunities may correspond with a variety of interests. This industry includes many members with diverse background and skills, who help to grow nursery plants and get them to the consumer and the landscape site.

Propagator - Supervises crews directly involved in producing new plants from seed, cuttings, layering, and grafting. Manages production facilities and schedules.

Production Superintendent - Oversees all of the nursery's production phases, form planting to shipping. Makes operations decisions.

Division Manager - Manages production in one of the major divisions of a large wholesale grower operation.

Crew Supervisor - One of the skilled managers and trainers directing others in various nursery production operations.

Pest Management Specialist - Responsibilities include prevention and control of destructive insects, diseases, and weeds.

Inventory Controller - Manages nursery inventory and quality control by selecting stock according to buyer specifications and industry standards.

Shipping Manager - Supervises order assembly, packing and shipping schedules.

Landscape Designer/Architect - Prepares landscape designs and specifications through a nursery or an independent design firm.

Landscape Supervisor - Manages and trains landscape installation crews.

Landscape Superintendent - Coordinates all of the nursery's landscape installation.

Landscape Manager - Supervises all phases of day-to-day plant care in the landscape contractor business.

Arborist - Responsibilities focus on protecting and maintaining landscape trees.

Business Specialists - Successful nurseries need such professionals in a variety of fields: management, marketing, advertising, sales, direct mail, finance, personnel, customer service, etc.

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How to prepare for a Career in Horticulture

Many nursery and landscape managers at all levels learn their skills on the job, advancing as their knowledge and skills grow. Others bring to the job skills they developed while preparing for a different career. And others become skilled through formal educational programs combined with industry employment experience. A good basic knowledge of the growing sciences is a plus for anyone seeking career success in this industry. Through their horticulture curricula, high schools and vocational centers offer nursery and landscape courses in skill development, an important component at school and in the workplace. Arboreta and public gardens also provide educational programs; at these institutions students earn a certificate instead of a diploma when they complete a program.

A number of junior and community colleges, as well as other schools, offer 2-year associate degree programs. These technical courses apply directly to careers, and they often include field training as well as hands-on experience. Such programs tend to cost less and the school schedules tend to be more flexible; two valuable advantages for students with full or part-time jobs.

Bachelor's degree programs at 4-year universities and colleges offer more opportunities for career and general educational development. Specialties in such areas as nursery management and landscape management, design, or architecture build on a strong foundation in the growing sciences. Other agricultural and plant sciences, as well as business courses, provide more career preparation.

Work or on-the-job experience is also very important. Industry and university partnerships offer part-time summer, co-op and internship opportunities form which students receive invaluable experience, as well as pleasure and income.

To learn more about this field and profession, talk to your local retail nursery/garden center, wholesale nursery, landscape firm, the Texas Nursery & Landscape Association, or extension agent.