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How to Become a Landscaper

By Lace Brunsden

Published:

Are you someone who enjoys working with nature, creating beautiful outdoor spaces, and bringing landscapes to life? If so, a career as a landscaper might be the perfect fit for you. Let’s look at the various aspects of being a landscaper, from the skills and opportunities it offers to the considerations you should keep in mind when deciding if this profession is right for you.

Career Summary

Landscaper Salary

Landscaper Salary

Your salary as a landscaper can vary a great deal, especially if you own your own business. Factors such as the weather and seasonal changes can also affect your salary. According to Glassdoor, the most likely range you can expect is as follows.

  • Entry Salary (US$33k)
  • Median Salary (US$40k)
  • Executive Salary (US$48k)

When comparing this to the average salary across the United States, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates at US$ 61,900, the salary of a landscaper is relatively low.

What does a Landscaper do?

In short, it is a professional who designs, installs and maintains outdoor landscapes.

The landscaper job description includes landscape design, planting and maintaining gardens, installing hardscapes and irrigation systems, lawn care, and even taking care of garden lighting.

Their primary focus is on enhancing the aesthetic appeal and functionality of outdoor spaces, such as residential gardens, public parks, commercial properties, and other outdoor areas.

Landscaper Career Progression

Here is a typical career progression for a landscaper, starting from an entry-level position and advancing to more senior roles:

  • Landscape Laborer: You will perform physical tasks such as digging, planting, weeding, mowing, and general maintenance under the guidance of more experienced professionals.
  • Landscape Crew Member: You might assist with various landscaping tasks, including hardscape installation, irrigation system maintenance, and plant care. You will often work in teams under the supervision of a crew leader or foreman.
  • Crew Leader/Foreman: You will oversee the execution of landscaping projects, coordinate tasks, and ensure the team’s efficiency and productivity. You may also communicate with clients, interpret landscape designs, and provide guidance and training to crew members.
  • Landscape Designer: You will work closely with clients to create landscape plans, select plants and hardscape materials, and determine the overall layout and aesthetic of outdoor spaces. You may use software tools to create visual representations of their designs.
  • Landscape Project Manager: You will coordinate with clients, design professionals, and contractors, manage budgets and timelines, and ensure that projects are executed according to specifications and client expectations. You will also handle permits, inspections, and compliance with regulations.
  • Landscape Architect: You need to possess advanced knowledge of design principles, construction techniques, and environmental considerations. You may work on residential, commercial, or public projects, collaborating with various stakeholders, including clients, engineers, and urban planners.
Landscaper Career Progression

Pros:

  • Creative Expression
  • Connection with Nature
  • Physical Activity and Variety
  • Sense of Accomplishment
  • Positive Impact on the Environment and Community

Cons:

  • Physically Demanding Work
  • Seasonal Nature of the Work
  • Working Conditions and Environmental Factors
  • Inconsistent Work Schedules
  • Competitive Market and Pricing Pressures

Useful Skills to Have as a Landscaper

  • Plant Knowledge
  • Design and Creativity
  • Technical Proficiency
  • Time Management and Organization
  • Customer Service and Communication

Popular Landscaper Specialties

  • Landscape Design
  • Garden Maintenance
  • Irrigation and Water Management
  • Hardscape Construction
  • Sustainable Landscaping

How to become a Landscaper

Landscaper 5 Steps to Career

To become a landscaper, there are several common steps you can take to establish yourself in the profession. Here’s a general outline of the process:

Step 1: Obtain Education or Training

While formal education is not always required, it can be beneficial to pursue relevant training programs or courses in landscaping or horticulture. Community colleges, vocational schools, and online platforms often offer programs focused on landscape design, plant identification, horticultural practices, and landscape construction.

Do I Need a Highschool Diploma to Become a Landscaper?

In the United States, a high school diploma or its equivalent (such as a GED) is typically not a strict requirement to become a landscaper. Landscaping is often considered a trade or vocational profession that places more emphasis on practical skills and experience rather than formal education.

It’s worth noting that certain positions within the landscaping industry, such as landscape designers or project managers, may have higher educational requirements or may benefit from additional education in areas such as horticulture or landscape design. These positions may have a greater emphasis on formal education or relevant certifications.

Can I Become a Landscaper Through Online Education?

While online education can provide valuable knowledge and skills, becoming a fully qualified landscaper solely through online education may be challenging. Landscaping is a hands-on profession that involves physical work and practical experience. However, online education can still play a role in your learning and professional development as a landscaper.

Here are a few ways online education can be useful:

  • Knowledge Acquisition: Online courses and programs can provide you with fundamental knowledge in areas such as landscape design, plant identification, horticulture, irrigation systems, and sustainable practices. These courses can enhance your understanding of landscaping principles and techniques.
  • Certification Programs: Some online platforms or industry organizations offer certification programs for landscapers. These programs can help you gain specialized knowledge in specific areas of landscaping and provide credentials that demonstrate your expertise. For example, you may pursue certifications in landscape design software, organic gardening practices, or irrigation system installation.
  • Supplemental Learning: Online resources, including webinars, tutorials, and educational websites, can be valuable supplements to your practical experience. They can provide you with tips, insights, and updates on industry trends and best practices. Online platforms may also offer video demonstrations or step-by-step guides for specific landscaping tasks.
  • Business and Marketing Skills: Online education can help you develop the business and marketing skills necessary for starting and managing a landscaping business. Courses on entrepreneurship, business planning, marketing strategies, and financial management can provide you with the knowledge and tools to run a successful landscaping enterprise.

Step 2: Gain Practical Experience

Practical experience is vital in the landscaping industry. You should consider seeking entry-level positions or internships with landscaping companies or nurseries to gain hands-on experience. This will allow you to develop essential skills, learn about industry practices, and familiarize yourself with various landscaping techniques and tools.

What Are Internship Opportunities for a Landscaper?

Internship opportunities for landscapers can provide valuable hands-on experience and allow you to learn from experienced professionals in the field.

Here are some internship opportunities you may want to consider:

  • Landscaping Companies: Many landscaping companies offer internship programs where you can work alongside experienced landscapers. These internships can involve you doing various tasks such as planting, pruning, mulching, irrigation system installation, and maintenance. You will gain practical skills, observe proper techniques, and learn about the day-to-day operations of a landscaping business.
  • Garden Centers and Nurseries: Garden centers and nurseries often have internship programs where you can learn about plant care, propagation, pest management, and customer service. You might assist with plant selection, maintenance, customer inquiries, and sales. This experience provides knowledge about different plant species, their care requirements, and the retail aspects of the landscaping industry.
  • Parks and Recreation Departments: Municipal or county parks and recreation departments may offer internships in their landscaping or grounds maintenance divisions. You can gain experience in maintaining public parks, sports fields, and green spaces. Your tasks may include mowing, pruning, landscape installation, and general maintenance. This opportunity provides exposure to larger-scale landscaping projects and public spaces.
  • Environmental Conservation Organizations: Interning with environmental conservation organizations or non-profit groups focused on land preservation and restoration can provide valuable experience in natural resource management. These internships may involve you doing activities such as ecological restoration, invasive species management, trail maintenance, and land stewardship projects. You will gain knowledge about sustainable landscaping practices and environmental conservation efforts.

Step 3: Develop the Relevant Skills

Expand your knowledge of plants as well as a variety of other areas of landscaping. Some of these things you will learn on the job, when first starting out, but others you may need to research online in order to expand your business or open up more opportunities for yourself.

What Skills Will I Learn as a Landscaper?

As a landscaper, you will acquire a range of skills that are essential for the profession.

Here are some key skills you can expect to learn as a landscaper:

  • Plant Knowledge: You will develop an understanding of various plant species, including their characteristics, growth habits, maintenance requirements, and environmental preferences. This knowledge allows you to select appropriate plants for specific landscapes, provide proper care and maintenance, and troubleshoot plant health issues.
  • Landscape Design: You will learn the principles of landscape design, including concepts such as balance, proportion, color theory, focal points, and spatial arrangement. This skill enables you to create aesthetically pleasing and functional outdoor spaces, considering factors like client preferences, site characteristics, and the overall vision for the landscape.
  • Hardscape Installation: You will gain expertise in the installation of non-plant elements, such as patios, walkways, retaining walls, decks, and water features. This involves working with materials like stone, wood, concrete, and metal, understanding construction techniques, and ensuring proper functionality and structural integrity.
  • Irrigation and Water Management: You will learn about irrigation systems, including their design, installation, and maintenance. This skill involves understanding water distribution, calculating water requirements, programming irrigation controllers, and implementing water-efficient practices to ensure the health and sustainability of landscapes.
  • Garden Maintenance: You will develop skills in maintaining and caring for landscapes, including tasks such as mowing, pruning, fertilizing, weed control, and pest management. This involves knowledge of proper techniques, timing, and tools to keep plants healthy and landscapes looking their best.
  • Equipment Operation and Safety: You will learn how to safely operate and maintain various landscaping tools and equipment, including mowers, trimmers, blowers, and irrigation systems. This skill includes understanding safety procedures, maintenance schedules, and troubleshooting common equipment issues.
  • Soft Skills: As a landscaper, you will develop skills in time management, prioritization, and organization. This includes planning and scheduling tasks, managing project timelines, and ensuring efficient use of resources. You will also develop strong customer service skills and effective communication abilities. This involves actively listening to clients, understanding their needs and preferences, and effectively communicating your ideas and recommendations.
What are Some Web Resources to Learn Skills to Become a Landscaper?

There are several web resources available that can help you learn skills and gain knowledge to become a landscaper.

Here are some useful web resources:

  • National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP): The NALP website provides a range of resources for aspiring landscapers such as yourself, including webinars, articles, and educational materials. They offer certification programs and have a dedicated section for career development and education in the landscaping industry.
  • Landscape Industry Careers: This website offers a wealth of information on careers in the landscaping industry. It provides insights into different career paths, educational resources, and job listings. They also feature articles and videos that highlight various aspects of the landscaping profession.
  • Landscaping Network: The Landscaping Network website offers inspiration, design ideas, and educational articles on landscaping. It covers a wide range of topics, including design principles, plant selection, hardscaping, irrigation, and garden maintenance. The site features photos and case studies of real-life landscaping projects.

Step 4: Obtain Licenses and Certification

The licensing and certification requirements for landscapers in the United States can vary depending on the state, city, or specific services you offer.

Here’s an overview of the general requirements:

  • Contractor’s License: Some states may require that you obtain a contractor’s license if you offer services that exceed a certain scope or cost threshold. The specific requirements for obtaining a contractor’s license vary by state and may involve passing an exam, providing proof of experience, and meeting financial and insurance requirements. Check with your state’s licensing board or contractor licensing agency to determine if a license is necessary in your area.
  • Pesticide Applicator License: If you plan to apply pesticides as part of your landscaping services, you may need a pesticide applicator license. The requirements for obtaining a pesticide applicator license, including training, exams, and fees, are regulated by state agricultural or environmental agencies. Each state has its own specific regulations, so it’s important to check with your state’s pesticide regulatory agency for the requirements.
  • Certifications: While not always required, certifications can demonstrate your expertise and commitment to professional development in the landscaping industry. There are various certifications available and they typically involve passing an exam and meeting certain experience or educational requirements.

Useful Certifications for Landscapers

As a landscaper in the US, there are several useful certifications you can obtain to enhance your skills and credibility in the industry.

Here are some examples of certifications relevant to the landscaping profession:

  • Landscape Industry Certified Technician: Offered by the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), this certification validates your knowledge and skills in various aspects of landscaping, including plant identification, hardscape installation, irrigation systems, and turf maintenance. It demonstrates your expertise and commitment to professional standards.
  • International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certification: If you have an interest in tree care and arboriculture, obtaining certification from the ISA can be valuable. The ISA offers several certifications, including the Certified Arborist, which demonstrates your knowledge of tree biology, pruning, tree risk assessment, and other essential areas of tree care.
  • Irrigation Association (IA) Certifications: The IA offers certifications related to irrigation systems, such as the Certified Irrigation Technician (CIT) and Certified Irrigation Contractor (CIC). These certifications validate your expertise in designing, installing, and maintaining irrigation systems, including water conservation practices.
  • Green Roof Professional (GRP): The Green Roofs for Healthy Cities organization offers the GRP certification, which focuses on green roof design, installation, and maintenance. This certification can be valuable if you are interested in incorporating green roofs and living walls into your landscaping projects.
  • Ecological Landscaper Certification: Some regional or state-specific organizations offer certifications that focus on sustainable and ecological landscaping practices. These certifications validate your knowledge and skills in promoting biodiversity, using native plants, managing stormwater, and implementing environmentally responsible landscaping techniques.

Step 5: Build a Portfolio

As you gain experience, start building a portfolio that showcases your work. Take photographs of completed projects, including before and after shots, and include any design plans or sketches you have created. This portfolio will serve as evidence of your skills and capabilities when seeking employment or working with clients.

What’s the Career Outlook for Landscaper?

The landscaping industry has shown steady growth in recent years. The BLS projected a 5% increase in employment for grounds maintenance workers, which includes landscapers, for the period 2021-2031. This is about as fast as the average.

Factors contributing to this growth include population growth, increased demand for landscaping services, and the need for landscape maintenance in commercial and residential properties.

Landscaper Popular Career Specialties

What are the Job Opportunities of a Landscaper?

As a landscaper, there are various job opportunities available within the industry.

Here are some common job opportunities you might find for landscapers:

  • Landscaping Crew Member: You’ll work as part of a team under the guidance of a crew leader or foreman. As a crew member, you’ll perform general landscaping tasks such as mowing, planting, weeding, pruning, and maintenance.
  • Garden or Landscape Maintenance Specialist: Garden or landscape maintenance specialists focus on the ongoing care and maintenance of established landscapes. You will perform tasks such as pruning, fertilizing, pest control, irrigation management, and general landscape upkeep. As one of these specialists, you will often work independently or with a small team and may serve residential, commercial, or institutional clients.
  • Irrigation Specialist: Irrigation specialists specialize in the design, installation, and maintenance of irrigation systems. You will assess water needs, install irrigation components, troubleshoot issues, and ensure efficient water distribution. As an irrigation specialist, you may work independently or as part of a landscaping team.
  • Groundskeeper: Groundskeepers are responsible for maintaining the grounds of commercial or institutional properties. Your tasks may include mowing, edging, litter control, and general upkeep of outdoor spaces.
  • Landscape Business Owner/Entrepreneur: With experience and business acumen, you may choose to start your own landscaping business. As a business owner, you oversee all aspects of the operation, including client acquisition, project management, hiring and training employees, and financial management.

What Type of Companies Hire a Landscaper?

Landscapers can find employment opportunities in various types of companies and organizations.

Here are some examples of the types of companies that commonly hire landscapers:

  • Landscaping Companies: Specialized landscaping companies are dedicated to providing landscaping services to residential, commercial, and institutional clients. These companies may offer a wide range of services, including landscape design, installation, maintenance, hardscaping, and irrigation. They often have teams of landscapers working on different projects.
  • Property Management Companies: Property management companies are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of properties, including residential complexes, commercial buildings, and institutional facilities. They may hire landscapers to maintain the outdoor areas of their properties, ensuring they are well-kept and visually appealing.
  • Homeowners Associations (HOAs): HOAs are responsible for managing and maintaining common areas in residential communities, such as parks, pathways, and landscaping. They may employ you to handle routine maintenance, gardening, and landscaping tasks within the community.
  • Golf Courses and Sports Facilities: Golf courses, sports complexes, and recreational facilities often have extensive landscapes that require regular maintenance. They hire landscapers to maintain the turf, trees, shrubs, and other landscaping elements on their premises.
  • Parks and Recreation Departments: Municipal or county parks and recreation departments hire landscapers to maintain and beautify public parks, green spaces, trails, and recreational facilities. You may be responsible for tasks such as mowing, planting, pruning, and general maintenance.
  • Colleges and Universities: Educational institutions often have large campuses with extensive landscapes that require ongoing care. You may be employed by colleges and universities to maintain the grounds, gardens, and outdoor areas.
  • Nurseries and Garden Centers: Nurseries and garden centers employ landscapers to assist customers, provide guidance on plant selection and care, and maintain the nursery’s own plant inventory. If you work in nurseries, you may gain valuable knowledge about plants and develop expertise in plant care.
  • Landscape Architecture Firms: Landscape architecture firms may hire landscapers to assist with various aspects of landscape design and implementation. In these firms, you may contribute to tasks such as site analysis, construction documentation, plant selection, and site supervision.

What is the Work-Life Balance of a Landscaper?

The work-life balance of a landscaper can vary depending on several factors, including the type of employment, seasonality, workload, and individual preferences. Here are some key considerations regarding work-life balance as a landscaper:

  • Seasonal Fluctuations: Landscaping work often experiences seasonal fluctuations. During peak seasons, such as spring and summer, the demand for landscaping services is typically higher, leading to increased work hours and potential time constraints. In contrast, winter months may bring reduced workloads, providing more downtime. Managing and planning your schedule accordingly can help maintain a better work-life balance.
  • Work Hours and Flexibility: Landscaping work often involves early mornings and long days, especially during busy periods. Depending on the projects and client needs, you may need to work weekends and holidays. However, flexibility can be possible in some cases. For example, if you operate your own landscaping business, you may have more control over your schedule and can allocate time for personal obligations or activities.
  • Physical Demands and Fatigue: Landscaping work can be physically demanding, requiring stamina and energy. Long hours spent on physically demanding tasks can contribute to fatigue and impact your overall work-life balance. Prioritizing self-care, including proper rest, nutrition, and exercise, can help maintain physical well-being and support a better work-life balance.

Should I become a Landscaper?

The decision to become a landscaper is a personal one that requires careful consideration of various factors. Landscaping offers a range of benefits and opportunities, making it an attractive career path if you have a passion for the outdoors, creativity, and a desire to make a tangible impact on the environment.

As a landscaper, you will have the chance to work with plants, design beautiful outdoor spaces, and contribute to the maintenance and improvement of landscapes. You will acquire valuable skills in plant care, design principles, hardscape installation, and irrigation systems. The industry also allows for specialization and advancement, with opportunities to focus on areas such as landscape design, garden maintenance, or sustainable landscaping.

However, it’s important to consider the challenges that come with the profession. Landscaping work can be physically demanding, requiring stamina and working in various weather conditions. The industry also experiences seasonal fluctuations, potentially impacting income and job availability during certain periods. Additionally, maintaining a work-life balance may require careful planning and time management.

Ultimately, the decision to become a landscaper should be based on your own interests, skills, and career goals. Assess your passion for working outdoors, your willingness to continuously learn and adapt to industry trends, and your ability to handle physically demanding tasks. Consider your long-term aspirations, whether that be working for an established landscaping company, starting your own business, or pursuing specialized niches within the industry.

Careers Related to Landscaper


Lace Brunsden

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