Certified Landscape Technician Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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A certified landscape technician's median annual is around $24,000. Is it worth the training requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career outlook to find out if becoming a certified landscape technician is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Certified Landscape Technician Career

Landscape technicians are responsible for a lawn's health and visual appeal. Continue reading to learn the pros and cons of a career as a certified landscape technician.

Pros of a Certified Landscape Technician Career
Job Security (employment expected to increase by 12% between 2012 and 2022)*
Can work outdoors*
Can work in many locations (parks, schools, universities, malls, hospitals)*
Only on-the-job training is required*

Cons of a Certified Landscape Technician Careers
Low annual salary ($24,000 median wage as of May 2014)*
Physically demanding*
More on-the-job injuries than the national average*
Work is seasonal*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), certified landscape technicians, also called grounds keepers and grounds maintenance workers, are responsible for keeping lawns and grounds healthy and visibly appealing (www.bls.gov). They mow lawns, trim hedges, remove dead trees, plant flowers, care for existing plants and keep the grounds well-watered. As a landscape technician, you could be responsible for maintaining existing grounds at colleges, cemeteries, parks, apartment complexes, clubs and athletic fields. The Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) adds that landscape technicians do more than just make a landscape look nice; they also create an inviting environment, ideally leading to more rentals, more customers, higher enrollment and more memberships (www.landcarenetwork.org).

Landscape technicians work outdoors, and most jobs are available in the spring, summer and fall. The job is physically demanding and includes a lot of bending, shoveling and lifting. You will also use chemicals, pesticides and dangerous equipment, such as saws. Grounds maintenance workers see more on-the-job injuries than the national average, according to the BLS.

Career Outlook and Salary Info

The BLS projected that the employment of all ground maintenance workers would increase by about 13% between 2012 and 2022. Landscaping and groundskeeping workers could experience a 12% rise in employment during the same time. It might be easier to find work in locations with temperate climates. As of May 2014, the median annual salary for landscaping and groundskeeping workers was around $24,000, which is less than the annual mean wage for all occupations that year.

Training Requirements

To become a landscape technician, you only need a high school diploma and on-the-job training, according to the BLS. However, to become certified, you need to pass the landscape technician certification test. You can take PLANET's certification exam in several states and many Canadian territories. The exam is two parts, with a hands-on and a written component. Some states issue their own exam or a version of the PLANET exam. Skills that could help you in this field are:

  • Stamina
  • Self-motivation
  • Creativity
  • Professionalism

Job Posting from Real Employers

Although employers don't require a degree and most don't require certification, many look for landscape technicians who have experience. According to November 2012 job postings from Monster.com and Careerbuilder.com, the abilities to lift, bend, walk and stand for an extended length of time are also necessary. The following are samples of job postings from November 2012:

  • A hospital in North Carolina searched for a landscape technician who could fertilize plants, trim trees and control plant diseases. The ideal candidate would have at least a year of experience.
  • An apartment rental company in Pennsylvania advertised for a grounds keeper who could care for the grounds outside of the complex. The employer preferred to hire someone detail-oriented and enthusiastic, who enjoys the outdoors.
  • A Georgia real estate company wanted to hire a grounds keeper who has at least two years of experience in grounds keeping and landscaping and who could keep up the appearance of the different properties by removing trash, tending flowerbeds, cleaning gutters, mowing lawns, fertilizing plants and shoveling snow. The employer added that the job is physically demanding and candidates must be able to walk, stand, and lift up to 40 pounds.
  • A janitorial company in New Hampshire was looking for a grounds worker who has a year of experience and a valid NH driver's license. The employee would maintain the grounds' cleanliness, remove snow, mow lawns, irrigate plants and maintain trees and flowers.

Standing Out in the Field

Although only a high school diploma is required, certificates and associate's degree programs in landscape design and landscape technology are available. Completing formal training can help you stand out, demonstrating to employers that you'll likely have real-world experience through labs and internship experiences. It can also reduce the time you'll need to spend in on-the-job training. Programs often include courses in horticulture and landscape design, garden design history, soil fertility, turf grass science, horticulture, landscape design, irrigation and plant diseases.

Join an Organization

PLANET and other landscape design organizations offer memberships. This can keep you informed about trends and give you access to continuing education opportunities, professional connections, and up-to-date information about safety and legal issues.

Other Careers to Consider

Landscape Architect

If you're interested in landscaping, but you prefer design over physical labor, becoming a landscape architect could be for you. These professionals must have at least a bachelor's degree in landscape architecture and a license, and they work mostly indoors, creating landscape designs for hospitals, hotels, parks, malls and other sites. The BLS projected that employment would increase by about 16% for landscape architects between 2010 and 2020. They earned a median annual salary of around $63,000 as of May 2011, the BLS reported.

Farmers

If you like the outdoors and you don't mind physical labor, but you like the idea of producing food, becoming a farmer could be for you. Most farmers only have a high school diploma, but it's becoming more common to have a bachelor's degree in agriculture or a similar field. The BLS projected that the employment of farmers would decrease by 8% between 2010 and 2020. However, they earned a median annual salary of nearly $65,000 as of May 2011, according to the BLS.

Forest and Conservation Worker

If you're more interested in protecting the natural state of the forest than making it look nice, becoming a forest and conservation worker could be for you. These professionals only need a high school diploma and on-the-job training, but the BLS projected that employment would only increase by 1% between 2010 and 2020. They're responsible for planting seedlings, preventing forest fires, preventing diseases from hurting trees and removing sick trees. They earned a median annual salary of around $23,000 as of May 2011.

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