Between 2010 and 2015, women averaged 8.74 percent of the landscaping industry workforce — a big change from 40 years ago, when “women in landscaping” referred to the family garden.
Today, a growing number of women graduate with horticulture and landscape architecture degrees. This, coupled with advancing technology, has significantly increased opportunities for women at all levels in the field of landscaping.
Whether you like to get your hands dirty or want to plan and design an outdoor environment, landscaping has something to offer.
If you’ve been thinking about a career in the landscaping industry, check out this overview of available career choices and tips to help you land a job in this earthy field.
This is an entry level, hands-on position that can help you find your way into a landscaping career. While experience is helpful, companies are always looking for dependable workers who aren’t afraid to learn the trade.
You’ll be required to use tools such as shovels and rakes, prune shrubs, spread soils and mulches, and install plants and landscaping. You may also be required to operate machinery such as tractors, bobcats and chainsaws.
There are usually a number of advertisements for employment at this level, especially in the spring. If you have no experience, hiring on as a technician will get you in the door. Keep in mind that these are usually seasonal jobs. If you prove that you’re dependable and willing to do the work, you should have no problem moving up, or at least returning the next year.
The foreman is usually responsible for managing crews. They’ll also work with clients, provide estimates and maintain safety protocols. Employers expect the foreman to have several years’ experience and know how a landscaping business works.
Once you’ve proven yourself as a technician this will be your next step up. It’s a good idea to get experience managing crews and clients if you want to have your own company someday, and being a foreman will introduce you to many of the necessary skills.
A manager is responsible for the business end of a company. They will be in charge of budgets, hiring and training, as well as any client relations the foreman can’t handle. Many companies seek out someone with a degree to fill a management position, though some may take experience and industry certifications into consideration.
A manager must have more extensive knowledge than a foreman. While plant knowledge is important, they must also know how to run a business, as that is where most of their attention will be focused.
If you have a degree and aren’t particularly keen on digging in the dirt, a management position may be your way into the landscaping business. If you can bring horticultural or landscaping experience to the table as well, you’ll boost your chances of being hired.
If you’re still in school, consider working during the summer for a landscaping company to get experience you can combine with your degree once you’ve graduated.
If you would like to have your own company, you’ll probably need to know more than how to mow the lawn. Owners should have at least a working knowledge of all aspects of the business, from ground up.
Of course, you can’t do it all and will need to hire employees to help, but with a new company your budget may be limited, so the more you know the more successful you’ll be.
Being an owner isn’t like working for someone else. You’ll deal with taxes and finances, employee relations and occasionally an angry client. You may even be required to do some of the heavy work on days you’re shorthanded because someone is out sick or just didn’t show up.
Landscape Architect or Designer
If you’re more interested in design than in manual labor you might consider becoming a landscape architect or designer.
To become a landscape designer, you’ll need an associate’s degree or higher in horticulture, botany or another related field. As a landscape architect you’ll need a bachelor or master’s degree in landscape architecture. You’ll also be required to take the Landscape Architect Registration Exam (LARE), complete a minimum number of experience hours and obtain a license.
Designer’s work usually entails smaller residential projects and will tap into your creative skills. Many landscape architects end up in firms designing commercial or industrial projects that require licensure and usually offer better salaries.
Whether an architect or a designer, when doing residential design you need to be able to create layouts that reflect the owner’s wants and personality, and know what it takes to make them happen. For example, East-Asian landscaping may incorporate blazing Japanese maples or Redbud trees and avoid straight pathways, while a Mediterranean design may lean towards succulents, perennials and aromatic herbs.
Be sure your portfolio reflects your versatility and showcases your best work, rather than just compiling a large number of average projects.
Occupations that were once male-dominated are moving away from those dated traditions, and today you have opportunities and open doors that your grandmother would never even have imagined. No matter what you’re looking for in a landscaping career, the sky’s the limit and there’s no better time to start than now.