Be a Master Gardener: Degree and Career Facts
Research what it takes to become a master gardener. Learn about education requirements, job duties, and potential career options to find out if this is the career for you.
What Is a Master Gardener?
Master gardeners are generally not typical employees in the sense that they earn a salary. Rather, these individuals provide volunteer gardening services to communities while earning relevant skills and experience in horticulture. As a large part of their responsibilities, master gardeners serve as educators who offer gardening information from a scientific perspective to the public via a variety of avenues ranging from email correspondence to phone calls.
In addition, individuals trained in master gardening may be available for questions at many different establishments, including farmer's markets and specialized gardening events where tours and workshops are conducted. Questions posed to gardeners may be general in nature or may pertain to a specific gardening issue. Topics discussed can encompass safety, therapeutic benefits of gardening, types of plants and much more. Master gardeners are also the individuals often responsible for developing and maintaining school gardens or other public garden areas.
Becoming a master gardener can make your love of gardening a marketable skill in other horticultural careers. The following chart gives you an overview about entering this field.
|Training Required||30 to 60 hours of training provided by state cooperative extension service|
|Key Responsibilities||Provide volunteer gardening services to community; assist local gardeners with gardening issues; make presentations and demonstrations related to gardening in the community; be available as a resource for community gardeners|
|Licensure and/or Certification||Master gardener designation conferred by state cooperative extension service|
|Job Growth (2018-2028)*|| Master gardeners: N/A|
agricultural worker: 1% growth
grounds maintenance workers: 9% growth
|Median Salary (2018)*|| Master gardeners: volunteer|
agricultural workers: $29,480
grounds maintenance workers: $30,420
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Master gardeners are community members who give talks to students and community groups, answer horticulture questions, and help friends and neighbors care for local vegetation. You can receive this distinction after completing an educational program offered by your state's cooperative extension service. These extension services make a land grant university's educational resources available to the general public. The American Horticultural Society curates a list of local master gardener programs (www.ahs.org).
You don't need any previous education to begin a master gardener program. However, you should have an interest in improving your community's landscape, a desire to volunteer and a love of gardening. You will also need to undergo an application process, which may include an interview.
For most programs, you will have to attend 30-60 hours of instruction on topics such as botany, flower and vegetable gardening, lawn care and pest control. You may also address the soil types and appropriate plant species for your region. Some programs require you to participate in field trips as part of the curriculum.
After completing coursework, you will be required to provide 30-75 volunteer hours at local gardens and community landscaping projects. Your master gardener status is conferred once your volunteer commitment is over. The whole process will take you about one year to complete.
Maintaining Your Status
You will have to complete a certain number of education and volunteer hours annually to maintain your status as master gardener. The number of hours is different in each state, so check with your extension service's master gardener program for the exact requirements.
What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?
The master gardener program was developed to educate a cadre of local volunteers, rather than prepare you for employment opportunities. That doesn't mean that once you've completed a master gardener program you can't use the skills you've learned to start a new career.
Related jobs with minimal entry-level training requirements include groundskeepers and greenhouse workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Both professions help maintain plants and vegetation, whether on a property or in an enclosed area specifically designed for growing plants. If you like working with plants, you might also consider a career as a farmer or a forest and conservation worker, both of which require a high school diploma. With additional training in horticulture, botany or landscape architecture, you could become a landscape designer, turf grass manager or landscape architect.