How to Become a Horticulturist in 5 Steps

5stepstohorticulture header

Horticulture is a booming trade in Australia, particularly in New South Wales, with the job outlook expected to grow over the next three to five years. 

That means it’s the perfect time to start an apprenticeship with MIGAS as many horticulture apprenticeships last only 3 years.

So what can you do to land a job in the horticulture sector?

1. Getting interested in Horticulture – what is it?

Horticulture is a branch of agriculture that focuses on the cultivation of plants including flowers, trees, turf, fruit and vegetables. Horticulturalists grow, maintain and develop plants in nurseries, parks and turf farms working outdoors and in all weather conditions. 

But it’s more than just watering some plants and hoping they’ll grow. Horticulturalists are hands-on and customer-facing, providing knowledge and experience in managing the health, maintenance and growth of all plant types. Horticulturalists might be involved in the retail and sales sides of plant production, or even in research and development, discovering new varieties of plants and their uses. Horticulturalists might work in wineries, in the hands-on development of grape growing to make wines – a detailed and intricate process, often at the mercy of the elements!

An exciting and varied career, horticulture is an integral part of life in Australia with our extensive list of national parks and gardens, and our love affair with the great outdoors.

2. Study the right subjects

There are no prerequisite subjects for working in horticulture, though you should be able to demonstrate a love of working with your hands and outdoors. Horticulturalists need to be fit and active, so consider taking physical education or participating in school sports teams. Some schools do offer horticulture or landscaping subjects, or maybe even have a garden club, so definitely take a look at those! We also consider any manual trade subjects like manual arts and home economics as a good indicator for people who like to work with their hands.

3. Obtain the right skills

As a largely unknown apprenticeship, employers are generally looking for people who can demonstrate a strong understanding of horticulture, so make sure you do your research. This is a tough, physically demanding industry to work in so be sure you’re prepared for long hours working outdoors and in all weather conditions.

If you intend to work in a nursery you’ll be working closely with customers, helping them to select the right plants for their gardens. Developing your people skills is very important here, as you’ll need to be able to listen to what they need and communicate your advice clearly and confidently. You should also be able to work safely with chemicals and machinery and not have any sensitivity to pesticides and fertilisers

4. Sign up for industry experience

You can kick-start your career in horticulture by seeking casual and part-time work at your local nursery or garden. This will help you to gain contacts in the industry and can also give you an insight into what you’re in for. Practice horticulture in your own garden, safely experimenting with growing and developing different types of plants, fruits and vegetables, or volunteer with a local community garden. (Employers will also love this, at it shows your commitment and enthusiasm!)

It’s also possible to start your apprenticeship or traineeship while you’re still at school with a school-based apprenticeship. This could shave time off your full qualification, and you’ll still be able to finish high school.

5. Complete an apprenticeship!

Horticulture apprenticeships and traineeships can vary from 12 to 36 months, depending on the qualification, whether you’re working full time or part-time, and based on employer requirements. You can also study agriculture and the environment at university, but an apprenticeship or traineeship will guarantee that all-important hands-on experience. Search for horticulture, nursery, landscaping and agriculture positions on job sites, get in contact with local GTOs and AASN’ or hit the pavement and make contacts in the local industry.

View the MIGAS Jobs Board for current apprenticeship and traineeship opportunities

Published 17 March 2016