How did you get started in the industry? I lived in Canada working with horses for two years when I...
Welcome to grow. The website for horticulture careers information.
Sports, Leisure & Green Space
Can you get the best out of David Beckham, Rooney and the boys, Andy Murray, Ian Woosnam and Jonny Wilkinson? The best players need the best turf to play on, and it takes the top science, muscle and machinery to keep it playing well. Green spaces are everywhere – from town squares and parks to golf courses and hospitals – and they offer fitness, beauty, health and variety. Our parks and public gardens are the green lungs for our cities, and you could help create and manage the top environment for thousands of people to enjoy.
As well as those listed below, there are other related jobs including Gardener, Education Officer, Biodiversity Officer and Lecturer.
What they do: Arboriculture means working with trees. At the craft level there is work in controlling or removing trees, including pruning, felling, stump grinding and van driving. At the technical level, staff can work as inspectors, ensuring that trees are safe, or as supervisors, sending out teams of workers and ensuring that the jobs are done properly. There are also jobs in management and consultancy.
Career path: Many people still get into the profession by starting with physical labouring and working their way up. Beginners will often take short courses – usually an NPTC course – in chainsaw use, tree climbing or aerial rescue. The Royal Forestry Society (RFS) Certificate of Arboriculture is a Level 2 course which several colleges offer over six months on day release. This can be followed by the Technician’s Certificate in Arboriculture.
Specialist tree surgery courses are offered by a range of colleges. In addition, many amenity horticulture courses include tree surgery as part of the syllabus. The specialised practical skills of arboriculture are offered as packaged courses of three years for the National Diploma (BTEC), and one year NCH (Arboriculture). The Royal Horticultural Society runs a one year special option on arboriculture with estate management.
Where they work: Most people in the industry work for small firms, which generally lop and top trees in private gardens. A lot of arborist firms are also employed by a handful of big grounds care and tree-work contractors such as Glendale or Gristwood & Toms. These firms will work for local authorities, often taking over the management of the entire tree stock.
They may also do work for private firms and public bodies such as the Highways Agency or Network Rail. Some local authorities still employ their own staff and some large private estates employ their own tree workers. Gardens such as Kew Gardens and the Royal Horticultural Society employ arboriculturists.
More information about apprenticeships.
Related job titles: Arborist, arboriculturist, tree climber, arboricultural officer/ assistant/ operative /technician, tree officer, tree inspector, arboricultural surveyor, tree preservation order officer
VIDEO - Trees and timber apprenticeships
A video from LANTRA featuring Ian Haynes, Arboricultural Manager at Gendale Countryside, and Anthony Harper, a Level 2 aboricultural apprentice with Glendale, talk about the opportunities offered by apprenticeships in tree maintenance.
VIDEO - day in the life of an arborist
Ken Emery, owner of Emery Landscapes, shows you his job, talks about how you can get a similar job in trees and timber, and reveals what he looks for in a potential employee.
Greenkeeper / Groundsman / Sportsturf manager
What they do: Think of all the sports that are played on grass – football, cricket, golf, horse-racing, tennis, hockey, rugby and bowls – and you’ll realise the importance of the highly skilled sportsturf specialists who keep the grass in peak form. If your interests combine a love of sport with an interest in horticulture, then a career in sportsturf management could be right up your street.
Career path: Grounds staff require a broad knowledge, ranging from sports-turf construction and maintenance, through natural turf and general plant growth expertise to maintaining artificial surfaces.
Straight from school, keen students can get a position with a club and embark on weekly one-day or block-release college courses aiming for National/Scottish Vocational Qualifications (NVQ/SVQ) in sports turf.
The qualifications for groundsmen and greenkeepers start with a basic First Diploma for school-leavers, through N/SVQs (Levels 2,3 and 4) and the Higher National Diploma, to a Foundation Degree in golf and sports turf management, and a National Diploma in sports turf and amenity horticulture. There is also a Higher National Certificate (HNC) in sports turf.
Trained groundsmen and greenkeepers can switch to other jobs within the industry – for example, working for companies that supply products and services to sport. Most sales and technical advisers with large seed, turf and sports product companies started their careers as groundsmen and greenkeepers.
Where they work: All the professional sporting venues have their own sportsturf managers, advisors and assistants working to keep the turf in top condition. Local authorities need people to care for parks, gardens and play areas, including artificial surfaces. There are also openings in schools, colleges and universities, where groundsmen look after all the sport facilities and the surroundings, including the trees, lawns and gardens.
Related job titles: Sports Turf management and Maintenance, Sports Turf Specialist, School Facility Management (sports and other areas)
What they do: Even the dingiest office space can be livened up by living plants. A developing market exists for indoor plants that brighten surroundings and generally improve the quality of life, served by interior landscapers.
They bring colour and greenery indoors by designing, installing and maintaining indoor planting schemes in offices, atriums, shopping centres, restaurants and health clubs
Career path: Qualifications range from NVQs to MAs in interior landscaping.
Where they work: Within private interior landscaping or landscape maintenance firms, including franchise opportunities.
Grounds Maintenance Contractor
What they do: Many local councils contract out the management and maintenance of their green spaces to large firms of grounds maintenance contractors.
Working to an agreed level of service, the contractors do everything required to keep the sites in good condition, including grass cutting, pest and weed control and tree and shrub maintenance, often working on a large number of sites across an area. The big contracting firms are regularly looking to employ gardeners, grass cutting operatives, tree workers and the like.
Career path: Some of the big firms offer apprenticeships which combine formal diplomas like National Vocational Qualifications with personal-skills training in teamwork, problem solving, communication and IT. Private contractors often learn their skills in the public sector first, working in parks departments.
Where they work: There are many grounds maintenance firms which operate at local and national levels, such as Gavin Jones, English Landscapes, The Green Team and Wyevale Grounds Maintenance.
More information about horticultural apprenticeships.
What they do: Landscape contractors enjoy nothing more than transforming design ideas and scruffy building sites into the real thing: havens of natural beauty. Practical skills enable them to build paths and ponds, sculpt earth contours and tend plants.
Career path: GCSEs in subjects like geography, biology and arts subjects can open up landscape construction, leading you from worker to craftsperson and then foreperson. Many firms offer modern apprenticeships combining formal diplomas like National Vocational Qualifications with personal-skills training in teamwork, problem solving, communication and IT.
Where they work: Opportunities range from self-employed landscapers working with garden designers to create beautiful back gardens, to contractors working for massive landscaping firms undertaking big public or private sector projects. These could include anything from renovating the open spaces in city centres, to landscaping the features of a new business park.
More information about horticultural apprenticeships.
Related job titles: Landscaper, landscape manager, landscape foreman, landscape contract manager.
Parks, Gardens & Green Space Officer
What they do: Plenty of job satisfaction, fresh air and a varied working life are just some of the reasons for starting a career within the parks sector. Typical "hands on" duties include weeding, cutting hedges, planting, pruning and maintaining trees.
Many parks have large, seasonal bedding schemes and work can involve planting thousands of plants in elaborate patterns. Parks employees are also expected to engage with park visitors.
There are also opportunities for those wanting to get into the managerial side of park maintenance.
Park managers supervise contractors or their own maintenance teams, and are expected to oversee management and development plans and manage budgets. Managers are employed directly by the council, many having been promoted from practical parks work.
Career path: One of the best ways of starting a career in parks is to undertake an apprenticeship, which lasts for three years and provides training in all aspects of working in a park, along with a small salary. Apprenticeships offer National Vocational Qualifications at Levels 1, 2 and 3.
For those wanting to go on to further or higher education, qualifications start at the BTEC First Diploma and City & Guilds National Certificate in horticulture, moving on to Levels 2 or 3 National Certificate and National Diploma courses, BTEC Higher National Diplomas and BSc courses in areas such as green-space management.
Students who have completed certificate or diploma courses usually then go on to get practical work at a parks department or for a contractor.
Where they work: Opportunities in parks are divided between working directly for the local council and working for a contractor. Some councils contract out their parks services while others prefer to maintain their own team of parks staff, although maintenance jobs are essentially the same for both employers.
More information about horticultural apprenticeships.
Related job titles: Parks manager, parks officer, open spaces manager, leisure officer, manager/head of/superintendent of parks
See what some green space apprentices think of their jobs
Ergun Ahmend talks about his experiences as a green space apprentice in Richmond.
Parks Policy & Development Officer
What they do: Working within local authorities’ parks and green spaces departments, parks policy and development officers help to create the plans and strategies to maintain and improve public open spaces in their area. Included in their responsibilities are tasks such as:
- undertaking surveys of park use to help in the understanding of what the public needs from its parks
- spotting and organising any development or repair work that needs doing
- promoting the parks to the public.
Career path: Horticultural qualifications are needed for this role, such as an HND or equivalent in horticulture, grounds maintenance, landscape management, management or business studies.
Practical experience of managing contracts and budgets may also be required.
Where they work: Local authority parks and open spaces departments
What they do: Plants and flowers can transform cemeteries from bleak graveyards into memorial gardens. Cemetery keepers maintain these public spaces, making sure they remain places where visitors can experience a sense of peace in a beautiful and serene setting.
Career path: As with gardeners and grounds maintenance contractors, cemetery keepers need good practical horticultural skills, from planting to tree maintenance and grass-cutting.
Where they work: Many local authorities employ cemetery keepers who work within or alongside the parks and open spaces departments. At an international level, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission manages over 1,750 acres of ground around the world which is given over to fine horticulture, making maintenance a year-round task for its 900 gardeners.
More info: The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
What they do: In recent years, fears about safety within parks have resulted in many councils introducing their own park-ranger service to patrol the parks within their region. Park rangers are expected to provide a uniformed presence around the parks to discourage anti-social behaviour and enforce local bylaws. In addition, they may be involved with
- Taking guided walks within the parks
- Providing information to park visitors
- Liaising with local community groups and other like-minded bodies to help address issues and potential problems as they arise
- Undertaking mobile patrols of smaller locations and cemeteries providing a safe environment for visitors
Career path: See Parks, Gardens & Green Space Officer
Where they work: Patrolling parks and open spaces run by local authorities
Related job titles: Park Keeper/Warden, Park Development Officer
Tell us what you think
Grow careers advice line
For information on courses and careers please call 03330 050 181 (9am - 5pm, Monday - Friday) or email your query by clicking here:
Find a college
How did you get started in the industry? I am self-employed, work on various private gardens and run gardening activities...
How did you get started in the industry? I’ve always had an affinity to plants and wildlife outside of work,...
How did you get started in the industry? I started as a gardener/park ranger at an 1850s estate called Old...
How did you get started in the industry? I was studying to be a charted surveyor at Cirencester but found...
How did you get started in the industry? I did work experience when I was 15 at my local nursery...
How did you get started in the industry? I've always had an interest in the outdoor life so landscaping seemed...
How did you get started in the industry? Back in 1981, I started as an assistant groundsman at Wellington College...
- How did you get started in the industry? I spent three years studying from the age of 17...
How did you get started in the industry? I studied for my BTEC first diploma in horticulture at Moulton College,...