Study Horticulture: Degrees, Courses, Online Training Info

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An undergraduate degree or courses in horticulture can lead to careers in landscape design or management, urban horticulture, and more. Get the truth about the requirements, courses, and career options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Horticulture Degrees and Courses at a Glance

Horticulture degree programs and classes teach you about growing and caring for various types of plants and trees. A majority of the degrees in this field are offered at the associate and bachelor's level. Additionally, many professional development and continuing education classes and certificate programs are available in horticulture.

The horticulture industry encompasses several types of careers, and the educational requirements vary for each one. Many entry-level jobs, such as landscaper and groundskeeper, don't have formal education requirements, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, some employers look for candidates with some type of relevant education. An associate degree may be necessary for supervisory or contractor positions, and a horticulture business manager typically needs a bachelor's degree.

Courses Associate Bachelor's
Who Should Apply for this Degree Program? - Non-major students interested in studying and/or earning a certificate in horticulture studies
- Community members and working professionals seeking further education
Those seeking supervisory, contractor or other advanced positions Aspiring horticulture business managers
Common Career Paths (approximate median salary) - Landscaper and groundskeeper ($23,000)**
- Pest control worker (additional licensure required) ($30,000)**
- Entry-level landscape designer ($33,000)*
- Landscaping supervisor ($42,000)**
- Nursery or greenhouse manager ($34,000)*
- Turfgrass manager ($36,000)*
Time to Completion Varies for each class or program Average 2 years full time Average 4 years full time
Common Graduation Requirements None Minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA - Minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA
- Internships and/or capstone projects (varies)
Prerequisites None High school diploma or GED Same as an associate degree, plus foundational mathematics and science classes
Online Availability Yes Online/hybrid classes Yes

Sources: *PayScale.com (June 2012 figures), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Courses and Certificate Programs in Horticulture

Horticulture courses can enhance your knowledge of a specific aspect of the horticulture field or provide you with an expansive foundation. Several postsecondary schools and organizations offer horticulture classes, and if you take a sequence of specific classes and fulfill certain requirements, you may even earn a certificate.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Horticulture courses and certificate programs are common
  • Online and face-to-face learning formats are available
  • Some courses may lead to certification (in addition to meeting other requirements)
  • Some courses qualify for college or continuing education credit

Cons

  • You may compete for jobs with people who have less education, but more experience
  • Courses and certificate programs often don't qualify for financial aid
  • If you plan to work with pesticides, you may need to obtain licensure

Courses and Requirements

Hands-on work is often mandatory in horticulture classes, regardless of whether the class is online or face-to-face. The number of classes you take depends on whether you sign up for individual courses or a certificate program. Certificate programs can vary greatly in their number of required courses; you may be required to earn anywhere from 12 to 60 credits. Courses are available to teach you the fundamentals of horticulture, such as plant science, soil science, pathology and plant identification. You may also find classes that focus on more specific aspects, such as garden design, plant breeding and organic gardening.

Online Training Information

Online horticulture courses are commonly found. They can be found as individual classes or certificate programs. You can find classes that focus on one particular part of the field, or certificate programs that broadly cover the field. You may be required to complete hands-on activities along with your coursework.

How to Stand Out

Depending on your situation, you may not have the opportunity to participate in on-campus clubs or internships the same way degree-seeking students can. Still, you have options to gain additional practical training and experience, such as volunteering in community gardens, greenhouses or nurseries.

Certifications in the horticulture field are available. Some certifications may require you to complete additional coursework before sitting for the exam; other requirements, such as experience, vary for each certifying organization. Exams may cover basic information, such as plant identification, pest control, plant science and landscape management.

Associate Degree in Horticulture

Most schools offering associate degree programs in horticulture offer them as Associate of Applied Science degrees, although Associate of Science and Associate of Technical Arts can also be found. Programs can focus on a variety of specialties within the horticulture field, such as urban horticulture, ornamental horticulture, landscape design, nursery or greenhouse operations, or horticulture technology. In addition to classroom lectures, programs typically include plenty of hands-on learning opportunities.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Programs can prepare you to take landscape contractor state licensing exams (where applicable)
  • Some programs offer internships, which can provide practical experience and networking opportunities
  • Completion of the program may lead to advanced or supervisory positions
  • Some or all courses may transfer to a relevant bachelor's program

Cons

  • You may be overqualified for many entry-level positions that don't require a degree
  • Some states require landscape contractors to be licensed
  • Horticulture job opportunities are best in regions with moderate climates and can be seasonal

Courses and Requirements

Most associate degrees in horticulture require anywhere between 64 and 94 credits. Curricula can vary depending on your program's emphasis or the track you choose, such as landscape design, turfgrass management, or floriculture. You may also be able to choose electives that suit your specific career goals. Hands-on training through on-campus gardens and landscapes or cooperative agreements with nurseries or other horticulture businesses are common. Some examples of classes you may take in this program include:

  • Plant science
  • Pest management
  • Soil and nutrients
  • Plant identification

Online Training Information

If you want to earn your associate degree in horticulture, but are in need of a more flexible schedule, you can look for programs that offer online components. Some schools offer online or hybrid courses, which allow you to complete a portion of a class online and attend some in-class sessions. However, be aware that due to the nature of the discipline, field study is commonly required.

How to Stand Out

If you're looking to become a landscaping contractor or obtain a supervisory position with your degree, you can look for programs that offer management or business-related classes. Some programs offer related electives, while other programs have relevant concentrations, such as nursery operations.

One way to enhance your learning while earning your degree is to join a horticulture club, either at your school or within the community. As a member of these clubs, you may study different areas of horticulture; attend conferences or trade shows; enter contests; tour gardens, greenhouses and nurseries; and participate in plant sales. Additionally, you may be able to gain leadership skills through officer positions and apply for scholarships.

Bachelor's Degree in Horticulture

Graduates of horticulture bachelor's degree programs can go on to become urban foresters, horticultural therapists and other types of horticulturalists. As a horticulture major, you may learn about propagation, botany, pathology, the economics of plants, pest management, landscape design and more.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Coursework typically involves outdoor hands-on and cooperative experiences
  • Many programs offer specialty areas so you can tailor your curriculum to meet your career goals
  • Voluntary certifications are available, which can help establish your expertise

Cons

  • May compete with other management candidates who have more experience, albeit less education
  • Some jobs require you to endure harsh conditions: inclement weather, laborious work, etc.
  • Job offerings and work opportunities may be dependent on the season

Courses and Requirements

As with an associate degree program, each horticulture bachelor's program varies in its focus; some provide a general overview of all areas, while others focus on a certain aspect of the field. The focus typically affects the courses you will take. You may also have the option to choose a concentration, such as environmental horticulture, production horticulture or urban forestry. Regardless of the program's emphasis, you can expect to take several science-based classes. Additionally, internships, field study and other types of hands-on learning are often included in these programs. Some examples of possible course topics include:

  • Cultivated plants
  • Entomology
  • Nursery management
  • Soils

Online Training Information

You can find some bachelor's programs available online. Depending on the school, all the courses may be completed online, or you may have to take some classes on campus or at a local community college. Your curriculum is comparable to an on-campus program, and you may be required to complete field training, projects and an internship.

How to Stand Out

Many schools have horticulture or landscape clubs that you can join. Participating in such extracurricular activities can give you the chance to get involved with gardening or landscaping projects at your school. Additionally, you may be able to volunteer at your local extension agency. Here, you may provide information to the public regarding various gardening and landscaping issues.

Some programs don't require internships as part of the graduation requirements, but you can still acquire these valuable learning opportunities while you're in school. You can also apply for entry-level jobs at nurseries, greenhouses, or gardens to gain some industry experience.

Alternative Degrees

If you're interested in finding new ways to improve plants and crops, you may prefer a major in agriculture science, plant science or biotechnology. These programs are science oriented, and you may learn about plant breeding, sustainable agriculture and methods for revitalizing natural environments in urban areas. You may qualify to become an entry-level plant or agricultural scientist, which the BLS projected to see an average 10% employment growth between 2010 and 2020.

If you aspire to be a landscape architect, a bachelor's degree in landscape architecture is more appropriate than one in horticulture. If you already have a bachelor's degree in horticulture or another field, you can earn a Master of Landscape Architecture degree to learn the required knowledge for the job. A landscape architecture bachelor's program typically takes 4-5 years to complete and teaches some horticulture principles along with surveying, design and urban planning. Licensure is necessary for landscape architects (except those employed by the federal government), which can be acquired after fulfilling certain requirements that vary for each state. The BLS anticipated that employment for these professionals would grow an average 16% between 2010 and 2020.

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