Is there a career pathway in horticulture for me?

By Daniel Fuller

Some people garden in their spare time to unwind from their stressful occupation, but a horticulturist is fortunate to be paid to work with plants in their job. Whether you’re after an entry-level position or are looking to move ahead from your current role, the Australian horticultural  and landscape industries are ripe with different opportunities.

Recently, I interviewed John Sheeley, Curator and Head Gardener at Warrnambool Botanic Gardens, on the topic of “horticultural career pathways and opportunities” for the Plants Grow Here podcast, which is sponsored by Hort Journal Australia. He shone light on a number of avenues you can take during your horticultural career, and gave some invaluable advice on how to advance professionally.

Before his 16 year stint at Warrnambool, John moved on every three years to a new role to stay relevant and gather a wide range of skills. That’s short enough to keep you interested, but long enough to upskill and really make an impact within the organisation you’re working for.

Horticulture is an applied science that requires passion, discipline and integrity to be successful. It’s not a field for high schools to send their troublesome students. With that being said, it’s quite common for professionals in the industry to perform better academically after they’ve finished school, when they’re learning skills that can be applied to their workplace.

There are horticultural roles in parks and gardens, production and retail nurseries, turf management, arboriculture, amenity horticulture, agriculture, landscape design and construction, as well as maintenance of established gardens.

Some parts of the industry have seasonal work, such as fruit picking and lawn mowing. Multi-skilled horticulturists can take advantage of several types of work throughout the year to keep things fresh. This is one way to support a nomadic lifestyle which appeals to many people.

Domestic garden maintenance is a great way to enter the industry because it has a low barrier to entry. There are many advertised positions that don’t require a qualification, and even though most will ask for experience, between you and me, you’ve got a good shot at landing a role with very little experience beyond volunteering or home gardening, if you send out enough resumes.

You can study for a formal qualification in your free time while working part or full-time, or if you’ve already worked for a few years, and have studied informally using books, websites and podcasts, you can apply for Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) to count towards a qualification.

In any case, you should obtain a horticultural qualification in order to call yourself a “horticulturist”. A Cert 2 or 3 in horticulture is a good start, though you can always obtain a Diploma or Bachelor’s degree which can help advance your career substantially. You can also study for a related qualification in Parks and Gardens, Turf Management, or the Landscape sector which takes in design, construction or installation, to change direction and complement your existing horticultural qualification.

Once you’ve gained experience and a relevant qualification, larger organisations and local government can allow you to step up into a management role, or move into other areas such as quoting and tendering. Rewards increase as you climb up the ladder.

During our podcast interview, John lamented the fact that horticulture can be labelled as a hobby rather than a career. After all, “anyone can garden, so how hard can it be?” But the trained eye can tell the difference between the work of a skilled professional and a maniac wielding a petrol hedge trimmer or spray pack filled with systemic pesticides.

Recently, there seems to be an increased interest in horticulture and there are many directions a horticultural career can take you. It can be enormously interesting and there aren’t many careers that can offer the same mental health benefits as horticulture.

If this sounds like something you’re interested in, you can listen to episode 90 of the Plants Grow Here podcast to hear my whole conversation with John.

Daniel Fuller

Plants Grow Here

M: 042 6169 708

E: hello@plantsgrowhere.com

W: plantsgrowhere.com

Leave a Reply

To have

Hort Journal Australia magazine

DELIVERED to your mailbox

or inbox each month

Subscribe and Sign up now