If you’ve participated in a garden program while in prison or enjoy working outdoors, you may want to consider the job of a grounds maintenance worker. And there may be quite a few of you amongst us.
According to the Horticultural Therapy Institute, 15 states have facilities that offer landscaping, horticulture and master gardener classes to people who are incarcerated. These include Lettuce Grow in Oregon, The GreenHouse on Rykers Island In New York City and the Insight Garden Program, which operates 12 programs in California prisons, as well as facilities in Indiana and Ohio.
Participating in one of these programs is one way to get training that is applicable to becoming a grounds maintenance worker, but there are other ways as well.
Last year there were more than 1.2 million people doing this job, and the job outlook estimates a growth of 8% between 2020 and 2030. An average of 173,200 job openings for grounds maintenance workers is expected each year.
What does a grounds maintenance worker do?
First of all, let’s take a look at the type of duties a grounds maintenance worker might perform, and if this job might appeal to you
Grounds maintenance workers have a variety of duties that include planting and caring for flowers and trees, mowing grass, installing sprinkler and irrigation systems, operating landscaping equipment, and trimming hedges and trees. They may work taking care of the landscaping for university campuses, office parks, hotels and resorts, apartment complexes, public parks, private homes or cemeteries.
Their employers may be government agencies, towns and cities, real estate management companies, private businesses or educational institutions. A large number of grounds maintenance workers – 20% – are self-employed.
Some people in this job category specialize in landscaping, property upkeep, taking care of athletic fields or golf courses or caring for cemeteries, work which includes digging graves. Another specialty is arborists, who trim and cut down trees and treat tree diseases.
The states with the largest number of people doing this job are California, Georgie, New York, Oregon and Missouri.
Depending on location, some of the jobs are seasonal, with no work in the wintertime. And most states require a license for those who deal with pesticides and fertilizers.
How to become a grounds maintenance worker
There’s no formal education requirement for most grounds maintenance workers, but many employers may be more willing to hire those with a high school diploma or GED. Taking courses in landscape design or horticulture at a local community college is likely to give you an edge.
Most training is on-the-job and lasts less than a month but can be longer. Ground maintenance workers need to be able to lift heavy loads, work independently, be comfortable with heights if they’re working on tall trees, be effective communicators and be able to visualize how the landscaping being installed will look when the job is finished.
The benefits of certification
Although it’s necessary to get a couple of years’ experience before thinking about certification, getting certified will help grounds maintenance workers advance and move up to a supervisorial position. Several organizations offer certification for various specialties related to grounds keeping, but the most appropriate certifications are for Certified Grounds Technician and Certified Grounds Manager offered by the Professional Grounds Management Society.
Launchpad for other positions with more responsibility
For anyone interested, experience as a grounds maintenance worker can lead to a variety of related jobs with higher levels of responsibility both in the private and public sector. In some cases, additional training and education may be required. But for many, advancement can come through work experience and on-the-job training. Some examples include project landscape architect, landscape estimator, landscape designer, landscape construction foreman, landscape supervisor, turf manager, tree care foreman, landscape maintenance foreman, landscape crew leader and grounds crew supervisor. Here’s a list of the of the 21 highest paying landscaping jobs in 2022 that includes salary estimates and job postings.