Be a Master Gardener: Degree and Career Facts
Master gardeners help neighbors and community members identify which flowers and trees will grow best in their yards and neighborhood. Find out the career options and requirements for master gardeners. Schools offering Environmental Policy & Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
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 40-60 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 40-75 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.
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 grounds keepers and greenhouse workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). With additional training in horticulture, botany or landscape architecture, you could become a landscape designer, turf grass manager or landscape architect.
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