Becoming a Landscaper: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a landscaper? Get real job duties, training requirements and salary information to see if becoming a landscaper is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Landscaper

A job as a landscaper, also known as a grounds maintenance worker, might be an option if you are looking for a hands-on position that does not require advanced education. You can find out more about this career's pros and cons below.

Pros of a Landscaping Career
12% job growth expected from 2012-2022*
Significant education isn't required*
Opportunity for hands-on work and training*
Can advance to a supervisory role with education and experience*
Satisfaction of keeping outdoor areas healthy and attractive for visitors*

Cons of a Landscaping Career
Requires exposure to the elements in an outdoor environment*
Work can be seasonal and result in layoffs*
Low pay, with average salary at around $26,720 per year*
Physically demanding labor*
Long hours are often required*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Information

Job Description

Landscapers are responsible for the care and maintenance of lawns, plants and trees. Their work might include planting flowers, bushes and saplings; they also may perform mowing, weeding, fertilizing, trimming, watering and building paths or walkways. In winter climates, landscapers may also shovel snow and plow grounds.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

In May 2014, the BLS indicated that the average salary for grounds maintenance workers was around $26,720. The BLS also reported that employment opportunities for these individuals were expected to increase 12% from 2012-2022, faster than average. Exact wages may vary by industry. For example, a landscaper for a college or government institution may have a higher rate of pay than a landscaper who works for a private building.

Education and Training Requirements

Typically, just a high school diploma is required to work as a landscaper. On-the-job training will help you begin your career in the industry and can teach you a wide range of skills, such as planting, trimming and operating machinery. If you're interested in formal education, you can earn a certificate in landscape design, horticulture or another related field through a community college. In some cases, a professional certificate in an area like horticulture studies or landscape design may be necessary if you plan to move into a management or supervisory role.

A few job postings from companies seeking landscapers in April 2012 reflect possible requirements for applicants.

  • A landscape company in Massachusetts is looking for a landscaper who is capable of working long hours and is looking for full-time employment. This position also requires experience.
  • In Pennsylvania, a landscaping company is looking for a landscaper with a high school diploma, a few years of experience and a valid driver's license. This position pays between $10-$15.00 per hour and is a full-time role.
  • In Connecticut, a college is looking for a full-time landscaper/grounds maintenance worker for a base salary of $30,000 annually. This position requires that the applicant has a Class B driver's license and experience in snow removal, lawn care and small machine operation.

How to Stand Out

Personal Skills

While job prospects for this career are strong, there are certain actions that you can take in order to make your skills stand out to potential employers. You will also need to demonstrate your ability to follow directions and complete projects, both on your own or as part of a team. Your strength and stamina may be tested, so being in good health may be important. A career as a landscaper also requires motivation, the ability to work well with others, a strong attention to detail and dependability.

Certifications

Multiple certifications are available to you through a variety of organizations. For example, one certification is offered by the Tree Care Industry Association and focuses on information such as safety, regulations and professionalism for landscapers who specialize in tree care. Another certification is offered by The Professional Landcare Network (PLANET), and it covers many specializations and areas in landscaping. PLANET offers credentials for certified managers, technicians and interior/exterior specialists.

Alternative Career Paths

You may want to advance your education and aspire to be a landscape supervisor or manager. With enough experience and resources, you may also be able to open your own landscaping company. However, if you do not feel that a career in landscaping or grounds maintenance is right for you, similar careers do exist. See below for potential alternative careers that may interest you.

Forest and Conservation Worker

If you like the idea of working outdoors with plants but are more inspired by a wild environment than a landscaped lawn, you might look into a job as a forest or conservation worker. Like landscapers, forest and conservation workers usually only need a high school diploma for employment, and on-the-job training is common, starting with basic tasks like planting trees. In addition to planting, these workers do other tasks to maintain and protect forests, such as clearing brush, spraying disease-preventing agents (like insecticides and fungicides), counting trees and cutting down ailing trees. Jobs in this field were expected to grow by only 1% from 2010-2020, as reported by the BLS, but the average salary for these workers was slightly higher than that of landscapers in 2011. Forest and conservation workers made about $27,000 on average in that year.

Pesticide Handler

Pesticide handlers control, apply and spray pesticide over vegetation. You may be required to monitor the effects of the pesticide on plants and their environment. In some cases, certification is required to hold this position, but exact requirements may vary by state. O*Net Online states that the salary for this career is around $30,000, which is slightly higher than a landscaper due to the specialized area of work. O*Net Online also reports that employment opportunities are expected to increase by 20%-28% from 2010-2020.

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