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Y is for Yardkeeper

by Chet Bodin
March 2017

Yardkeeper is a general term for many landscaping, grounds keeping, and other outdoor maintenance occupations that require a variety of skill and education levels. Yardkeepers can also be found working for a variety of industries and employers, from golf courses to private households. In Minnesota the workers most associated with yardkeepers are known as “Landscaping and Groundskeeping Workers”. According to DEED Occupational and Employment Statistics for 2016 (OES) Minnesota had almost 15,000 Landscaping and Groundskeeping Workers, who earned a median wage of $12.53 per hour. This was almost 40¢ an hour more than the median wage for Landscaping and Groundskeeping Workers throughout the United States, which was $12.15 per hour in 2016 (see Table 1).

Table 1. 2016 Employment and Wages by Planning Region: Landscaping and Groundskeeping Workers
Area 2016 Employment 25th Percentile Hourly Wage Median Hourly Wage 75th Percentile Hourly Wage 25th Percentile Annual Wage Annual Median Wage 75th Percentile Annual Wage
U. S. 895,600 $10.11 $12.15 $15.23 $21,025 $25,277 $31,680
Minnesota 14,900 $10.18 $12.53 $16.68 $21,177 $26,065 $34,709
Central MN 1,440 $10.23 $11.98 $14.31 $21,289 $24,914 $29,771
Northeast MN 760 $9.45 $12.08 $15.84 $19,663 $25,130 $32,952
Northwest MN 1,530 $9.54 $11.10 $14.40 $19,850 $23,090 $29,961
Southeast MN 770 $10.20 $12.39 $17.16 $21,208 $25,778 $35,697
Southwest MN 950 $9.04 $10.68 $13.65 $18,810 $22,220 $28,394
7-County Metro, MN 8,290 $10.72 $13.67 $17.96 $22,315 $28,447 $37,341
Source: DEED Occupational Employment Statistics, 2016

However, many other occupations could also be considered in the “Yardkeeper” category, and it takes different levels of education and training to perform them. For example, a landscaper who would like to become a manager or supervisor would benefit from obtaining a high school education when performing duties such as preparing estimates or reviewing contracts. And, not only would their responsibilities increase, but the median hourly wage of first-line supervisors of landscapers is over $9.00 per hour more than landscapers in general.

Several education programs throughout Minnesota help yard/landscapers obtain training. These programs range from one year postsecondary certificates to Master’s degrees. For workers new to yardkeeping and landscaping, an Associate’s Degree may be the best track to employment. According to DEED’s Graduate Employment Outcomes, nearly 80 percent of Associate’s Degree graduates from “applied horticulture” programs were employed two years after graduating and earning close to $14.00 an hour. In addition, some postsecondary programs in Minnesota help yard/landscaping workers find a specialty, such as greenhouse or golf course operations.

Besides education, professional accreditation also helps landscapers develop their skillset and improve their wages. Beyond the occupations listed by the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) and defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, yardkeeping and landscaping work often becomes more specialized. Skilled landscapers can become professionally certified in fields such as arboriculture and irrigation. In addition, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) requires a landscape specialist license to “perform or supervise plant installation and establishment work” with or for MnDOT (see Table 3).

For those with a high school diploma, some certificates will even help landscapers move into management. Given that there are over 400 openings for supervisors and managers in landscaping, the depth of these certification opportunities is encouraging for anyone looking to make landscaping a career.

Table 2. "Yardkeeping" related Occupations by Education and Projected Growth 2014-2024, Minnesota
SOC Occupation Title 2014 Employment Education Required Median Hourly Wage Projected Growth 2014-2024 Total Openings 2014-2024
373011 Landscaping and Groundskeeping Workers 18,110 Less than High School $12.53 770 4,030
371012 First-Line Supervisors/ Managers of Landscaping, Lawn Service, and Groundskeeping Workers 2,030 High School diploma or equivalent $21.71 71 410
373013 Tree Trimmers and Pruners 1,210 High School diploma or equivalent $18.62 41 260
171012 Landscape Architects 627 Bachelor's Degree $27.22 19 120
Source: DEED Career and Education Explorer, 2016
Table 3. Yardkeeping-related Professional Certifications
Certification Name Certifying Organization
Arborist / Municipal Specialist International Society of Arboriculture
Certified Arborist International Society of Arboriculture
Certified Arborist/Utility Specialist International Society of Arboriculture
Certified Golf Irrigation Auditor Irrigation Association
Certified Grounds Manager Professional Grounds Management Society
Certified Grounds Technician Professional Grounds Management Society
Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor Irrigation Association
Certified Master Arborist International Society of Arboriculture
Certified Tree Worker/Tree Climber Specialist International Society of Arboriculture
Certified Tree Care Safety Specialist Tree Care Industry Association
Commercial Fire Sprinkler Inspector International Code Council
Landscape Industry Certified Horticultural Technician National Association of Landscape Professionals
Landscape Industry Certified Lawn Care Technician National Association of Landscape Professionals
Landscape Industry Certified Lawn Care Technician-National National Association of Landscape Professionals
Landscape Industry Certified Manager National Association of Landscape Professionals
Landscape Industry Certified Technician - Exterior National Association of Landscape Professionals
Water-Based Systems Layout - I National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies
Water-Based Systems Layout - II National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies
Water-Based Systems Layout - III National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies
Water-Based Systems Layout - IV National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies
License Name Licensing Organization
MnDOT Landscape Specialist Certification http://www.dot.state.mn.us
Source: DEED Career and Education Explorer Tool, 2016
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