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How to Become a Groundskeeper

By Anita Akpuoforba

Published:

Do you love nature and enjoy working in the great outdoors? If so, a career as a groundskeeper may be your perfect match! From mowing lawns to planting flowers and trees, groundskeepers play a crucial role in creating visually appealing and well-kept environments. In this career guide, discover how you can turn your passion for nature into a fulfilling career.

Career Summary

Groundskeeper Salary

Groundskeeper Salary

As a groundskeeper, you can expect to earn a salary that is comparable to other entry-level jobs. However, as you gain experience, your salary is likely to increase. Other factors, such as the size and type of property and its location, can also determine how much you earn.

For instance, groundskeepers who work at large properties, such as parks or universities, typically earn more than those who work at smaller properties, such as businesses or homes. Also, groundskeepers who work in urban areas earn more than those who work in rural areas.

A trajectory to explain the salary scale can be seen below, per Glassdoor.com

  • Entry Salary (US$27k)
  • Median Salary (US$38k)
  • Executive Salary (US$54k)

This is significantly lower than the average annual wage of US citizens, which was US$61,900 in 2022.

Groundskeeper Job Description

Let’s start with answering the question “What is a Groundskeeper?”: A groundskeeper is a professional responsible for maintaining and caring for the outdoor areas of a property. They perform a range of duties such as mowing lawns, trimming trees, planting flowers, and clearing debris.

Groundskeepers may also be responsible for applying fertilizers and pesticides, and for repairing or replacing landscaping features. Ultimately, the specific duties of a groundskeeper will vary depending on the size and type of property they are working on.

Groundskeeper Career Progression

Just like any other career, groundskeepers also go through some common steps as they advance in their careers. The time taken to move from one state to another differs among individuals and largely depends on expertise and exposure.

  • Entry-Level Groundskeeper: Involves basic tasks such as mowing lawns, trimming hedges, and removing debris.
  • Groundskeeper Technician: Involves more complex tasks such as planting trees, installing irrigation systems, and repairing landscaping features.
  • Lead Groundskeeper: Oversees a team of groundskeepers and is responsible for ensuring that the grounds are maintained to a high standard.
  • Groundskeeping Manager: Manages the groundskeeping department and is responsible for setting budgets, developing plans, and ensuring that the department meets the needs of its employer.
  • Director of Grounds or Facilities Management: Oversees all aspects of groundskeeping, landscaping, and facility maintenance for a larger organization or institution.
Groundskeeper Career Progression

Pros:

  • Working outdoors and connecting with nature.
  • Engaging in hands-on work and seeing the direct results of your efforts.
  • Task variety that leads to personal growth.
  • Expressing creativity and artistic skills through landscaping and design.
  • Making a positive impact on communities by enhancing public spaces.

Cons:

  • Long hours of manual labor.
  • Exposure to different environmental factors.
  • Work pressure can arise due to tight schedules and deadlines.
  • Career advancement options within groundskeeping may be limited.
  • Groundskeepers may not always receive significant public recognition.

Useful Skills to Have as a Groundskeeper

  • Safety Awareness
  • Physical Stamina for Handling Demanding Tasks
  • Landscaping and Horticultural Knowledge
  • Proficiency in Operating and Maintaining Groundskeeping Equipment
  • Attention to Detail

Popular Groundskeeping Specialties

  • Sports Field Maintenance Specialist
  • Tree Care and Arboriculture Specialist
  • Ornamental Gardening Specialist
  • Irrigation Systems Management Specialist
  • Park and Recreation Maintenance Specialist
  • Pest and Weed Control Specialist

How to become a Groundskeeper

Groundskeeper 5 Steps to Career

There are many different ways to become a groundskeeper. You can develop the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in this field whether through specific educational programs or on-the-job training.

Education

Educational options for becoming a groundskeeper can vary depending on the level of specialization and career advancement you seek. Here are some educational paths you can consider:

High School Diploma or GED

While groundskeepers typically don’t need any formal education to enter the field, opting to pursue a high school diploma or equivalent can potentially provide you with a competitive advantage in the job market. Some employers prioritize candidates with a high school education over non-degree holders.

Vocational or Technical Programs

Many vocational schools and community colleges offer certificate or diploma programs in landscaping, groundskeeping, or horticulture. These programs provide hands-on training and cover topics such as plant care, landscape design, and equipment operation.

Associate’s Degree

Pursuing an associate’s degree in horticulture, landscape management, or a related field can provide a more comprehensive education and enhance your job prospects. These programs typically delve deeper into plant science, irrigation systems, pest management, and landscape planning.

An associate’s degree in groundskeeping typically takes two years to complete.

Bachelor’s Degree

For those interested in advancing their career in groundskeeping or moving into management positions, a bachelor’s degree in horticulture, landscape architecture, or environmental science can be beneficial. This level of education provides a broader understanding of plants, ecosystems, and sustainable landscaping practices.

A bachelor’s degree in groundskeeping typically takes four years to complete and it will cost between US$12,000 to US$26,000 depending on whether the student is in state or out of state.

Professional Certifications

For a certificate in groundskeeping, the cost typically ranges from US$250 to US$300.  Some of the possible certificates include grounds maintenance certification, turfgrass management certification, arboriculture certification, and irrigation technician certification.

Several organizations offer certifications specific to groundskeeping and landscaping and it typically takes from a few months to one year to complete the program.

Can I become a Groundskeeper through online education?

It is possible to become a groundskeeper through online education. While certain aspects of groundskeeping, such as hands-on practical experience, may be more challenging to acquire through online learning alone, there are online programs and courses available that provide education and training in groundskeeping.

Online education in groundskeeping may include coursework in subjects like plant care, landscaping principles, turf management, equipment operation, and pest control. These programs often utilize online lectures, interactive modules, virtual simulations, and discussion forums to deliver educational content.

If you are considering pursuing a career as a groundskeeper through online education, it is recommended to research and choose reputable programs or institutions that offer comprehensive online curricula and, if possible, opportunities for practical experience or internships to ensure a well-rounded education.

What are some web resources to learn skills to become a Groundskeeper?

Groundskeepers can find valuable information, resources, and support from various web platforms. Here are some web resources specifically designed for groundskeepers:

  • The Grounds Guys: The Grounds Guys is a professional landscaping and groundskeeping company. Their blog offers a variety of informative and helpful content related to landscaping, lawn care, and groundskeeping.
  • LawnSite: LawnSite is an online community and forum that serves as a valuable resource hub for lawn care professionals, landscapers, and groundskeepers. This website fosters discussions, sharing of experiences, and exchange of knowledge related to lawn care techniques, equipment reviews, and industry trends.
  • Pro Landscaper: Pro Landscaper is a landscaping and groundskeeping magazine that provides industry news, articles, and practical tips for professionals in the field.
  • Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS): The PGMS website offers educational resources, articles, webinars, and networking opportunities for groundskeeping professionals.
  • Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA): For groundskeepers working in sports fields and athletic facilities, STMA offers resources, research, and events related to sports turf management.

Practical Experience

What are internship opportunities for a Groundskeeper?

Internships provide valuable opportunities for interns to learn and apply groundskeeping skills under the guidance of professionals in real-world settings. To explore specific internships, you can inquire with local organizations, search internship listings, network with industry professionals, and reach out to relevant institutions or facilities.

Below is a list of specific roles and internship opportunities for groundskeepers, along with a brief description of what you would do in each position:

  • Parks and Recreation Intern: Assist with grounds maintenance, landscaping, and park upkeep under the guidance of experienced professionals in local or municipal parks and recreation departments.
  • Golf Course Maintenance Intern: Gain hands-on experience in turf management, irrigation systems, and landscape maintenance at a golf course facility.
  • Campus Groundskeeping Intern: Work alongside college or university groundskeeping staff to maintain the campus landscapes, lawns, and outdoor facilities.
  • Botanical Garden Intern: Assist with grounds maintenance, plant care, and landscaping projects in a botanical garden or arboretum setting.
  • Sports Facility Groundskeeping Intern: Contribute to the maintenance and preparation of athletic fields, outdoor spaces, and event setups at sports stadiums or recreational facilities.
  • Landscaping Company Intern: Gain exposure to various aspects of groundskeeping by interning with a landscaping company, assisting with landscape installations, maintenance, and equipment operation.
  • Resort or Hotel Groundskeeping Intern: Gain experience in maintaining outdoor spaces, gardens, and landscapes at a resort or hotel property.
  • Cemetery Groundskeeping Intern: Intern with a cemetery or memorial park to learn about groundskeeping practices specific to burial grounds.
  • Estate or Mansion Groundskeeping Intern: Intern at a private estate or historic mansion to gain experience in maintaining extensive grounds, gardens, and landscapes.

What Skills Will I Learn as a Groundskeeper?

As a groundskeeper, you will acquire a range of skills that are essential for maintaining and beautifying outdoor spaces. Here are some skills you can expect to learn:

  • Landscaping and Horticulture: You will develop knowledge of landscaping principles, plant care, and horticultural practices, including proper planting, pruning, and maintenance techniques.
  • Turf Management: You will learn how to care for and maintain different types of turf, including mowing, edging, fertilizing, and managing irrigation systems.
  • Equipment Operation and Maintenance: You will gain proficiency in operating and maintaining various groundskeeping equipment, such as lawnmowers, trimmers, chainsaws, and irrigation systems.
  • Pest and Weed Management: You will learn techniques for identifying, controlling, and managing common pests and weeds that affect outdoor spaces.
  • Plant Identification and Selection: You will acquire knowledge of different plant species, their characteristics, and proper selection for specific landscapes and environments.
  • Soil Health and Fertilization: You will learn about soil composition, testing methods, and the application of fertilizers and soil amendments to maintain healthy plant growth.
  • Irrigation System Management: You will understand how to design, install, and manage efficient irrigation systems to ensure proper watering of plants and turf.
  • Safety and Environmental Awareness: You will develop an understanding of safety protocols, proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and the importance of environmental sustainability in groundskeeping practices.
  • Time Management and Organization: You will learn to prioritize tasks, manage work schedules, and efficiently allocate resources to meet deadlines and maintain productivity.

What is the Work-Life Balance of a Groundskeeper?

Groundskeepers typically have regular working hours, allowing for predictable schedules and time for personal activities. They may have the flexibility to work outdoors and enjoy the benefits of being in nature.

While groundskeepers generally have a great work-life balance, challenges can arise that affect it. These challenges may include the need to work extended hours during peak seasons or bad weather conditions. Additionally, meeting deadlines and managing multiple tasks simultaneously can create occasional work pressures.

Despite these challenges, groundskeepers often find fulfillment in their work, as they contribute to maintaining and enhancing outdoor spaces for others to enjoy. This sense of purpose can contribute to a positive work-life balance.

What’s the Career Outlook for Groundskeepers?

The career outlook for groundskeepers is positive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the employment of groundskeepers will grow 5 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations. This growth is expected due to the increasing demand for grounds maintenance services in commercial, industrial, and residential settings.

Some of the factors that are contributing to the growth of this occupation include:

  • The increasing popularity of outdoor living spaces: As more people spend time outdoors, there is a growing demand for well-maintained grounds.
  • The increasing number of commercial and industrial properties: The development of new commercial and industrial properties will create a need for grounds maintenance workers to maintain these properties.
  • The increasing awareness of the importance of environmental sustainability: The growing awareness of the importance of environmental sustainability is leading to an increased demand for grounds maintenance workers who are skilled in using sustainable practices.
Groundskeeper Popular Career Specialties

What are the Job Opportunities for a Groundskeeper?

Groundskeepers are in high demand, as they are responsible for maintaining the beauty and functionality of outdoor spaces. There are many different job opportunities available for groundskeepers, depending on their skills and experience.

  • Groundskeeper: This is the general job title for professionals who maintain and care for outdoor spaces. Groundskeepers are responsible for tasks such as mowing lawns, pruning plants, planting flowers, managing irrigation systems, and ensuring overall grounds cleanliness.
  • Landscaping Technician: Some groundskeepers specialize in landscaping tasks, such as designing and implementing landscape plans, installing hardscapes, and selecting and maintaining plantings.
  • Turf Specialist: Turf specialists focus on the care and maintenance of lawns, sports fields, and turf areas. They are skilled in mowing, fertilizing, aerating, and managing irrigation systems to ensure healthy and attractive turf.
  • Horticulturist: Some groundskeepers specialize in horticulture, with a focus on plant care, selection, and maintenance. They have expertise in identifying plant species, diagnosing plant diseases, and implementing appropriate treatments.
  • Arborist or Tree Care Specialist: Groundskeepers with a specialization in tree care may hold the title of arborist or tree care specialist. They are responsible for tree pruning, trimming, and maintenance, as well as diagnosing and treating tree diseases or pests.
  • Sports Turf Manager: Sports turf managers are groundskeepers who specifically focus on maintaining athletic fields and sports surfaces. They ensure proper turf condition, marking, and maintenance for optimal performance and safety.
  • Grounds Maintenance Technician: This job title is commonly used in larger organizations or facilities where groundskeeping tasks require specialized technical knowledge. Grounds maintenance technicians handle various groundskeeping duties, including equipment maintenance, repairs, and troubleshooting.
  • Park Ranger: In some cases, groundskeepers who work for park departments or government agencies may hold the title of park ranger. Park rangers are responsible for overseeing and maintaining parks, enforcing regulations, and providing visitor assistance and education.

What Type of Companies Hire a Groundskeeper?

A variety of companies and organizations hire groundskeepers to maintain and care for outdoor spaces.

  • Residential Property Management Companies: Companies that manage residential properties, such as apartment complexes or housing communities, often hire groundskeepers to maintain the landscaping and outdoor areas.
  • Commercial Property Management Companies: Companies that manage commercial properties, including office buildings, shopping centers, and industrial complexes, hire groundskeepers to ensure the grounds are well-maintained and visually appealing.
  • Landscaping and Groundskeeping Companies: Specialized landscaping and groundskeeping companies provide services to residential, commercial, and public clients. They employ groundskeepers to carry out various ground maintenance tasks for their clients.
  • Golf Courses and Country Clubs: Golf courses and country clubs hire groundskeepers to maintain the golf course grounds, including turf care, landscaping, irrigation management, and equipment operation.
  • Parks and Recreation Departments: Government entities and agencies responsible for managing public parks, recreational areas, and green spaces employ groundskeepers to maintain and care for these areas.
  • Educational Institutions: Schools, colleges, and universities often have their own groundskeeping staff to maintain the campus landscapes, lawns, sports fields, and outdoor facilities.
  • Sports Facilities and Stadiums: Sports facilities, stadiums, and arenas employ groundskeepers to maintain outdoor areas such as sports fields and common spaces.
  • Botanical Gardens and Arboretums: Botanical gardens, arboretums, and public gardens employ groundskeepers to care for the extensive plant collections, gardens, and outdoor landscapes.
  • Retirement Communities and Assisted Living Facilities: Retirement communities and assisted living facilities often have outdoor spaces that require groundskeeping services, including landscaping, lawn care, and outdoor maintenance.
  • Government Agencies and Municipalities: Local government agencies and municipalities employ groundskeepers to maintain public spaces, including parks, recreational areas, and public grounds.

Should I become a Groundskeeper?

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to become a groundskeeper is a personal one. If you have a passion for the outdoors, a green thumb, and a knack for maintaining beautiful landscapes, becoming a groundskeeper could be a rewarding career choice.

There are a few things you can do to increase your chances of success. While formal education is not always necessary, gaining practical experience, developing essential skills, and seeking specialized training can help you excel in this field. Finally, you should network with other groundskeepers and landscaping professionals.

Once you have completed the necessary steps, you can embark on your job application process. This includes conducting thorough research, customizing your resume and cover letter, and getting ready for interviews. Good luck!

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Anita Akpuoforba

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