3 minute read

Nursery Worker Job Description, Career as a Nursery Worker, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: Varies—see profile

Salary: Median—$7.55 per hour

Employment Outlook: Poor

Definition and Nature of the Work

Nursery workers plant, tend, and sell plants and trees. They work in retail and wholesale nurseries. Wholesale nurseries supply plant materials to retail stores, florists, and landscapers. Retail nurseries sell directly to the general public. Some retail nurseries are part of large garden centers that sell plants and lawn and garden supplies. Some large nurseries are mail-order businesses. Nurseries may specialize in growing fruit trees for orchards or saplings for forests. The duties of nursery workers vary with their employers.

Some nursery workers grow plants. They plant seeds, thin the seedlings, and transplant them to flowerpots, flats, outdoor patches, or fields when the young plants are big enough. They also make cuttings and take shoots or runners from grown plants. Nursery workers set the shoots in water or sand until the roots are formed. Then they transplant the shoots into soil. Sometimes nursery workers perform grafting. They take a branch from a tree and attach it to the trunk of another tree. This process is often used to produce hardy strains of fruit trees.

Nursery workers also prune, water, and fertilize plants. They spray or dust plants with fertilizers or pesticides. They watch the progress of young plants and make sure they get enough sun and water. Employees may use power equipment or drive tractors and trucks.

The staff at most nurseries usually includes one or more sales representatives. When they sell directly to the public, sales representatives try to help their customers choose plants, shrubs, or trees that fit their needs. They also make sure A nursery worker displays an orchid in a nursery. (© Frans Lanting/Corbis.) that their customers know how to take care of the plants they buy. Some sales representatives who work for wholesale nurseries travel to large retail outlets where they meet with purchasing agents who buy plants in wholesale lots. These sales representatives must be able to estimate when plants will be ready for market. For this reason, they must know enough about plant growth and development to give their customers accurate information. Sometimes sales representatives make arrangements to transport plants from the nursery to the customer's store.

Education and Training Requirements

There are no specific education requirements for becoming a nursery worker. Many workers begin as helpers and become skilled workers through on-the-job training. Training is available, however, at many colleges and technical institutes. Many employers prefer to hire beginners who have taken courses at these schools. Some two-year schools offer an associate degree in nursery operation technology or horticultural technology. Many two- and four-year colleges offer courses in nursery operations and related subjects. Programs for prospective nursery workers should include courses in chemistry, botany, soil science, horticultural science, and plant propagation. For those who aspire to manage a nursery, courses in business management and accounting should be taken.

Getting the Job

School placement offices may be able to help candidates find a job. Some companies send recruiters to schools that offer programs in nursery operations and related fields. Beginning positions are advertised in newspaper want ads. Candidates can also apply directly to companies for which they want to work.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Experienced nursery workers can become managers or sales managers of nurseries and garden centers. Some open their own nurseries.

Employment for nursery workers is expected to grow more slowly than average through 2012. However, opportunities will arise through the high turnover that is typical in this field.

Working Conditions

Nursery workers work in greenhouses and garden centers. They may work outdoors in all kinds of weather. They work alone or with a few other nursery workers. Most do some lifting and shoveling. They may also operate machines that lift trees and shrubs, such as tractors and forklifts. They usually work forty hours a week. Nursery workers who are sales representatives may have to travel.

Where to Go for More Information

American Nursery and Landscape Association
1000 Vermont Ave. NW, Ste. 300
Washington, DC 20005-4914
(202) 789-2900

Horticultural Research Institute
1250 I Street, NW, Ste. 500
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 789-2900

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries vary widely depending on education and experience. Beginning nursery workers who have a high school education generally earn between $5.15 and $6 per hour. The median hourly wage is $7.55, and the median yearly wage is $15,700. Those with some experience earn $8 to $9 per hour. In some parts of the country, nursery managers can earn between $30,000 and $45,000. Benefits include paid holidays and vacations. Many nursery workers are employed part time and do not receive regular benefits.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesAgribusiness, Environment, and Natural Resources