What Is a Master Gardener Program?

If you have a passion for plants and want to encourage growth in your community, you may want to consider attending a master gardener extension program. Read on to learn more about these programs and their general requirements.

Master Gardener Program Defined

Master gardener programs can train you to provide assistance and education to your community about horticulture, gardening and the environment. You may wish to attend such a program as a way to give back to the community, to provide scientific advice to local gardeners and to increase awareness about environmental and sustainability issues. These programs are typically offered through the extension services of universities.

Extension courses offer non-credit educational and training opportunities to people who wish to learn more about a subject but don't want to commit to a degree. The training is typically offered in exchange for volunteering your time. Once you complete a master gardener training program, you'll be certified through your university extension office to teach classes, hold workshops and give lectures on gardening topics.

Important Facts About Master Gardener Programs

Prerequisites None required, though basic gardening experience is helpful
Common Courses How plants grow, diagnosing tree disorders, identifying insects, plant pathology, vegetables, soil and fertilizers
Online Availability There are multiple online Master Gardener programs available
Possible Careers Landscaper, groundskeeper, pesticide handler, tree trimmer & pruner
Average Salary (2019) $35,604* (for all gardeners)
Job Outlook (2016-26) 11%** (for grounds maintenance workers)

Source: *PayScale.com, May 2019

Source: **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Program Requirements

The length of time it may take you to complete this program will depend on your prior horticulture knowledge and on the needs of your community. In general, most programs require 36-70 hours of training. You might take classes on entomology, soils, plant pathology, botany, integrated pest management and landscaping.

To earn certification as a master gardener, you're typically required to pass a test and log a number of volunteer hours in extension program-related gardening events. Once certified, if you continue to contribute volunteer time and engage in continuing education, some programs may grant you additional advanced certification opportunities or extra classes.

Where You Might Work

Your work may include helping with local gardening events and projects, hosting clinics, working with 4-H and teaching gardening techniques. If you volunteer in your extension program office, you might answer questions from homeowners about water conservation, home gardening, native plant management or alternatives to lawns. You might also represent a university's master gardener program at a farmer's market, providing information to other people interested in volunteering their time.