Becoming a Horticulturist: Job Description & Salary Information

About this article
What are the pros and cons of a career in horticulture? Get real job description, career outlook and salary information to see if becoming a horticulturist is right for you.
View available schools

A Career in Horticulture: Pros and Cons

A career in horticulture can encompass many things, from plant breeding to genetic engineering and landscape design. Read on for pros and cons of being a horticulturist to help you decide if this is the right career for you.

Pros of a Career in Horticulture
A variety of career opportunities (crop inspection, retail management, research, teaching)*
A variety of work environments (offices, production fields, greenhouses, laboratories)*
Job growth is expected to be about average, at a rate of 9% for agricultural and food scientists over 2012-2022**
Employment is relatively stable in the food industry during economic recessions**
Some positions, such as nursery worker and landscaper, require little to no postsecondary education**

Cons of a Career in Horticulture
Some positions, such as researcher, require extensive training**
Jobs in basic teaching and research are limited**
Workers with less education, such as nursery workers and landscapers, make an average salary of $26,720 or less**
May be exposed to hazardous chemicals***

Sources: *Purdue University, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ***California Employment Development Department

Career Information

Career Options and Job Descriptions

Your job duties will vary depending on what line of work you go into. For example, if you go into landscaping, you'll use your knowledge of plants, flowers, trees and irrigation to design and maintain landscapes on commercial and residential grounds. If you work in nursery production, you'll focus on growing plants from seeds and take the steps necessary throughout their life cycles to make sure they grow successfully. As a researcher in the agricultural industry, you'd typically work in an office or laboratory, and you might study how genes affect plant growth or search for ways to improve the quality and quantity of plant crops. You could also become a horticultural therapist and design gardening therapy projects as a form of cognitive therapy for senior citizens and people with disabilities.

Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported salary information for the above occupations in May 2014. Landscaping and groundskeeping workers earned an average salary of approximately $26,720. The average yearly wage for farm, crop, nursery and greenhouse workers was roughly $20,820. Soil and plant scientists earned an average of about $64,680. Salary data was unavailable for horticultural therapists.

Job Outlook

The BLS predicted that landscaping and groundskeeping workers would experience an 13% increase in employment over the 2012-2022 decade, which was as-fast-as average for all occupations. Agricultural and food science technicians were expected to see little or no change in employment during the same time period (3%). As a group, agricultural and food scientists, including plants scientists, could expect to experience a 9% increase in employment. Information was not available for horticultural therapists.

Training and Licensing Requirements

Because a wide range of career options exists in the field of horticulture, educational requirements vary. According to the BLS, as a landscaping or nursery worker, you may not need any formal education and could learn all the skills needed for your work through on-the-job training. However, some employers may prefer that you have an associate's or bachelor's degree in horticulture. To work as a horticultural therapist, the American Horticultural Therapy Association indicates that you may need a bachelor's degree in therapeutic recreation, horticultural therapy or a related area.

The BLS also indicates that to work as a plant or agricultural scientist in applied research or product development, you'll need a minimum of a bachelor's degree in horticulture, agricultural science or a related area. If you want to work in basic research or teach at a university, you'll need a Ph.D. However, a master's degree could qualify you for some basic research positions. As an undergraduate horticulture student, classes you'll take could include plant breeding, plant physiology, entomology, pest management, landscape maintenance and plant pathology.

Licensure and Certification

If your job involves applying pesticides, you'll need to become licensed or certified by your state. This usually involves passing a test. If you work as a landscape contractor, some states may require that you become licensed or credentialed in some way. For example, North Carolina requires that landscape contractors pass a licensing exam that includes a multiple choice section, as well as a section on interpreting a landscape plan.

What Employers Look for

In addition to, or in lieu of formal training, some positions may require that you have certain practical skills. According to 2012 job postings on Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com, employers for many types of jobs look for physically fit candidates who have experience working with plants. Some specific job postings have shown the following:

  • A landscaping company in Cleveland, OH, seeks a physically fit landscaper with an aesthetic eye. The company prefers candidates who have experience working with plants, sprinkler systems, fertilizers and landscaping tools.
  • A nursery in Louisiana seeks a physically fit nursery worker who can lift 50 lbs. The worker will need to use tools to plant flowers, trim leaves, fertilize plants and pull weeds.
  • A research farm in Ohio seeks a plant breeder with a master's or doctoral degree in horticulture, plant science or a related field. The ideal candidate should have experience working in arid environments and working with guayule or similar crops.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

In general, it could be helpful to work on a farm or in a garden to become familiar with the plants and maintenance equipment, such as pruning shears, shovels, rakes and hedge trimmers. This is because many employers prefer to hire those who have experience working with plants, according to Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com job postings for landscaping, nursery and research positions.

Certification Options

If you're a landscaper, you could earn voluntary certification to signify your level of knowledge and skill to prospective employers, which could possibly improve your employment prospects according to the BLS. The Professional Landcare Network awards seven types of certification to individuals with different experience levels in landscaping. To earn one of these certifications, you'll need to complete a self-study course and pass an examination, then participate in continuing education and recertify every two years. Your continuing education options include attending conferences and seminars, taking college coursework, earning a contractor or pesticide applicator license, earning additional certifications, giving presentations and writing articles.

As a horticultural therapist, you could earn voluntary professional registration with the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA). To do so, you'll need to earn a 4-year degree with supplementary coursework in horticultural therapy, horticulture and human sciences, as well as complete a 480-hour internship. The AHTA mentions that the added education and experience efforts that you put in to earning certification could help you down the road in your career. You could also consider the Certified Horticulturist designation awarded by the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS). This certification could be useful if you're a landscaper, researcher or nursery worker and, according to the ASHS, may assist employers in selecting new employees. To be eligible for the certification exam, you'll need to have met a combination of education and paid experience requirements. You'll need to earn continuing education units and recertify every three years.

Other Fields to Consider

If you want to be more creative with your work than the typical horticulturist is, a career as a floral designer may be right for you. You'd use your eye for color and design to create floral arrangements for events, such as wedding, funerals and graduations. This job typically doesn't require any formal postsecondary training; however, certificate and degree programs in floral design are available. You could even apply a degree in horticulture toward a career in this field. The BLS projected that employment of floral designers would decline by nine percent from 2010-2020. However, job opportunities were still expected to be good since this career has a high turnover rate.

If you're more interested in the nature of things and how things work, you may decide to become a botanist. Rather than studying how to breed and grow plants, you'll study plants simply for the sake of understanding their nature. You could study plant diseases, the plant life cycle or how plants interact with other organisms. You'll typically need a Ph.D. to perform basic research, but a bachelor's or master's degree may be sufficient to work in applied research or product development. Employment of biochemists and biophysicists, including some botanists, was predicted by the BLS to grow much faster than average, at a rate of 31% from 2010-2020. However, because botany is a small field, job opportunities may be limited.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
      • Master of Science - DNP Path (Doctor of Nursing Practice)
    Master's
      • MSCJ: Law
      • Master: Legal Studies
      • MS in Psychology
      • Master : Business Admin
      • Master: Psychology/General Psychology
      • MSPY - Industrial/Organizational Psychology Specialization
    Bachelor's
      • Undergraduate in Legal Studies
      • Bachelor: Liberal Studies
      • Bachelor of Business Admin
      • Bachelor: Legal Studies
      • BSBA - Investment
      • BS in Liberal Studies Leadership
    Associate's
      • AASBA in Business
      • AAS in Legal Support and Services
      • Associate: Business Admin.
      • Associate: Business Admin. - Office Mgmt
      • Associate: Criminal Justice
      • Associate: Accounting
    Certificate
      • Psychology
      • Medical Assisting
      • Certificate in Human Services
      • Human Services Certificates in Child and Family Services
      • Postbaccalaureate Certificate - Pathway to Paralegal
      • Family Nurse Practitioner Graduate Certificate
  • Campus and Online Programs
    2. Baker University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Online Master of Liberal Arts
      • Online Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership
      • Master of Business Administration
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership
      • Online Master of Business Administration
    Bachelor's
      • Online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
      • Bachelor of Science in Accounting
      • Bachelor of Business Administration
      • Bachelor of Business Administration - Management
      • Bachelor of Business Administration - Management Online
      • Bachelor of Business Administration - Strategic Business Communication Online
  • Campus Locations:
    3. Lincoln Tech

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Collision Repair and Refinishing
      • Automotive Technology
      • Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC)
      • Electrical/Electronics
      • Diesel Technology
      • Technology and Skilled Trades
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Ashford University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MA-Psychology
      • MS-Criminal Justice
      • MBA - Media Management
      • MBA
      • MBA - Entrepeneurship
      • MBA - Finance
    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Journalism and Mass Communication
      • B.A. - Psychology
      • B.A. - Business Admin
      • B.A. - Communication Studies
      • B.A. - Liberal Arts
      • BA/Health and Wellness
  • Campus and Online Programs
    5. Fortis College

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associates in Business Management
      • Associates in Business Management - Human Resource Management
      • Associates in Business Management Accounting
      • Associates in Internet Marketing
    Certificate
      • Expanded Function Dental Assistant
      • Medical Assistant
      • Medical Laboratory Technology
      • Pharmacy Technician
      • Medical Assisting Online
      • Medical Billing and Coding
  • Online Programs Available
    6. University of Delaware

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.Ed. Teacher Leadership
      • MS Electrical and Computer Engineering
      • Masters of Public Administration
      • MBA
      • MS Cybersecurity
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Independence University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • (BS) Accounting
      • (BS) Business Administration
      • (BS) Business Admin - Asset Management
      • (BS) Business Admin - Human Resources
      • (BS) Business Admin - New Media Marketing
      • (BS) Business Admin - Technology
    Associate's
      • (AAS) Business Management & Accounting
      • (AOS) Medical Specialties
      • (AAS) Graphic Arts
  • Online Programs Available
    8. University of the Rockies

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Psychology - Criminology and Justice Studies
      • Doctor of Philosophy in Human Services
      • Psy.D. in Non-Profit Management
      • Psy.D. in Organizational Leadership
      • Psy.D. in Business Psychology
      • Ph.D. in Organizational Development & Leadership - Innovation & Entrepreneurship
    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Psychology - General Psychology
      • Master of Arts in Psychology - Criminology and Justice Studies
      • M.A. in Psychology - Organizational Leadership
      • M.A. in Psychology - Business Psychology
      • M.A. in Psychology - Career Management & Counseling
      • M.A. in Organizational Development & Leadership - Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  • Campus and Online Programs
    9. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science - Film Production
      • Master of Science - Game Design
      • M.S. - Entertainment Business
      • M.S. - New Media Journalism
      • Master of Fine Arts - Creative Writing
      • M.S. - Public Relations
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science - Software Development
      • BS - Cloud Technologies
      • BS - Media Communications Bachelors
      • BS Mobile Development Bachelors
      • B.S. - Music Business
      • B.S. - Digital Cinematography
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management Criminal Justice
      • Doctorate: Computer Science
      • Doctorate - Computer Science: Information Assurance (Executive Format)
      • Doctor of Management - Graduate Level Instructional Practices
      • Doctorate: C.S. - Enterprise Information Systems
      • Doctorate: Management - Organizational Development and Change
    Master's
      • Master of Science in Computer Science
      • Master: Computer Science - Database Systems
      • Master of Business Admin
      • Master of Business Admin - Entrepreneurship
      • Master of Science in Computer Science - Computer Systems Security
      • M.S. - Information Technology
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Psychology
      • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
      • B.S. - Psychology - Organizational Behavior
      • B.S. - Psychology - Consumer Behavior
      • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN completion)
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology - Web Development
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science in Business Administration
      • Associate of Science - Health Admin Services

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
  • MSCJ: Law
  • Undergraduate in Legal Studies
  • AASBA in Business
  • Psychology

Which subject are you interested in?

Baker University

  • Online Master of Liberal Arts
  • Online Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership
  • Online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science in Accounting

Education Level Completed:

Lincoln Tech

  • Collision Repair and Refinishing
  • Automotive Technology
  • Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC)

What year did you graduate High School / Receive GED?

Ashford University

  • MA-Psychology
  • MS-Criminal Justice
  • B.A. - Journalism and Mass Communication
  • B.A. - Psychology

What is your highest level of education?

Fortis College

  • Associates in Business Management
  • Associates in Business Management - Human Resource Management
  • Expanded Function Dental Assistant
  • Medical Assistant

Education Level Completed:

University of Delaware

  • M.Ed. Teacher Leadership
  • MS Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Masters of Public Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?

Independence University

  • (BS) Accounting
  • (BS) Business Administration
  • (AAS) Business Management & Accounting
  • (AOS) Medical Specialties

What is your highest level of education completed?

University of the Rockies

  • Doctor of Psychology - Criminology and Justice Studies
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Human Services
  • Master of Arts in Psychology - General Psychology
  • Master of Arts in Psychology - Criminology and Justice Studies

What is your highest level of education?