Approximately 994,900 grounds maintenance workers are employed in the United States. The variety of jobs available within the horticultural field provides a number of opportunities. Employers include local parks and recreation departments, botanical gardens, college research facilities, grounds maintenance crews, greenhouses, and lawn care businesses. Sales positions are available for knowledgeable technicians in floral shops, garden stores, and nurseries. Many horticultural technicians are self-employed and run their own lawn care services and greenhouses.
Horticulture training programs often offer job placement or internship services. Internships, in turn, may lead to full-time positions with the same employer. Check online job boards for openings, including those in many chain grocery, hardware, and drugstores with greenhouses and plant departments.
Nursery-operation and floriculture technicians may advance to a management position in a garden center, greenhouse, flower shop, or other related retail business. These managers are responsible for the entire operation of a retail or wholesale outlet or a specific department of one. They maintain inventories, deal with customers and suppliers, hire, train, and supervise employees, direct advertising and promotion activities, and keep records and accounts. Technicians also advance to work as horticultural inspectors. Inspectors typically work for state or federal government agencies to examine plants, especially those that may be transported across state lines or those that are about to come into the United States. They look for insects and diseases, quarantine infested or sick plants, and see that forbidden plants are not brought across state or national borders. Arboriculture technicians find opportunities as garden superintendents, tree surgeons, and park supervisors. Turfgrass, or lawn care, technicians may advance to such positions as grounds superintendent, commercial sod grower, consultant, or park/golf course supervisor.
With additional experience and education (usually a degree from a four-year institution), some floriculture and nursery-operation technicians become horticulturists, either at a research facility or a large firm. Horticulturists conduct experiments and investigations into problems of breeding, production, storage, processing, and transit of fruits, nuts, berries, vegetables, flowers, bushes, and trees. They develop new plant varieties and determine methods of planting, spraying, cultivating, and harvesting.
Many advancement opportunities in this field require technicians to start their own businesses. This requires sufficient funds and the willingness to commit one's own financial resources to career development.
Tips for Entry
Gain experience by finding a summer job with a lawn service or part-time work with a commerical florist or greenhouse.
Establish your own garden; research and plan for the best plants to grow in specific seasons. If you have no room at home, approach a teacher or a school administrator about building a school or community garden.
Contact your local parks or public lands office to inquire about volunteer opportunities.