Hiring a Landscape Professional

In the world of landscaping (and probably any career), there is a slew of certifications, and education paths. Right now I’m a stay at home mom primarily. It gives me a chance to think about where I want to go in my career after my children get older, and there are a lot of options for continuing education. Here’s a look. I thought this would be very useful for those looking to hire people, which is why I’m posting it. Many references are state specific, and I based all mine in Utah, where I live.

Master Gardener: Being a Master Gardener is essentially being a volunteer for the extension service. There is an associated training course that is good but not extensive. It is nowhere near a Master’s degree despite the title. Anyone claiming to be a master gardener professionally shouldn’t: the title should be restrained to volunteer work with the extension. (I put this up here, so people would know exactly what it is and not think Master Gardeners are well-qualified landscaping professionals. They are not, and never will be.)

Horticulturist: Understands the cultivation of plants. It doesn’t have a definite meaning, but should mean a degree in horticulture or related field or extensive work experience. Certification is available through the ASHS.  I have a BS in Ornamental Horticulture, so this is what I most frequently call myself.

Landscape Architect: Understands and designs the structures of outdoor spaces. They are licensed by the state, and have a degree in Landscape Architecture.

Landscape or Garden Designer: Designs outdoor spaces. Anyone can be a garden designer, but preferably there are degree programs and ALPD certification.

Arborist: A tree surgeon, primarily working with cultivated trees. Certification is pretty standard through the ISA, an arborist will frequently also have a degree.

Landscaper: Installs or maintains landscapes. No qualifications needed, should have a general contractors licence from the state, and many also have other certifications and a degree in a related field.

Nursery Professional: Grows or sells plants. The person or business should be licensed through the Utah Department of Agriculture, and can also receive certification through the UNLA.

Irrigation Designer: Can be a landscape designer or landscape architect. Should have specific experience/coursework in irrigation design. Certification available through the IA.

Pesticide Applicator: Anyone who applies chemicals commercially. Licensed through the Utah Department of Agriculture.

Permaculture Designer: Designs landscapes using the principles of permaculture and received minimally a permaculture design certificate.

Extension Agent: Works for the land grant university (USU here), has a masters degree in plant science or related field.

There is a lot of overlap here, but there’s a starting point and some things to look for.



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