Horticulture Technicians work in places where plants are grown, or for organizations with plants that need special care, ensuring they are in good health.
What Does a Horticulture Technician Do?
Also known as Horticultural Field Technicians or Greenhouse Technicians, Horticulture Technicians are a type of agricultural worker that work with plants to ensure they are healthy. They may work in outdoor environments such as fields of agricultural produce, or in indoor environments such as hydroponics facilities and greenhouses. Their role may include plants for food produce, raw material, or simply for scientific research, assist horticulturalists and research scientists in the study of individual species or interspecies relationships within a specific ecology. They are not researchers but need to understand scientific concepts behind plant biology, botany, soil science and much more.
Their typical role is to take recordings of growth, check that the plants receive the right amount of water and nutrients, to remove weeds, promote pollination and to carry out treatment if, and when, a plant or batch of plants show signs of disease or pest damage. They will dispose of dead organic material such as leaves or whole plants and are important in a range of fields. They may work in biotechnology, biofuel research and production, genetic engineering and modification, and in promoting good plant health in agriculture, allowing areas where certain crops are not native to grow in environments more suited to their ability to thrive. Some may have office based roles such as recording observations or carrying out simple tests.
This is a diverse type of role requiring experience operating farm equipment and machinery although they are not necessarily considered farm workers.
Where Does a Horticulture Technician Work?
This type of role works with crops and fields of crops but in a variety of different industries. The most prevalent of which is food manufacturing, employing around 23% of the workforce in the US. The role is simply in promoting crop health and in ensuring that production and profit are maximized by caring for the plants - removing dead organic matter, watering, feeding and keeping them free of pests.
21% work in the education sector, particularly in colleges and universities. These will work in a variety of facilities tied to research projects such as biology labs and in fields and hydroponics. They may be engaged in biological research, plant epidemiology and pests, testing new types of pesticide or in genetic modification research.
13% work in support activities for food production, agriculture and forestry. Not directly involved in the production, they will carry out similar tasks to ensure the crops, trees and other biological products are in good health. This can include public parks and gardens, eco-parks, botanical collections and other tourist attractions.
14% work in scientific and technical consulting services. This is a third-party role offering consultancy and service sector offering horticultural services to public buildings, residential areas, private forests, farming communities and others.
7% work directly in crop production, helping farmers, ranchers and other farm employees with the day-to-day tasks of promoting good plant health. Their role is the technician side, not in sowing or reaping.
Horticulture Technician Jobs & Job Description
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What Is the Average Horticulture Technician Salary?
BLS publishes a report every few years on the state of employment in the US, including average salaries, growth or shrinkage, job demand and educational requirements. The most recent data was published in May 2017 based on an analysis of 2016 information. This data showed the average salary for all horticultural technicians to be $37,550. The lowest 10% of earners claimed a salary of $23,930 while the highest earned $61,450. The highest paying sector was food production at $36,850 with education coming in a close second at $36,700. The third was professional, scientific and technical services with an average of $35,100.
What Is the Job Demand for Horticulture Technicians?
Demand for all agricultural and food technicians (to include horticultural technicians) is expected to grow around 6% between 2016 and 2026. This is around the average of all jobs at present. We expect demand to remain stable in food production and in research. Growth is likely in areas such as genetic research and other forms of crossbreeding to cope with continued human population growth. Biofuels may also be a growth area, as will research into new pesticides and herbicides, looking for new ways to challenge new threats to our food supply.
What Are the Education Requirements to Become a Horticulture Technician?
The level of qualification required depends on the facility, type of role and responsibilities. In many cases, especially in food production, students may need only a High School diploma. For these roles, specific subjects are not required. Where there is a little more technical work involved or those engaged in helping researchers, horticulturalists and other more science-based positions, the student should ideally have a two-year associates degree at the minimum. High school students wishing to enter a relevant degree course should ensure good grades in math, biology and chemistry.
Biology and plant science are good degree choices for those wishing to enter biotechnology or environmental engineering sector, as is ecology or forestry although the student should seek relevant supporting minors and electives along these lines. This is a practical job role requiring some skills in applied science so postgraduate qualifications are not generally required, but an internship during your degree will be invaluable. Look for options centered on your intended career path and choose minors and electives accordingly.
Horticulture Technician - Related Degrees
What Kind of Societies and Professional Organizations Do Horticulture Technicians Have?
Horticulture is an important area of food and biofuel production. The following organizations support this kind of work.
- American Society of Agronomy: Promoting agronomy across the world for sustainable, holistic and ecologically harmless practices for the environment when it comes to agriculture. Agronomy recognizes the need for a multidisciplinary approach
- Soils Society of America: The SSSA is an international scientific body disseminating knowledge of horticultural practice from the perspective of soil science
- Future Farmers of America: FFA is an organization for students working in agronomy, soil science, sustainable farming and agricultural sciences looking to drive the industry forward towards sustainability