There are ways to use your green thumb to make some green — and grow a career.
Love planning, weeding, sowing and harvesting? A gardening-friendly job might be in your future.
And you can always grow a green thumb, if you don’t have one already. “Students in our program come from a gardening background or love gardening, currently work in the industry, or come with no previous plant experience,” she says.
One example: an irrigation technician, who installs and maintains the efficient, water-conscious systems that sprinkle crops, parks and gardens. “It pays well and helps the environment,” Skamser says.
Other jobs may include ecological restoration, noxious weed control and even starting a business, as landscape horticulture is a great small business opportunity, according to Skamser. Want to work for someone else? Think commercial sites, such as golf courses and homeowners, or with government agencies, such as city or county parks.
Plant-friendly jobs range widely with a variety of educational requirements, from a garden center employee who may only possess an enthusiasm for flora, to degree-bearing arborists (maintaining and caring for trees); botanists (studying plants from life cycle to conservation) and landscape architects (designing gardens, lawns, green spaces) or a certificate-bearing turf managers (caring for vast expanses of turf on sports fields, stadiums and other places).
Students may also work with growers in propagation and production, or in nursery work, Skamser says.
For example, at Seattle’s Swansons Nursery, job listing qualifications include enjoying plants and people, possessing a “sunny disposition,” an energetic, flexible and outgoing attitude, and no fear of physical work or getting dirty. Local garden centers seek plant lovers with a good understanding of Northwest plants and gardening, and are particularly interested in hearing from horticulture students seeking part-time work while in school.
At a more advanced level, landscape architects design many functional, aesthetic green spaces with an eye on design. Designed spaces might include residential yards, cultural monuments, public gardens, drainage systems and parks. Landscape architects study aesthetic design, social and environmental ethics, natural processes and design history, among other topics.
Landscaping architects make a median of $30 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A license is required in Washington and most states. Licensing requirements may include a degree in landscape architecture from an accredited school (such as the University of Washington), internship experience and passing the landscape architect registration examination. Employment of landscape architects is projected by the BLS to grow 6 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
However, the Seattle-metro area ranks as one of the metropolitan areas with the highest concentration of jobs in landscape architecture, and the high employment level nationally. Pay here ranks among the highest as well, with an annual mean wage of more than $75,000 in 2017, according to the BLS.
The University of Washington’s program focuses specifically on urban ecological design education, pinpointing the outdoor space in cities for meaningful beautification.
Meanwhile, at Edmonds Community College, one-year courses prepare students to become horticulturists, described as a combination of art and science. The college offers one-year certificates in landscape horticulture and nursery growing, while two-year certificates include ornamental horticulture, landscape design, and landscape and restoration horticulture.
The BLS lumps these types of jobs — from arborist to landscaper — in the catch-all category of “grounds maintenance workers.” The job outlook for grounds maintenance workers is 11 percent growth, which is faster than average, according to the BLS. The median hourly wage for these workers in the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area was $26.93 hour in 2017.
King County ranks as one of the top-paying counties in the United States, where grounds maintenance workers make up to $65, 520 in annual mean wages. Top-paying industries for grounds maintenance workers are in the postal service, schools, as contractors and in spectator sports.
Not a bad way to make some green.