Check out this 8-12th grade lesson to get your students learning more about careers in horticulture, Discovering Careers in Horticulture (PDF).
At the Gaylord Opryland Hotel there are over nine acres of indoor gardens. The manager of horticulture at this luxurious resort identifies the beginning of his fascination with plants to first grade. His teacher had students plant zinnia seeds in half egg shells. This little activity sparked at least one student’s passion for horticulture which led to a prosperous and fulfilling career.
One of the valuable roles teachers play is to help their students prepare for college and beyond. What major a student chooses in college or future career choices will likely be influenced by the exposures they have had throughout their education. It is essential for students to develop an understanding of various professions in order to know what opportunities lie in wait and the necessary skills for the career they desire.
One benefit of educating students about careers is that it helps them answer the age old question of, “When am I ever going to need to know this stuff???” When students pique an interest in their future endeavors they may be more ready to learn the important skills for success in that field. Horticulture, as a profession, has much to offer students of varied interests. While some may think horticulture is a term referring solely to plants, the opportunities go far beyond this assumption. Here are some career opportunities in the field of horticulture that may be of interest to your students.
Careers in Horticulture
Horticulture Therapists often work alongside doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and others to develop beneficial garden programs with individualized treatment plans and measurable goals for therapeutic and rehabilitative outcomes. Individuals who are in a horticulture therapy program may suffer from physical/mental or other disabilities. Horticulture therapists are specially trained and educated to work with clients with a clinical diagnosis through all phases of gardening. This profession has progressed to the point where degree and certificate programs are now being offered.
Sportsturf/Turfgrass Manager/Groundskeeper Students with an interest in sports and plants may be interested in this avenue of occupations. Maintaining the lawns on the field of various sport complexes or golf courses is a challenging job with many rewards. In order to understand what is happening both above and below the soil a background in biology, agronomy, chemistry, plant genetics, and turfgrass science are beneficial. Groundskeepers are needed to maintain college campuses, parks, and other public venues. Safety in sports facilities is a number one priority requiring the turf to be in top condition. A bachelor’s degree in agronomy or horticulture is common for professionals in this field.
Landscape Contractors have the privilege and responsibility of transforming spaces into natural beauties. Depending on the desires of the client, the projects could include hardscapes such as patios or walkways, as well as installation of plants. These projects can be commercial or private residences and come in all sizes. Landscape contractors may work with a variety of people depending on the project. This could include residential or commercial clients, growers, designers, general contractors, and landscape architects. Passing a formal test is required to become a licensed landscape contractor. Accomplishing this task is made easier by completing coursework or training in horticulture.
Florists have a unique connection to both plants and people. Who doesn’t love receiving a bouquet of flowers or enjoying a floral arrangement in a common area? Many of us don’t even recognize the effect these additions to a room have on us. Being a florist requires creativity, an artistic talent and good people skills as many occasions involving flowers (i.e. weddings, funerals) also come with heightened emotions. Those in more of a management position will also need to be familiar with sales and marketing to increase business. Some type of education in horticulture is beneficial to provide a much needed knowledge base. Individual floriculture courses are offered for those interested in this field. A bachelor’s degree in horticulture would also provide suitable training.
Growers are responsible for providing the plants we see at many home improvement centers as well as retail nurseries. Tasks for this job description may include propagating (reproducing) plants, controlling pests (weeds, insects, diseases), potting plants, among many others. While this position can be less involved with the general public, it does require an understanding of what plants are popular in order to fulfill customer needs and increase sales. Growers can focus on providing houseplants, ornamental outdoor plants, edible plants, trees, among other specialty crops. A bachelor’s degree in horticulture is beneficial for a position in this field.
Horticulture Writing/Communicating requires plant-based knowledge and writing skills. Some opportunities for horticulture journalists may include writing for newspapers, magazines, or book publications. Writings may include topics such as how to garden, what to plant, how to overcome problems in the garden, but may also include more creative pieces such as themed gardens. Another route for communicating horticulture knowledge is as a county extension agent which serves as an educational resource for the public. Some tasks that may be involved in a career of public horticulture include research and writing about gardening trends, tools, and products that may be of relevance to the audience. Some degrees that may promote an entry into this career include a bachelor’s of science in horticulture, agriculture education, or communication as well as a master’s degree in public horticulture and doctor of philosophy in horticulture.
Landscape Designers use creative and horticultural expertise to organize plans for integrating plants into everyday spaces. Designers can be focused on strictly interior or exterior locations. This career can deal directly with residential properties but may be done at larger scale corporations. Some tasks that may be involved with an occupation in landscape design include meeting with clients, creating designs, ordering plant materials, overseeing installation, and orchestrating maintenance. In order to be successful, designers should be able to listen to and meet the client’s desires and be able to manage a landscape crew. A bachelor’s degree in horticulture is common for this profession.
The opportunities do not stop here. Within the field of horticulture there are possibilities for occupations with travel, research, and more. With any career there will be certain elements which are less favorable. Remind your students that by identifying a particular hobby that is particularly fulfilling and then finding careers that enlist those skills, the less favorable elements will likely be insignificant compared with the reward of an exciting career.
According to statistics shared through a report from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, a significant reason for students dropping out of high school is they have an unclear connection between the classes they are taking and future career opportunities. We as a nation have become too narrowly focused on which pathways lead to success concluding that a four-year college education is the way. By exposing students to a broader range of skills they are more likely to find a suitable career path and become better prepared for future occupations. The Harvard report explains that teens who have more positive experiences in high school will more likely continue on in post-secondary education. Post-secondary education does not necessarily mean obtaining a bachelor’s degree or beyond. Associate’s degrees and certificate programs are available and can often land hard-working students into desirable careers.
What all the above listed occupations in horticulture have in common is the need for experience in the field. That experience has already started with the education your students have been receiving. The key, as educators, is to expose students to the possibilities and allow them to dream. Never underestimate the role you play in your students’ future endeavors.