Upon completion of this chapter, you should be able to

• describe the categories of employment in ornamental horticulture.

• describe the profession of floriculture.

• outline the education each one requires.


Ornamental horticulture used to be a craft occupation, engaged in by persons who enjoyed working with their hands in fields, greenhouses, and shops. Little education was required, although college-level pro­grams existed, and most practitioners opted for apprenticeship. Limited capital was needed to start up a small business, and many people viewed it as a second-income or postretirement occupation.

In many ways, all of this is still true. Ornamental horticulture is still a small business industry (even the largest national firms are relatively small). Yet today’s industry has changed and advanced markedly in the past fifty years. Increased public awareness of the enrichment provided by ornamental crops has shown itself in an increased demand for more products, more services, innovative ideas, and an insistence on higher quality. The old system was unable to meet the demand, so new career opportunities have become available, attracting people with new ideas. Finally, after years of virtually ignoring ornamental crops, university and corporate researchers have begun the development of new and improved varieties; market researchers have offered new methods of measuring the public’s needs; and industry trade organizations have discovered the benefits of working together to promote their products and services to consumers eager to learn and spend more. Colleges and universities have developed extensive curricula at the undergraduate and graduate levels, lending a new respectability to the industry, and attracting young people from urban as well as the traditional suburban and rural areas.

Today, ornamental horticulture offers employment to individu­als with a diversity of backgrounds, educations, and career goals. The high school graduate and the Ph. D. can both find satisfying work, as can the scientist and the artistic craftsperson. It is not impossible to find all working in the same firm. As would be expected, they have dif­ferent responsibilities, reflecting their different interests and formal preparation.

Persons working in the industries of ornamental horticulture usually fall into one of the following categories:

• unskilled laborer

• skilled laborer

• middle management

• owner/operator

• educator/researcher/specialist

The categories are general and apply to an industry whose practitio­ners range from floral delivery truck drivers to horticulture therapists, but they can be helpful in defining entry-level positions and career goals.

Generalizing further, the qualifications for employment within each category are commonly found to be as follows:

Unskilled laborer The employee may work indoors or out, depending on the firm. Contact with customers may or may not be required. The employee is not trained for specialized tasks; therefore, the skill levels required are of a general nature possessed by most people. The employ­ee is normally trained on the job, with no special educational prepara­tion required or expected. The unskilled labor force typically includes part-time and summer workers, many still in school, retirees, and migrant workers, some of whom may not have English as their first lan­guage. This category of worker is usually at the lower end of the com­pany pay scale.

Skilled laborers These employees possess technical skills needed by the firm. They may have acquired the skill through previous work expe­rience or through vocational courses taken at the high school or college level. As vocational and technical education has gained acceptance as a legitimate alternative or supplement to the traditional liberal arts and science curriculum, the number of skilled laborers has increased, as has the public image of the ornamental horticulture profession.

Middle management These employees generally have some college training and have made the decision to follow careers in the field of ornamental horticulture. This category offers great opportunities to individuals with knowledge, formal schooling, an interest in the busi­ness and a willingness to work as part of a company team. The category is comparatively new, having developed in response to the increased number of college-trained young people in the job market and the rapid expansion of the industry.

Owners/Operators These individuals may have no college schooling, but the trend is definitely toward college education for tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and away from reliance on apprenticeship. The level of

college education may range from a two-year associate degree to bach­elor’s and graduate degrees. Certain occupations may require special­ized degrees such as the B. L.A. (Bachelor of Landscape Architecture) and state licensing or certification before practice is permitted.

Educators, researchers and specialists Due to the nature of their work, these professionals usually need the greatest amount of university train­ing. The category includes teachers of both high school and college stu­dents, teachers of learning and/or physically challenged, nontraditional learners, scientific researchers, Cooperative Extension agents, and con­sultants.

Any of the categories can include entry-level positions, depending on the qualifications of the individual. All permit movement into other categories as an individual’s skills and aspirations change.