Are you a nature lover with an artistic flair?
If so, a career in the landscaping realm may interest you!
A landscaper is a multi-skilled, large-scale artist who creates aesthetic landscapes for their clients. They do everything from trimming trees and planting flowers to building garden structures and installing irrigation systems. Landscapers are responsible for creating beautiful scenery and outdoor views.
If this sounds like an appealing career path, then keep reading. Our step-by-step guide will walk you through the process of becoming a professional landscaper.
1. Learn what the job involves
Before committing to a career in landscaping, try to learn more about this profession. You can do this through research and by contacting experienced landscapers and trying to get hands-on experience.
Most landscapers speak of their pride and love for their trade; however, others will mention that it isn’t a career for the fainthearted. The job comes with various occupational hazards, including blisters, callouses, scorching heat and manual labour.
That said, you can tailor your landscaping career to make sure it suits your career preferences. A landscaper might choose to work with existing garden layouts or work in more specialised landscaping areas. For example:
- Aquascaping: Designing water gardens, fountains, irrigation systems and draining systems.
- Landscape architecture: Designing outdoor areas, landmarks, and structures (such as golf courses).
- Residential landscaping: Keeping exterior home spaces neat, installing beautiful garden features and building patios.
- Commercial landscaping: Creating aesthetically pleasing commercial gardens.
- Seasonal landscaping: Repairing landscapes from the harsh effects of bad weather (such as heavy snow, dry summers, and flooding).
Landscaping is a career that involves creativity, manual hard work and resource management. Regardless of your speciality, there are a few general tasks you’ll need to complete, such as:
- Planning and working with garden designers or landscape architects.
- Dividing tasks and working together with your landscaping team.
- Preparing the soil or area for the project.
- Preparing and correctly installing accurate irrigation systems.
- Seeding and spreading lawns.
- Pruning and planting shrubs and trees.
- Installing landscape features such as rock gardens, water features, paving, and pathways.
- Constructing gardens with water and rock borders.
There’s a lot more to the landscaping industry than what meets the eye. As you can probably tell, there are tons of job responsibilities within the field. While an entry-level landscaper may have to start doing general labour-intensive gardening services, they can move up the ladder and avoid manual labour by focusing on managing the processes, people and plants. It’s an industry filled with opportunities.
2. Get the necessary training and qualifications
There aren’t specific educational requirements to land an entry-level job in the landscaping industry. Indeed, you’ll find that the requirements vary depending on the country you’re in and the company you want to work for.
That said, experience is everything; gaining on-the-job training from an experienced landscaper could certainly increase your employability.
There’re many ways for you to get the experience you require! You could search for landscaping mentorships or apprenticeships or even call the landscapers in your area and inquire about job shadowing opportunities. You can also volunteer at different landscaping companies and get them to write up a review of your work for them.
If you want to specialise in a specific area of landscaping and move into higher positions, then getting a formal education will certainly aid your journey. Once you attain your high school diploma, start searching for colleges or environmental organisations in your area which offer landscaping courses.
You could enrol in a course, qualification or certification programme in the following fields:
- Horticulture: the science and art of developing, sustainably producing, marketing and using high-value, intensively cultivated food and ornamental plants.
- Landscape design: the art of arranging features of an area of land for aesthetic or practical purposes. It also involves using landscaping technology such as computer-aided design systems.
- Agriculture/plant science: the science of conventional large-scale farming, organic agriculture, new sustainable production practices, medicinal plants, greenhouse management, and turf and lawn management.
- Environmental conservation: the practice of protecting the environment by preventing the destruction of the ecosystem caused by pollution and other human activities.
Getting a formal education is great, it’ll help you understand design drawings, improve your knowledge of plants and learn how to manage projects.
You can always volunteer your time in exchange for a learning opportunity. Because at the end of the day, you’ll still need to complete practical experience in addition to your education before becoming a competent landscaper, and you’ll still be able to become a landscaper without an education.
There are tremendous opportunities for progression within the landscaping industry.
Even if you enter the field without a college degree, you will still have the opportunity to advance to a supervisory role. To achieve this, you will need to demonstrate a strong work ethic and a proactive attitude, enabling you to progress steadily within your career.
3. Develop your skillset
Whether you’re diving into a practical apprenticeship or formal education, you’ll need to start developing your skill set to stand out in the employment arena.
You’ll need to learn general skills all landscapers should know and also master specific skills if you’d like to specialise in a particular area. For instance, some of these skills include:
- Designing gardens and understanding garden design drawings.
- Knowing how to meet deadlines and how to keep organised.
- Being physically able to handle the rigours of landscaping.
- Offering exceptional customer service by having great interpersonal skills.
As an entry-level landscaper, you must develop holistic knowledge about your job. At the same time, you should also focus on sharpening the skills required to progress to a more specialised role.
Start by researching the difference between the landscaping specialities and their individual requirements. There is no need to rush into a decision, it’s important to keep an open mind throughout your career and see how you naturally progress. As you begin to learn the tricks of the trade, you will also find it easier to understand which aspects appeal to you the most and further develop those areas.
Great ways to learn more about your speciality is to contact landscapers who specialise in your area of interest and ask them for advice on the skills needed. Or, if you’re currently working, ask your apprenticeship supervisor for more tasks relating to your area of interest. While you’re getting this experience, keep a career journal and write down everything you’re learning about your area of interest and reflect on your experiences doing the work you’re interested in.
As a landscaper, the quality of service you provide will make or break your career. Essentially, you are your business, and every new skill you learn sets you one skill ahead of your competition. Pay attention to the details, know your facts, keep organised and always give your clients a great service experience.
4. Know your industry
Becoming familiar with the industry you want to work in and its norm is an essential step. This also includes the salary potential, income trends and job availability within the landscaping industry.
According to statistics by IBIS World, the landscape services industry in the US grew by 2.5% between 2016 and 2021 and currently employs more than one million people.
So, in short, this is a booming industry that offers excellent job prospects. It’s important, however, to conduct your own research and evaluate the industry trends and prospects in your area.
According to the National Association of Landscape Professionals, if you stay in the industry and make your way to the top, you might join other managers, executives and sales professionals who often earn well over $100,000 each year. Motivating, isn’t it?
5. Begin your job search
As a landscape professional, you’ll take pride in the impact your job has on people’s lives and the world around you.
If you are ready to join this exciting industry, the last step is to start applying for job opportunities.
A good place to start is popular job boards such as Indeed, Monster.com and ZipRecruiter. You can also inquire about available job positions with local landscaping businesses by contacting them directly.
Another great option is to freelance your services, but this will require you to have extensive experience and a good network of contacts that will help you build a solid reputation as a landscaper in your area.
Now, when you’re gazing and admiring breath-taking lawns, landscapes around buildings and public gardens, you’ll know who is behind them.
Landscaping is an industry filled with opportunities, especially if you are prepared to work hard and develop your skills. We hope that this guide will help you kickstart your career journey and help you succeed as a landscaper.
What aspects of this career appeal to you? Can you see yourself pursuing this profession? Let us know in the comments section below!