Horticulturalists attempt to find ways to improve the growth, harvest, storage, processing, and shipping of agricultural plants, vegetables, and fruits. They develop plants that flourish in particular climates and resist certain diseases, often working alongside plant pathologists. Some horticulturalists work in nursery production, specializing in growing plants. They are experts in cultivation and propagation of seedlings, cutting, layering, budding, and grafting. They work to ensure the plants do not develop diseases or succumb to pests.
Other horticulturalists work as buyers, landscape designers, and wholesale and retail florists. In these specializations, they act as liaisons between the public and nurseries. Some horticulturalists work as floriculturists, specializing in flowers, potted plants, bedding, and floral design. Some work as landscapers, landscape designers, and landscape maintenance specialists, creating and maintaining landscapes for commercial and residential customers. Horticultural therapists plan horticultural projects to assist seniors and those recovering from emotional or physical disabilities.
Horticulturalists should have a passion for plants and gardening. They should be in good physical shape and have a scientific and artistic aptitude. Those who work in nurseries or garden centers should enjoy sharing their knowledge with customers and interacting with people frequently.
Because horticulturalists work in a variety of specific jobs, their earnings vary considerably. Horticultural crop supervisors earn an average annual salary of about $33,000. Horticulturalists working for the Federal government usually earn between $19,000 and $23,500 per year, depending on experience. Most horticulturalists work a typical 40-hour work week. Most work year round, although there may be seasonal considerations to some jobs.
Training and Education
Applicants for horticulturalist positions who have a bachelor's degree in horticulture or a closely related agricultural science have an advantage in the hiring process. Many universities and colleges grant bachelor degrees in horticulture, and some offer graduate programs. Associate degree programs can be found at numerous community colleges, as well as at vocational and technical institutes. High school students interested in the occupation should take courses in chemistry, biology, botany, and mathematics. Any agricultural courses that are available would be very helpful as well. Horticulturalists usually advance to management or supervisory jobs. Those who specialize in the development of growing products may advance to marketing positions. Plant growing specialists can advance to management of retail centers. Some horticulturalists start their own businesses or work as consultants. Visit this page about trade schools for more information on related careers.
Growth in employment of horticulturalists is expected to increase about as fast as the average. Demand for these workers will be high, due to increasing concerns over the environment, population growth, urbanization, and increasing residential and commercial development. Demand for graduates of 4-year programs is expected to be higher than the supply of graduates, resulting in very favorable conditions for employment.