Careers With Plants: Job Options & Salaries

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Careers With Plants

Gardening, nature, or flower fans can get a degree, but that doesn’t mean resigning to a dull desk job.

The fields of agriculture, forestry, and horticulture have many specialized career paths for prospective students.

Even though the farm labor force was recently reduced with the advancement in equipment, the demand for nursery and greenhouse workers, florists, flower specialists, agriculture, and horticulturists is still high.

Article Table of Contents

Map Your Career with Plants

Working with plants can be a creative and scientific job.

Some green thumb careers specialize in research and conservation, with a focus on environmental problems.

Others include planning finesse and design, creating landscapes, or arranging floral collections with both beauty and functionality in mind.

If you are looking for plant-based careers, you can identify your interests and strengths to choose the right specialty or area and the jobs that lead there.

Specialties in the plant industry include:

Horticulture

Specialists in horticulture work on developing new crops and solving complex environment-related problems.

They may have to deal with pest control initiatives, conservation and heritage projects, or the study of particular plant populations.

They may work in the field and the lab where they analyze data and perform tests.

They can be employed by universities, research institutions, retail companies, conservation organizations, food suppliers, and food production companies.

This specialty usually requires a bachelor’s or master’s degree in botany, plant science, or related area.

forestry

Forestry

Professionals in forestry work to supply wood products to the market, while following regulations and policies for the forested areas of the country as well as protecting the environment.

Some of these jobs require working outdoors, others focus on scientific, technical, or business knowledge.

Forestry professionals may consult decision-makers on forest land, monitor reforestation efforts, or inspect inventory.

The required education may vary depending on the job, but most entry-level jobs require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree together with some practical training.

For management positions, you need an advanced degree and a few years of experience in the field.

Agriculture

Agricultural professionals may work both indoors and outdoors, in such settings as nurseries, laboratories, hatcheries, and farms.

Whether they work in the business side of agriculture with management or technical side with science, agricultural experts specialize in plant and crop cultivation, farming practices, and agronomy.

Jobs in agriculture can go beyond ranching and farming.

The industry also seeks irrigation and bioprocessing engineers, plant geneticists, and soil scientists.

Agricultural economics requires business knowledge for such careers such as agricultural analysts or resource consultants.

Education may vary by the position, but generally, at least an associate or bachelor’s degree is required.

These industries include the following professions:

Arborist

Arborists are responsible for managing and caring for trees in a given area by overseeing all planting, tree removal, and pruning duties.

They may work for municipal or city governments or private companies specializing in tree care, removal, and cultivation.

Bioprocessing Engineer

Bioprocessing engineers conduct the biological materials properties analysis and work with them to find and execute beneficial uses.

They develop biological systems used in products manufacture and oversee the production equipment, process, and quality.

Environmental Scientist

Environmental scientists conduct the analysis of the environmental problems and create solutions through it as well as through collecting samples of soil, air, and other natural matter.

Some specialize in environmental regulations protecting public health, while others work with minimizing a human impact on the ecosystem.

Forestry Consultant

Forestry consultants give advice on maximizing the use of land, considering environmental issues, business and tax implications, and pest control challenges.

They may work as a part of private business or independently to provide expertise on the best use of natural resources for a specific project.

Forest Scientist

Forest scientists manage the land quality in woodlands, forests, rangelands, parks, and other natural areas.

They can work for governments, privately owned land, social advocacy organizations.

Usually, they determine how to maintain or improve the quality of water, conserve habitats, and comply with federal or state regulations.

Forestry Technician

Forestry technicians help develop, conserve, and manage woodlands.

They measure and improve natural areas quality, such as rangelands and forests, and typically work outdoors.

Forestry technicians generally need an associate degree in the Society of American Foresters (SAF)-accredited field.

Horticultural Scientist

Horticultural scientists study plant life and crops in a lab in addition to working in the field performing experiments and tests.

They identify, classify, and monitor plant species.

They can be employed by the government research institutes, food production companies, or food processing and marketing companies to do scientific research on a variety of plant forms.

Irrigation Engineer

Irrigation engineers develop watering systems for various areas, landscapes, and projects.

They can range from crop irrigation and agriculture to dams, canals, and drainage systems to residential and commercial projects.

Irrigation engineers create irrigation systems and monitor their construction and implementation.

They focus on safely transferring water from one location to another.

Logging Crew Member

Logging crews harvest forests to render the raw material for various industrial and consumer products.

They usually work outdoors and de-limb and cut trees to specific sizes.

Their roles generally include harvest machine operators, fallers, logging skidder operators, buckers, and equipment operators.

Plant Geneticists

These professionals study genetics in botany, developing specific plant traits, and isolating various genes.

Their common goal is to create a variety of crop strains that can withstand the weather, provide more nutritional value, and be more sustainable.

Soil Scientists

Soil scientists take part in research for yield, production, and management of crops as well as agriculture in general.

They study the physical, biological, chemical, and mineralogical composition of soil to help with decision-making on crop growth and production.

These scientists also classify soil to learn about different forms of agriculture and the growth of crops.

crops

Finding Agriculture and Forestry Colleges

Whether you are looking for an associate degree to start an entry-level job or an advanced one, you should look for a school that provides comprehensive educational background.

To gain some practical experience and have continuing education opportunities, students have to look for schools that arrange internships and externships.

Employers usually look for candidates with some hands-on experience.

Here are some essential things to consider when you’re looking for forestry and agriculture schools:

Internships

By participating in an internship before graduating, students can gain valuable skills that will prepare them to enter the workforce and start their careers.

Some employers higher their interns for positions.

Many schools assist with internship placements, referring students to companies in the agricultural area, such as local farms, crop production companies, and more.

Others provide leads for internships that students can take during their final year or summer before graduation.

Professor Accolades

The experience of professors and instructors directly influences the curriculum and the overall quality of the program.

Those who have advanced degrees, research experience, specialty certifications, or experience managing an agriculture company can offer more expertise and insight to learners.

Some may even have awards or be recognized for their work otherwise.

Membership in such organizations as the Society of American Foresters, the American Society for Horticultural Science, or the International Society of Arboriculture can also be beneficial for students to find avenues for networking.

Program Quality

The top-ranking schools offering horticulture, agriculture, and forestry (and related) programs share a few things:

  • Farmer training programs.
  • Integration with community-based agriculture programs.
  • On-site farms, fields, ranches, or gardens.
  • Affiliations with local food co-ops and other community organizations.
  • Workshops affiliated with national organizations, such as the Future Farmers of America (FFA).
  • Clubs such as Ag Ambassadors or Symbiotic Solutions, designed to enhance the student experience.

Program Scope

Many schools offer traditional lecture-based classes together with hands-on farming, lab-based courses, and lab training.

Students seeking specialized careers can enroll in a program that includes formal training in a particular area, for example, food science, organic farming, forestry.

There, they can obtain the required skills to start in entry-level positions.

In smaller classes, students can work on small-group intensive projects, or one-on-one with the instructor.

Courses are rarely offered online since they require hands-on participation in group projects and activities.

The Fastest Growing Careers with Plants

Green thumbs have a variety of job opportunities, from agriculture to forestry, with promising future.

Some of the fastest-growing careers have to do with new technologies and advancement in the areas of landscape design, farming equipment, food science, and crop management.

Some of the fastest-growing careers in agriculture, horticulture, forestry, and other plant-related areas include:

Agricultural Business Manager

Agricultural business managers oversee all business activities of a farm.

This includes employee and vendor relations, production processes, as well as ensuring that the company adheres to environmental and government regulations.

Agricultural and Food Scientists

These professionals work in research universities, the private sector, as well as for the federal government.

They ensure that the food production process adheres to food safety standards and regulations.

Conservation Scientist

The task of conservation scientists is to find ways to improve and use the land while preserving the environment.

They advise farm managers, ranchers, and farmers on the ways to improve their land for agricultural purposes and prevention of erosion.

These professionals work closely with local, state, and federal governments as well as private landowners.

Environmental Engineer

Environmental engineers give advice about resources, land use, pollution control, and technologies to help address emerging and common environmental challenges.

They may have to provide reports from investigations and, applying their engineering skills, monitor environmental planning initiatives.

Environmental Scientist

Environmental scientists use existing and observation data to design methods of analysis of the human impact on the environment.

They are usually engaged in projects in lab and field settings conducting a variety of experiments.

farming jobs

Grounds Maintenance Worker

These professionals usually work at seasonal jobs.

They are responsible for pruning and trimming trees, mowing grass, and other duties related to landscape.

They also are tasked with overall ground maintenance and keeping.

Ranch Manager

Ranch managers monitor the day-to-day operations of a ranch or farm.

They handle hiring and training personnel as well as making purchases.

They handle budgets, livestock, and negotiate land leases.

Some may have to create effective employee management strategies and develop ecosystem protection plans.

Soil and Plant Scientist

These professionals research plant and soil physiology, pest control, and crop management.

They may also study soil composition and research the best practices to improve crop productivity.

Myths About Careers with Plants

With the advancement in technology in plant-related careers, the work of green thumb occupations has significantly changed.

With the transformation and evolution in these industries, the common myths about conservation, agricultural, and forestry jobs are being busted.

Here are some myths about the industry and the facts behind them:

Myth: People interested in landscape work only dig in the dirt.

Many jobs in landscape and nursery are office-based and are driven by advanced technology.

They are available in such areas as construction, business management, retail.

For example, some landscape designers use complex software to create new projects before they are physically installed with their crew.

Myth: A career in plants requires an advanced science degree.

Generally, employers prefer candidates with an educational background beyond a high school diploma or an associate degree.

However, there are many openings for those who don’t have a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Many horticulture and agriculture jobs require hands-on experience, so companies hold educational programs and in-house training for those who wish to advance their careers.

Myth: Environmental and plant careers are highly technical and scientific in nature.

There are a number of careers suitable for those with a strong artistic and creative side combining the science and beauty of the plants.

Some of the options include a garden designer, landscape designer, or florist.

Myth: Technological advances in agriculture will make many farming and agribusiness jobs obsolete.

Despite the rapid growth of new technology in the field, trained professionals are still in demand.

Those who want to learn about the latest equipment and machinery and gain practical experience can benefit from a steady job.

Myth: It’s hard to land a job straight out of college in plant-based fields.

One of the most efficient ways to improve your chances of getting a job is completing an internship before graduation.

Many companies provide both unpaid and paid internships for students to gain work experience and meet the curriculum requirements, which may lead to full-time jobs.

Myth: Jobs with plants don’t pay well.

Agri-business workers, scientists, and landscapers can earn a six-figure salary.

Careers in selling or consulting on agricultural products for commissions can also lead to good earning potential.

Specialists in a particular area or employees of large research-based organizations can gain attractive salaries throughout their careers.

timber

Top Companies for People Who Love Plants

People who are looking for horticulture, forestry, or agriculture jobs can work in a variety of organizations from local businesses to government agencies.

Some jobs involve technical aspects of science and research, while others require a more hands-on approach.

Here are some examples of companies hiring professionals in the field:

Altman Plants

Altman Plants is the second-largest horticultural grower in the US.

They provide retailers with varied and unusual plant materials.

They have locations all over the US and supply quality succulents, cacti, perennials, annuals, and more.

Arbor Day Foundation

This organization is educational and non-profit conservation.

It’s dedicated to planting trees and offers numerous job opportunities at its main office and landscaping jobs at a variety of locations across the US all year round.

Dr. Pepper Snapple Group

This beverage company hires food and nutrition scientists to evaluate scientific data, develop ideas, and cooperate with marketing and development teams to achieve the company’s goals.

John Deere

This company is a leader in next-generation agriculture and farming technology.

They are committed to sustainable growth and offer many jobs in manufacturing, plant irrigation, and nursing, engineering, and environmental safety and health.

Plains Grain & Agronomy

This company specializes in advanced farming solutions and offers a wide array of services using the latest variable-rate technology and innovative grain and feed merchandising services at locations in North Dakota and surrounding areas.

Smithsonian Gardens

The Smithsonian Gardens of the Office of Facilities Management and Reliability (OFMR) provides a variety of jobs for plant specialists and horticulturists at various seasons of the year.

Horticulturists are responsible for managing the design and installation of exhibit spaces around the Smithsonian Institute as well as coordinating team engaged in seasonal planting.

There are also volunteer and internship options available.

WESTCO

The WESTCO Agronomy Division is service western Nebraska and Wyoming.

The company hires agricultural specialists for its chemical and fertilizer program, soil testing activities, and various agronomy services.

They also provide internships for those who are looking for permanent positions in agriculture and finance.

Green Thumb Internships

American Horticultural Society (AHS)

The AHS hold internships and fellowships at River Farm in Alexandria, Virginia.

The Wilma L. Pickard Horticultural Fellowship is available to college graduates with a horticulture degree or related area.

Those who are interested in program management and non-profit can benefit from options in member program internships through the AHS.

Chicago Botanic Garden

These paid full-time interns work in one of the largest botanic gardens in the city.

They participate in exclusive educational programs and gain valuable experience in horticulture, research, and education.

Missouri Botanical Garden

Those who need to fulfill academic credit requirements and apprenticeship requirements for a degree program can find unpaid internships at this botanical garden.

The internships are available in a few areas, including education, science and conservation, horticulture, and retail services.

Interns get free admission to the garden and benefit from discounts during their internships.

Wyerhaeuser

Weyerhaeuser holds forestry and geological internships through which students can gain experience in forestry, engineering, geology, environmental science, and horticulture.

The specialization of the company is timber, forest, and land products, opening a possibility to develop consumer goods and build homes.

Smithsonian Gardens

Students can work in a public garden with an internship in the areas of horticulture and ground management.

Besides general upkeep, they can work on special projects in their area of specialization, including reviewing public programs, researching nomenclature, or assisting landscape architects.

The United States National Arboretum

The National Arboretum opens new internship opportunities every January.

The internships are available in the fields of botany, horticulture, education, facilities management, and more.

The duration of the programs varies from three months to a year, which start in spring.

They offer a chance to gain practical experience in Washinton, D.C.

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