Grounds Maintenance Worker Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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A grounds maintenance worker earns an average annual salary of about $32,000. Is it worth the training requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about the career outlook to find out if becoming a grounds maintenance worker is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Grounds Maintenance Worker Career

Grounds maintenance workers keep the exterior areas of public and private properties neat and clean. T Learn more about this career by reviewing the pros and cons featured below.

Pros of Being a Grounds Maintenance Worker
Average employment growth projected (13% increase in job openings expected between 2012 and 2022)*
Part-time, full-time and seasonal job opportunities available*
Independent or team-based working environment**
Provides opportunities to be creative with landscaping work**

Cons of Being a Grounds Maintenance Worker
Higher-than-average injury rate according to most recent data* (an average of 190 grounds maintenance workers a year were fatally injured on the job between 2003-2008)***
Labor-intensive work outside in hot or cold weather*
Climate influences employment opportunities*
Safety precautions are necessary**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*NET OnLine, ***Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Essential Career Info

Job Description

Grounds maintenance workers keep the environment around a business or personal property aesthetically pleasing and clean. They take care of plants and grass around a property, which includes mowing the lawn, pruning trees and trimming shrubs. They also remove trash and overgrown or dead plant life. Other tasks include cutting down old trees, raking leaves, shoveling snow, fertilizing plants and installing garden ornaments.

Job Duties

Grounds maintenance work is a labor-intensive job due to the amount of time spent outside working on physically taxing projects. Job duties may vary by season. For example, during snowstorms you are required to shovel walkways and protect the grounds from icing so customers, residents or workers are not hurt. During the summer, you need to keep the vitality of the grounds up to standard through lawn mowing and gardening. During the fall months, you must rake leaves and cut down any dead or dying plant life. Some exterior building maintenance may be required, such as painting.

Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data from May 2014, the median annual salary of a grounds maintenance worker was about $28,000. The top 10% earned an annual salary of $54,000 or more, while the bottom 10% earned about $18,000 or less a year (www.bls.gov).

What Are the Requirements?

Training and Education

According to the BLS, most grounds maintenance workers require a high school education or equivalent and are trained while on the job. Necessary skills and labor licenses are required to use certain equipment or chemicals, such as pesticides for plants. Also, proper training is needed for some equipment you may use, such as lawn-trimming devices. Supervisory jobs in grounds maintenance might require training or a postsecondary education in agriculture, horticulture or landscape design.

What Do Employers Want?

Typical job postings for grounds maintenance workers highlight that workers need great coordination skills, an ability to maintain the desired landscape design for the property and be available on weekends. Some recent job postings from May 2012 include:

  • A Wisconsin shipping company needs a grounds maintenance manager who can organize and command grounds workers with their daily duties. The candidate must be able to winterize the grounds and outdoor equipment for the company before the winter season begins. This managerial job requires a bachelor's degree.
  • A rental community in Ohio wants a seasonal community grounds maintenance worker to clean community grounds, perform minor repairs and mow lawns. A high school education and valid driver's license is required.
  • A housing company in Texas needs a grounds maintenance worker who can keep the grounds safe and aesthetically pleasing for tenants. A high school education and a valid driver's license are required.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Completing higher education courses or voluntary certification may help you stand out in this career field. Specializing in a particular part of grounds work may also help you in finding a job. The BLS projected that tree maintenance workers were expected to see better employment opportunities compared to other grounds maintenance workers between 2010 and 2020. The growth rate for job openings for tree pruners and trimmers was projected to be 18%, while pesticide application was only projected to experience a 10% job growth.

Education

The Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS) offers a certificate program from its School of Grounds Management. You can earn a certificate by completing 24 credits in four years. Courses include human resources and horticulture. Community and technical colleges offer certificates and 2-year degrees in landscaping, horticulture and turf management. These programs include courses in soils, insects and grounds maintenance.

Certification

The PGMS offers professional certification for grounds maintenance technicians and grounds managers. The Certified Grounds Technician credential is for those with two years of experience. You must pass an exam to earn this credential. The PGMS publishes a training manual for those who want to study for this exam. To become a Certified Grounds Manager, you must meet the combination of education and experience eligibility requirements and complete a 2-part examination. Half of all required experience must be in a supervisory position.

Other organizations that offer grounds maintenance certifications include the Professional Landcare Network (PLN). The PLN offers certifications for grounds maintenance technicians and managers.

Other Careers to Consider

Logging Worker

Maybe getting to work outdoors appeals to you, but you're more interested in forests than shrubs and lawns - if so, you might consider a career in logging. Logging workers cut down trees in order to harvest wood. You may be familiar with the cry of 'Timber!', which is what a worker known as a faller might yell; fallers use equipment like chainsaws to cut trees. Other types of logging workers might trim, sort, transport and inspect logs. Like grounds maintenance, this can be a dangerous job, but it has a higher median salary; logging workers of all types earned nearly $34,000 annually as of 2011, according to the BLS. However, employment for logging workers is expected to be more sluggish than that of grounds maintenance workers, with the BLS projecting only a 4% growth rate from 2010-2020.

Landscape Architect

If you're looking for a grounds and landscaping career with better salary potential, you might look into becoming a landscape architect. You'll need more education, a bachelor's degree and a state-issued license, but the median salary was around $63,000 in 2011, according to the BLS. As a landscape architect, you'll spend most of your time inside creating plans for landscapes, with a lower risk of injury than that of a grounds maintenance worker. Job growth was projected to be about average for the 2010-2020 decade.

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