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Gardener, Greenskeeper, Grounds Maintenance Worker, Grounds Person, Grounds Worker, Grounds/Maintenance Specialist, Groundskeeper, Landscape Specialist, Landscape Technician, Outside Maintenance Worker

Job Description

Landscape Technicians, also known as Grounds Maintenance workers or Groundskeepers, are in charge of keeping a property’s grounds and landscaped areas looking sharp at all times. They perform a wide variety of outdoor duties such as planting flowers, shrubbery, and small trees, as well as keeping all of those trimmed, mulched, watered, and free from pests. Other parts of the job include mowing and trimming lawns, removing weeds, raking or blowing leaves, picking up fallen tree limbs, clearing sidewalks, and in some cases assisting with the installation of patios, decks, sprinklers, or lighting systems. They might even be tasked for maintaining parking areas, playgrounds, fences, or public park benches. 
 
Landscape Technicians can be found working on virtually any type of property, from private residences to malls, office parks, college campuses, public areas, golf courses, and many other spaces. They usually follow the guidance outlined by their employer’s grounds or facility manager, and designs made by a professional Landscape Architect. Specialized workers, such as those working at cemeteries or sports fields, have additional job-specific duties. Many receive training to spray pesticides on plants and soil. 
 
While they often go unnoticed, Landscape Technicians are out there working hard to keep natural environments beautiful and healthy for everyone’s use and enjoyment! 

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Working outdoors with nature
  • Keeping plants, shrubs, and trees healthy and safe from pests
  • Daily physical exercise
  • Ensuring public areas are well-maintained for communities to enjoy
  • Maintaining unique private places such as cemeteries, golf courses, and athletic fields so they look sharp for visitors 
$26,245
2019 Employment
1,305,300
2029 Projected Employment
1,436,100
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

Working Schedule
 
Landscape Technicians usually work full-time, sometimes on a seasonal basis since there is less to do during winter months in many states. 
 
Typical Duties

  • Work outside on public or private grounds
  • Plant different shrubs, plants, and flower types in prearranged patterns
  • Pull weeds from the soil where shrubs, plants, and flowers are growing
  • Water, fertilize, and trim shrubs and other planted items
  • Spray pesticides as applicable 
  • Mow and edge lawn areas 
  • Keep lawns and gardens watered using sprinkler systems
  • Plant small trees and build supports to keep them upright, if needed
  • Check trees for health and signs of disease or rot; trim and remove limbs as needed
  • Rake and blow leaves
  • Tend to certain indoor plants at some job sites, such as malls
  • Put down walkway, desk, or patio materials
  • Drive trucks to haul equipment to job sites; drive small vehicles around job sites
  • Help decorate garden or fountain areas with stones and sculptures
  • Assist with installation of sprinkler or lighting systems, as needed
  • Light painting work


Additional Responsibilities

  • Wear all personal protective equipment; practice good safety procedures
  • Maintain vehicles and tool/equipment inventories
  • Ensure all necessary items are ready for the day’s work, including fuel for mowers
  • Keep sidewalks or parking areas clear of debris 
  • Remove snow from sidewalks during the winter
  • Perform specialized duties for specific job locations such as athletic fields, golf courses, or cemeteries
  • Special labor tasks may include putting up temporary fencing, turf maintenance, cutting trees with chainsaws, digging graves with a backhoe, pool maintenance, and more
Skills Needed on the Job

Soft Skills

  • Able to follow directions 
  • Attention to detail and standards
  • Customer service-oriented
  • Fast reaction time
  • Good hand-eye coordination
  • Hand and finger dexterity
  • Normal color vision
  • Observant
  • Patient 
  • Safety-oriented
  • Strength and stamina
  • Strong listening skills
  • Teamwork
  • Time management 


Technical Skills

  • Ability to understand design layouts
  • Use of personal protective equipment, such as eye and hearing protection, gloves, steel-toed boots, or other mandated items
  • Familiarity with applicable state and local safety standards
  • Training for safe use of powered equipment and hand tools (including lawnmowers; electric or gas-powered weed trimmers; pruners, hedge cutters; spades, shovels, and other gardening tools)
  • Knowledge of pesticide and fertilizer usage and safe handling
  • Familiarity with sprinkler and lighting systems, as applicable
  • Other specialized equipment usage, as dictated by the job 
Different Types of Landscape Technicians

Landscaping workers plant trees, flowers, and shrubs to create new outdoor spaces or upgrade existing ones. They also trim, fertilize, mulch, and water plants. Some grade and install lawns or construct hardscapes such as walkways, patios, and decks. Others help install lighting or sprinkler systems. Landscaping workers are employed in a variety of residential and commercial settings, such as homes, apartment buildings, office buildings, shopping malls, and hotels and motels.
 
Groundskeeping workers, also called groundskeepers, maintain grounds. They care for plants and trees, rake and mulch leaves, and clear snow from walkways. They work on athletic fields, golf courses, cemeteries, university campuses, and parks, as well as in many of the same settings that landscaping workers work. They also see to the proper upkeep of sidewalks, parking lots, fountains, fences, planters, and benches, as well as groundskeeping equipment.
 
Groundskeeping workers who care for athletic fields keep natural and artificial turf in top condition, mark out boundaries, and paint turf with team logos and names before events. They mow, water, fertilize, and aerate the fields regularly. They must ensure that the underlying soil on fields with natural turf has the composition required to allow proper drainage and to support the grass used on the field. In sports venues, they vacuum and disinfect synthetic turf to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and they remove the turf and replace the cushioning pad periodically.
 
Groundskeepers in parks and recreation facilities care for lawns, trees, and shrubs; maintain playgrounds; clean buildings; and keep parking lots, picnic areas, and other public spaces free of litter. They also may erect and dismantle snow fences and maintain swimming pools. These workers inspect buildings and equipment, make needed repairs, and keep everything freshly painted.
 
Some groundskeepers specialize in caring for cemeteries and memorial gardens. They dig graves to specified depths, generally using a backhoe. They mow grass regularly, apply fertilizers and other chemicals, prune shrubs and trees, plant flowers, and remove debris from graves.
 
Greenskeepers maintain golf courses. Their work is similar to that of groundskeepers, but they also periodically relocate holes on putting greens and maintain benches and tee markers along the course and provide more intense turf maintenance. In addition, greenskeepers keep canopies, benches, and tee markers repaired and freshly painted.
 
Pesticide handlers, sprayers, and applicators apply herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides on plants or the soil to prevent or control weeds, insects, and diseases. Those who work for chemical lawn or tree service firms are more specialized, inspecting lawns for problems and applying fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals to stimulate growth and prevent or control weeds, diseases, or insect infestations.
 
Tree trimmers and pruners, also called arborists, cut away dead or excess branches from trees or shrubs to clear utility lines, roads, and sidewalks. Many of these workers strive to improve the appearance and health of trees and plants, and some specialize in diagnosing and treating tree diseases. Others specialize in pruning, trimming, and shaping ornamental trees and shrubs. Tree trimmers and pruners use chain saws, chippers, and stump grinders while on the job. When trimming near power lines, they usually work on truck-mounted lifts and use power pruners.

Different Types of Organizations
  • Apartment complexes
  • Educational institutions 
  • Local and state government agencies
  • Hotel chains
  • Office buildings and parks
  • Private residences
  • Recreational establishments (amusement parks, athletic fields, golf courses)
  • Self-employed (or owner of a landscaping service)
  • Shopping malls
Expectations and Sacrifices

Landscape Technicians work hard and spend most of their days outside. They are exposed to heat and cold, sun, wind, and rain. Much of their time may be spent working alone, performing physically demanding tasks under deadlines so they can move on to the next task or job site. Despite the need to work efficiently, they are expected to maintain high standards. For this reason, they require patience and attention-to-detail, as well as the ability to work relatively quickly for hours on end. 
 
In terms of sacrifice, it is important to understand that Landscape Technicians are exposed to a number of workplace hazards. They often use dangerous tools while working through fatigue, boredom from repetition, and perhaps in inclement weather that may make hands or tools wet. This combination of factors can lead to injuries, unless workers wear proper protective gear, stay focused on safety, and are trained on proper tool and equipment usage. Hearing protection is an often overlooked element, as workers may operate or be near loud equipment. 
 
Another potential sacrifice is that work may be sporadic during winter months, when there is less to do or duties may change significantly (for instance, there may be snow removal required, or putting out holiday decorations versus mowing lawns or watering plants). 

Current Trends

Job growth is predicted to be very good, as homeowners and organizations look to spruce up older properties by investing in landscaping. Research indicates that young homeowners are seeking increased landscaping services, as well, as a way to protect the environment. Indeed there’s a trend towards “outdoor spaces” and “outdoor rooms” like covered decks or patios, which may require the skills of a Landscape Technician. 
 
In the business world, there is a current focus on both green initiatives and workplace wellness, which should keep landscapers busy as companies offer more outdoor areas to promote worker health and job satisfaction. Meanwhile, unpredictable national weather patterns can lead to unexpected shifts in work requirements, as snow storms, drought spells, or fires might disrupt the ability to perform typical duties. However, landscapers play a vital role in the cleanup efforts after such events. 
 
Many groundskeepers prefer to work in temperate regions where weather conditions may be less harsh, and there is steady work during all seasons. Of note is the fact that while the sector is growing, there aren’t enough workers to fill the gaps. According to the National Association of Landscape Professionals, 82% of company leaders are concerned about “the shortage of skilled labor” as a “major limiting factor for the industry.” 

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were young...

Landscape Technicians don’t mind getting their hands dirty! They likely always enjoyed being outside, and aren’t afraid of manual labor. They love nature and have both the stamina and the patience to work outdoors for long periods of time—abilities they may have cultivated over years. 
 
They take the time to do their jobs correctly while still being efficient, because there is lots to get done and a limited amount of time to do it! Such time management skills may also have been learned from an early age. Groundskeepers practice good job site safety, which is a mindset perhaps gained via training when they were younger, working on family property or during jobs in high school. 
 
They may not be introverted, but are comfortable spending hours working on their own as part of a larger team sprawled out around the grounds being worked. They have a solid work ethic and are goal-oriented so they can stay on-task and keep things moving along!

Education and Training Needed
  • Landscape Technicians typically hold a school diploma or GED. There are no formal academic requirements for most entry level roles
  • Certain jobs may require specific training in design, horticulture, arboriculture, or equipment usage
  • Workers receive On-The-Job training to ensure they can handle specific duties; they receive more training when ready to progress
  • Workers handling pesticides and fertilizers may need to pass a test to obtain state licensure
  • Certifications boost credentials leading to better opportunities and promotion potential. A few options are:
    • International Society of Arboriculture - Certified Arborist, Certified Tree Worker Climber Specialist, and others
    • National Association of Landscape Professionals - Lawn Care Manager, Lawn Care Technician, Horticultural Technician, Exterior Technician
    • Professional Grounds Management Society - Certified Grounds Manager or Certified Grounds Technician
    • Tree Care Industry Association - Certified Tree Care Safety Professional
Things to look for in a program
  • Landscape Technicians usually start work without going to a university, but some take classes at a community college or from a vocational training program
  • Virtually all relevant training is done through a combination of certification programs and On-The-Job training
  • Per O*Net Online, 18% of Landscape Technicians hold a bachelor’s degree, possibly in Landscape Architecture or a related major
  • For those who aiming to complete a bachelor’s degree, talk with your school’s career center to find the best paying job opportunities in the state you intend to work
  • Look at the biographies of professors to see what they’ve done, and get an idea for things you might like to do in your career
Things to do in High School and College
  • Take classes that can help you gain hands-on experience with tools
  • Learn about plant and flower types, and how to grow and take care of them
  • Read articles about safety, protective equipment, and first aid 
  • Gain work experience via part-time jobs found on Craigslist or by posting your own Craigslist ad for services you want to offer in your local area
  • Study landscaping designs and pay attention to landscaping in your area to see what types of plants, flowers, trees, and shrubs are commonly used
  • Knock out a certification program or two, complete training on applicable equipment operation. Keep track of the tools and equipment you learn how to use
  • If required for your state, get a license to work with pesticides and fertilizer
  • Meet working Landscape Technicians to ask questions and advice
  • Watch videos that show what you can expect in a day’s work
How to land your 1st job
  • Let your friends, family, and school know that you’re looking for a landscaping job
  • Review job ads on Indeed, ZipRecruiter, SimplyHired, and Craigslist
  • Reach out to local landscaping companies to inquire about openings
  • Ensure you have sufficient work and academic background to apply; only apply to jobs you are qualified for
  • Ask a friend who is skilled with writing to review your application for mistakes or ways to enhance it
  • List all relevant work experience, education and training, and certifications or licenses you possess
  • Impress at interviews by being professional, dressing sharply, and being honest about your background
  • Use correct terminology and explain all the tools and equipment you are qualified to use, plus the types of trees, plants, and flowers you’ve worked with
How to Climb the Ladder
  • Come to work on time and demonstrate a positive attitude. Show initiative and preparedness!
  • Be a team player, pay attention to instructions, and demonstrate leadership characteristics
  • Master every skill you’re taught and every tool or piece of equipment you’re shown how to use
  • Maintain a keen eye for detail and ensure your work is done to the best of your ability
  • Constantly learn more about your job, to include information about plants, flowers, trees, and the various conditions they thrive under
  • Gain experience on as many types of equipment as you can
  • Volunteer to tackle new tasks and let your supervisor know you want increased responsibilities such as managing others
  • Ask your boss for suggestions about college courses, advanced training, or certifications 
  • Complete certifications and licensure, as applicable 
  • Take good care of tools, equipment, and vehicles; conduct timely maintenance as needed to ensure proper functioning
  • Study technical manuals if needed so you know how equipment works and what to do when it isn’t working correctly
  • Be a safety guru and always wear suitable protective equipment, while setting the standard for others to follow. Always comply with safety standards and avoid mishaps
  • Train new employees and hold them accountable. Treat new workers how you want to be treated
Recommended Resources

Websites

  • International Society of Arboriculture
  • Tree Care Industry Association
  • National Association of Landscape Professionals
  • Professional Grounds Management Society

Books

  • Step-by-Step Landscaping, by Better Homes and Gardens 
  • Taylor’s Master Guide to Landscaping, by Rita Buchanan
  • The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden, by Rick Darke
Plan B

The world needs more qualified Landscape Technicians, but not everyone is cut out for the work. There is ample labor involved, hazards exist, the work may be seasonal, and sometimes people just want to do something different! Also, due to the relatively few academic requirements to get started, the salary may leave something to be desired unless you have some specialized skills. BLS offers a few alternative careers to consider, such as:

  • Agricultural Workers
  • Forest and Conservation Workers
  • Landscape Architects
  • Pest Control Workers

O*Net Online also offers some ideas, such as Farmworkers and Laborers or Logging Equipment Operators.    

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