Becoming a Landscaping Superintendent: Job Description & Salary

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Learn about a landscaping superintendent's job duties, salary and training requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a landscaping superintendent career.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Landscape Superintendent

A landscaping superintendent is responsible for the landscaping of property and oversees workers who perform various groundskeeping jobs, such as planting grass, flowers, shrubs and trees. To determine whether this is a good career choice, take a look at the pros and cons of being a landscaping superintendent.

Pros of Becoming a Landscaping Superintendent
Minimal education requirements (high school diploma usually needed)*
Good pay for level of education (median annual salary of about $43,000 for first-line supervisors of landscaping, lawn service, and groundskeeping workers)*
Positive job growth (13% from 2012-2022 for ground maintenance workers)*
Much autonomy in work**

Cons of Becoming a Landscaping Superintendent
Some employers may require a formal education*
Often physically demanding*
Work outside in harsh weather*
Use of dangerous equipment and hazardous chemicals**
Seasonal employment*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2012 to May 2014), **O*Net Online.

Job Description, Career and Salary Information

Often called a grounds manager or a landscape supervisor, a landscaping superintendent oversees the proper care and maintenance of the grounds of a property. As a superintendent, you would manage workers as they perform a variety of landscaping duties, such as creating plantings, building walls and installing water features. Sometimes you'll work alongside them to meet deadlines. At other times, you'll work on managerial tasks such as personnel issues, work schedules, job estimates, equipment maintenance, inventory and quality control.

Your workload varies by season, with typically more work to do in the spring and summer months when there is more daylight. Landscaping work involves a lot of walking, bending, lifting and stretching. Landscape companies care for public and private properties, so your jobs may include the grounds around hotels, schools, hospitals, parks, apartment complexes, shopping centers and private homes.

Career Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment of grounds maintenance workers, including supervisors, was expected to increase by 13% from 2012-2022, which is about average when compared to all occupations (www.bls.gov). The BLS noted that many busy families and elderly homeowners are expected to increasingly rely on contracted landscapers for home lawn maintenance. Many businesses and institutions also use professional landscapers to maintain a good public image of their property.

Salary Information

The BLS reported that the median annual salary for a first-line supervisor of landscaping, lawn service and groundskeeping workers was about $43,000 in May 2014. The highest paid members of the profession made approximately $71,000 or more during this period, according to the BLS.

What Are the Requirements?

Some employers require landscaping superintendents to have at least a high school diploma and several years of work experience. Others, however, may require a formal education, such as an associate's degree in arboriculture, horticulture or landscaping design. Most states do require a state license that demonstrates your familiarity with the proper ways to apply, store and dispose of pesticides.

Useful Skills

Employers may consider experience and leadership ability as important as a formal education in hiring landscaping superintendents. You'll need strong communications skills to relate to workers and clients, which may include learning how to speak Spanish, as well as good organization skills to manage your work projects. According to job postings in March 2012 on Monster.com, employers sought landscaping supervisor who had:

  • At least two years of work experience
  • A valid driver's license and a clean driving record
  • The ability to operate a backhoe, trencher and other landscaping equipment
  • A desire to supervise crews, as well as perform managerial duties

Job Postings from Real Employers

Landscaping supervisors are employed across the country, with more jobs located in temperate regions where landscaping services are needed year-round. Landscaping and supervisory experience are generally the main requirements for getting this job. Here's a look at a few job postings from real employers on Monster.com in March 2012:

  • A landscaping company in Texas sought a supervisor with knowledge of the city to oversee the work of a crew of two or three workers. At least a year of supervisory experience was required. The ability to speak Spanish was preferred.
  • In Missouri, a landscaping firm sought a supervisor who could manage three or four work crews. Other duties included buying and delivering materials and maintaining trucks and equipment.
  • A company in Indiana was seeking a supervisor who could focus on quality and on minimizing customer complaints. The supervisor would schedule crews, assign duties and work on site, driving equipment and installing landscaping features.
  • In Kansas, a landscape company sought a supervisor who knew how to build retaining walls, paver patios, stone patios, water features and outdoor kitchens. The applicant must be able to read landscape plans and have some irrigation experience, along with knowledge of various plants.

How to Stand Out

While experience counts, continuing education will help you in this career. You may want to consider earning an associate's degree in ornamental horticulture or a similar field. A degree may allow you to gain entry-level employment as a supervisor. These associate degree programs, offered at technical schools or community colleges, teach students about landscape installation, maintenance and design.

You may also stand out through membership in professional landscapers' associations, where you can get continuing training, learn about the latest industry trends and network with other professional landscapers. For example, the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) offers webinars on topics such as optimizing your use of social networking for your business, new developments in irrigation and other subjects. The Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS) offers a certificate program from its School of Grounds Management.

Earn Professional Certification

Earning a professional credential from an industry association could help you stand out to employers and potential clients. For example, PLANET offers a certification as a Landscape Industry Certified Manager, which requires passing a 300-question exam. Candidates are tested on horticulture information as well as business knowledge. The PGMS offers a Certified Grounds Management (CGM) designation, a credential available to managers who qualify based on a combination of education and experience.

Alternate Career Paths

Forest or Conservation Worker

If you enjoy working outdoors but want to consider another career besides a landscaping superintendent, you may want to consider a career as a forest or conservation worker. These workers plant and maintain trees on government and conservation land. Only a high school diploma is required, and the work is generally seasonal. You might work at a state or national forest or on a tree farm.

Job growth for conservation workers was expected to have little change from 2010-2020, with only a 1% increase. Most new jobs will be in the Pacific Northwest, the Southeast or in Maine, according to the BLS. The median annual salary for these forest or conservation workers was about $23,000 in May 2011, the BLS noted.

Agricultural Manager

If you want to consider work more closely relating to agriculture, you may want to become an agricultural manager. These types of superintendents run farms, timber tracts, nurseries, ranches and other horticultural enterprises for a farm owner or a corporation. Agricultural managers may hire workers and establish work plans and goals for the farm. While it is possible to get a job with experience and a high school diploma, the BLS noted most agricultural managers hold an associate's or bachelor's degree.

Job growth for agricultural managers is expected to decline by 8% from 2010-2020. The median salary for agricultural managers in May 2011 was about $65,000, according to the BLS. Salary.com reported the median salary for a farm/ranch manger was about $39,000 in March 2012.

Golf Course Superintendent

A career option related to groundskeeping is that of a golf course superintendent. With a diploma in golf course management, you'll supervise the turf maintenance at a golf course. A diploma or certificate program in golf course management takes about a year to complete and includes training on the installation and maintenance of turfgrass. You'll supervise work crews who keep the course in shape, and you may be responsible for budgeting and purchasing supplies. You'd also need to know how to operate landscaping equipment and have knowledge of fertilizing and soil enrichment techniques.

The 2011 Golf Course Superintendents Association of America Compensation and Benefits Report showed that the average base salary of a golf course superintendent with a 1-year certificate was about $64,000.

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