Lawn care and landscape professionals speak out

christw: I always hear the term the more you learn the more you earn, which is true. But do you need a degree in landscaping for success? I know the more certifications you have the more you look better on paper.

Landrus2: If you have no degree but you have experience on the field it balances out.

clydebusa: Sure can’t hurt. Besides some of the degree will be towards business and that will pay big in the scheme of things.

gallihergreen: Is it necessary? No. Is it a good thing to have? Yes.

cpllawncare: More knowledge never hurts, but like galli said, good to have, but not totally necessary. I would mix it with some sort of business degree as well.

PerfectEarth: No, but working for someone/a company that really knows what they’re doing in the field is a must. EXPERIENCE! I would think an education geared towards the business end of a landscaping company would be more valuable.

This is the issue in our industry: startups with no experience or knowledge in the trade.

Banksy: If going back to college to get a degree is not a realistic option, where else can one learn more about horticulture or at least some solid basics?

New2TheGreenIndustry: Look for training seminars through PLANET, if not associations more local to your area.

Here in Georgia there’s the Urban Ag Council, GGIA, UGA Extension Events, Georgia Certified Landscape Professional, etc.

I don’t know what’s available in your area, but at minimum I’m sure there’s a state master gardener program.

PaperCutter: Check with your state’s nursery and landscape association. I’m on the board for the Northern Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association and we put on educational opportunities throughout the year.

You can be successful without going to college for this. I majored in sociology/criminology at Miami U, and 10 years later studied interior design for two years. Everything I’ve learned has been either on the job or from books, lectures and bugging smart people to teach me. Now I teach classes about plants, design and running a business.

I will say though that if you CAN do school, it’ll almost always jumpstart your career. I would never talk someone out of education, but if you can’t swing it, don’t think that means your career is over before it starts.

Banksy: This is purely a side business (that hasn’t really started), but I don’t want to hack it either. I want to be able to answer questions on weed/grass identification, fert/preemergent stuff, why grass might be dying or not growing. I can cut a lawn and make it look mint, just don’t ask me the what’s and why’s of that lawn yet. See what I mean?

ztman: If you want to work for the industry as a professional or a manager, ie golf course superintendent, manage grounds and crew at upper end hotels and resorts, a degree is almost mandatory. If you are talking about a cutting operation, it’s not mandatory.

What types of positions are you looking for, running your own operation or working for a company in the industry?

Armsden&Son: Education is great, the more the merrier in my opinion. However, all of that time in the classroom learning about plant species and turf management will not prepare you for when it’s 8 o’clock in the morning on a Friday and you are looking at about 30 lawns and Joe Schmoe called in sick because he’s hungover so that leaves you with just yourself and Larry and it’s going to be one heck of a day and it’s 90 degrees and etc.

cpllawncare: I know plenty of high-end groundskeepers that don’t have degrees, one is a landscape designer for a fortune 500 company. No degree, just years of experience in the industry. This is an industry that you can become successful being self-taught, add a little bit of formal education like an associate’s degree or something and you can go really far, unlike a doctor or an engineer.

HDLLandscaping: I have a few years of experience, but I plan to be taking courses next year over the summer. I figure it can’t hurt anything, just maybe my wallet at first.

KG26: I’m going to say no. What you have to remember is when you hear things like that on the radio or the tube, but the “Studies” they are referring to have been commissioned by that school to be used as marketing tool. Taking classes couldn’t hurt, but the degree I don’t think is worth it, especially when you look at what the cost of college is today. Before you jump down my throat just know that this came from a guy who holds a four-year degree.

doug1980: Degrees are good, but nothing replaces experience. Having said that, I think both are important.

lawnlandscape: I agree with this. I do not have a degree, but I have taken some formal classes. However, my family owns the largest greenhouse/garden center business in the area, which I grew up working at, so much of my knowledge comes from there.

You need to have something. A degree is not always that something, but it can be.

cjoverma: I am finishing my turfgrass science degree right now and can say that on the technical side of it my degree is well worth it, but I feel at times that for what I deal with most of the time I am overeducated. I would much rather have it that way though. My wife has management and accounting degrees and I can say that as we are growing those come into play much more than mine. But it is very expensive and extremely hard to run a business and go to school full time. Hope this helps.

JContracting: When you have a degree in turf/horticulture/landscape and put your knowledge to work, and then down the road hire employees with those same degrees, you’ll be a step above the rest.

Kidmows: I am sure it comes in handy, which is why I am currently working on my associate’s degree in horticulture. I may not need it, but I am sure it will come in handy many times throughout my career.

cppllawncare: A degree is a foundation from which to build on. A degree alone means nothing, a degree with several years of experience means you’re worth more than the guy without it. Problem is, you can’t go get a degree every time you’re forced to change careers.

meets1: I have Bachelor of Science major in financing and business administration. Yes, it is good to have. Does it relate to landscape, spraying, mowing? No, not really. I can design some great landscapes, but you need clients. You need to be personal with people. Once you have it, no one can take it from you. Bottom line, I would rather have experienced employees than those with multiple degrees.

Roger: There are lots of opinions here.

How about from the customer’s viewpoint? How highly do they think of your work? What levels of customers do you want? Or need? The customer doesn’t really care if the degree “comes in handy.”

Experience can be very important, as many posts above aptly mention. The question: Is the experience a growth pattern, or the initial skill set repeated many times over? Having 20 years of experience may mean having a great foundation, and continuing to build and grow. Or, 20 years may mean one year of work, repeated 20 times at the same level.