Horticulture Degree

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What is Horticulture?

Horticulture is the area of study and employment that revolves around the growth and care of plants in both large and small scale for the purposes of food, vegetation, or medicinal purposes. Individuals in this field will incorporate a variety of principles and sciences in order to effectively perform their tasks and duties, including land management, landscaping design, irrigation systems, plant care and therapy and more.

Top Horticulture Degrees

The number of degree programs in horticulture is pretty amazing.  From certificate programs through PhD programs, students will have a large number of degree types to choose from in the field of study.  In addition to the traditional classroom-based degree programs, many schools continue to add online horticulture degrees to help meet student and employer demand.  If interested in learning more about distance learning or online degree options in horticulture, simply visit the schools on this resource page or get matched using our proprietary matching system.

Certificate Programs in Horticulture

Earning a certificate in horticulture from an accredited college or university will generally take less than a year to complete.  For full-time students, the program can be compressed to a few months while part-time students will take longer to complete the program.  A certificate in horticulture is designed to provide students with the basics to start a career in the field in a number of entry-level positions.  Coursework may include the following: principles of horticulture, horticulture pest management, deciduous landscape plants, computer applications, evergreen landscape plants, interior plants, and herbaceous ornamental plants.

Associate Degrees in Horticulture

An associate degree in horticulture is a 2-year program for full-time students and will take longer for part-time students as a function of course load and program pace.  The associate degree in horticulture will be conferred as an Associate of Science (AS) or Associated of Applied Science (AAS) dependent upon the school’s program and accreditation requirements.  Associate degrees blend general education courses such as English, creative writing, communications, and philosophy with core science classes to provide students with a well-rounded set of tools.  Core classes in horticulture typically include the following: plant biology, herbaceous ornamental plants, principles of horticulture, indoor plants, horticulture marketing, horticulture pest management, evergreen plants, deciduous plants, and operations management.  Courses will vary from school to school as some colleges offer horticulture studies in conjunction with the following areas of concentration: landscape design & management, nursery & greenhouse production, sustainable crops, architectural landscaping, turfgrass management, and floristry.

Bachelor Degrees in Horticulture

A bachelor’s degree in horticulture will be most frequently conferred as a Bachelor of Science or BS degree from colleges and universities.  The bachelor’s degree is a 4-year program that combines additional general education courses plus additional core curriculum when compared to an associate’s degree program.  Coursework will vary from program to program as the emphasis may differ from region to region.  Sample classes at the bachelor’s degree level may include: plant science, entomology, agronomy, plant soils, technical writing, economics, fundamentals of agriculture, crop physiology, genetics, plant pathology, and weed science.

Master Degrees in Horticulture

The online master’s degree in horticulture can be conferred as a Master of Agriculture (MAg) or Master of Science (MS) depending on the course work involved in the program.  A horticulture master’s degree will generally take 2-3 years of full-time work to complete with part-time students taking longer.  In many programs, students will have the option to select a thesis or non-thesis path towards degree completion.  The thesis path offers fewer courses but an extensive research project while the non-thesis path will require additional classes in the field of study in lieu of preparing a thesis.  A graduate degree in horticulture will typically involve research, problem-solving skill development, and internship opportunities in the field.

Doctorate Degrees in Horticulture

A doctorate degree in horticulture is a PhD degree that is often found in a course catalog as a Doctor of Philosophy.  The PhD degree is known as a terminal degree in the academic world as there are no additional degrees beyond the doctoral degree.  Earning a doctorate degree in horticulture will take 4-6 years of matriculation as a function of credit requirements of the school, student pace, and time invested to complete the dissertation project.  Students earning a PhD can expect to join the workforce in a research capacity, teaching position, or administrative role in a variety of industries associated with the horticulture discipline.

Educational Requirements for Horticulturists

Most entry level horticulture positions require individuals to have at least a bachelor's degree in horticulture or related field. Individuals will study a variety of courses during a four year period in order to receive the necessary education prior to being granted their degree. As horticulture is a multi-discipline field, a student will study several sciences and principles. Professions that involve education or research will most likely require a master's degree which includes two years of additional study and allows for greater specialization.

A curriculum may include:

Employment Opportunities for Horticulturists

Careers for individuals with a degree in horticulture can vary greatly based on the interests of the individual. From small scale nurseries, rare plant conservation, research and development, education, to large scale cultivation, farming and growth. Individuals will seek the type of employment that best reflects their interests and specialization, such as floriculture, olericulture, and pomology, particularly if graduate level education is pursued. Opportunities may be limited in some areas, and thus require flexibility regarding location.

Top Jobs in Horticulture

If you are curious to learn where horticulturists work, we have assembled a list of jobs in the field.  Graduates from a horticulture program can find themselves teaching or performing research for public or private organizations across the country.  Additional vocations are listed below to help prospective students better understand the industry and potential jobs in the industry.  A list of the top jobs in horticulture include:

  • Retail & Wholesale Operations.  Blending business with technical know-how in the retail or wholesale operations is a popular vocation.  Duties include: selling fresh vegetables, organic fruits, seeds, flowers, indoor plants, nursery stock, or floral arrangements.
  • Procurement.  Students with an eye for business may find themselves working for a small or large organization purchasing flowers, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and similar items to be sold to consumers or retailers.
  • Public Garden Manager.  Working in a public garden will give a horticulturist a blend or working with both plants and people.  Duties include: managing landscapes and plant collections in a public garden or a public conservatory.
  • Research.  Investing your time and energy to find novel ways to increase crop yield, crop quality, plant nutrition, plant growth, or plant breeding can be an exciting and fulfilling vocation.  Research may extend into business operations by innovating storage, marketing, and methods of an organization.
  • Teaching.  Some students graduate from a horticulture program and remain in academics teaching others the finer points of the industry.  From research organizations to colleges to high schools, teachers are in demand and will remain a vital component of our economy.
  • Consultant.  Being employed or contracted to perform specific activities as a consultant may be a viable career for many graduates.  Examples of consultant work can include plant or regionally specific research projects, product development, sales, or technical services for retail organizations, schools, distributors, manufacturers, fertilizer companies, farm equipment companies, or seed companies.
  • Inspector.  A job as an inspector can help maintain or improve the quality and safety of consumable foods.  Inspectors can work for private organizations or government organizations of all types.
  • Landscape Manager.  A trained horticulturist can find work designing, constructing, and installing residential or commercial landscape projects.  Technical skills include understand plant types, blueprints, soils, bidding, project management, sales, hardscapes, and business operations.
  • Arborist. Arborists focus energy to specialize in trees and woody plants.  An arborist can manage projects, render professional opinions for government agencies, plant trees, conduct research, identifying tree species, and organizing collections.  An arborist can work for a parks department, government agency, college, botanical garden, research firm, theme park, resort, nursery, utility company, or tree service organization.
  • Horticulture Therapist. A horticulture therapist uses plant knowledge with therapy techniques to help humans maintain a balanced physical, emotional, and mental state of well-being.  Therapists, counselors, academic professionals, healthcare providers, rehabilitation specialists, and psychologists from all walks of life find benefit utilizing trees and plants to help humans successfully cope with life.
  • Writer.  A horticulture graduate can find themselves writing or blogging for a variety of publications or media companies.  From a farm magazine to a gardening blog, writers with technical chops are in demand by organizations of all sizes and types.
  • Pest Manager.  Graduates from an accredited horticulture program can find work as an exterminator or pest manager.  Students may elect to start their own company or work for state agencies, agricultural suppliers, large farm organizations, processors, or agricultural agents.

Job Growth, Salary, and Related Fields

Job growth for horticulture is expected to remain steady over the next decade, with some areas of the of the field seeing more development and growth than others. This includes increases in landscaping, nurseries, and plant science. On average a career in horticulture pays about $37,000 annually, with certain professions paying significantly higher, such as research and development.

Individuals interested in horticulture may also be interested in learning more about association fields of study such as: turf management, ornamental horticulture, forestry, agribusiness, biotechnology, genetics, plant science, hydrology, toxicology, water science, agriculture systems management, ecosystem science, food science, plant pathology, agronomy, soil science, crop science, environmental management, botany, and natural resources development.

Additional Resources for Horticulturists

The American Horticulture Society is a national organization founded in 1922 to advance the awareness and education required by the field of horticulture. The organization has over 20,000 members and maintains partnerships with a variety of organizations and programs to accomplish its goals.

The Americans Society for Horticultural Science offers a variety of variety of services and programs for horticulturalists, including source material, science publications, certifications, and career development programs. The ASHS admits undergraduate and graduate students, individual members and corporate members into its ranks, offering a variety of benefits including job placement, newsletters, publication opportunities and more.

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