From crop production to landscape design, the range of work available to horticulturists is extensive.
According to ECO Canada, Horticulturists are agricultural scientists whose focus is finding a better way to develop, grow, harvest, store, process, and ship fruits, vegetables, and decorative plants.
Occupations include [plant growers], design of the landscape, urban forest management, pest management, landscape construction, and sales and consulting support for all aspects of horticulture, says Ken Fry, instructor and coordinator of horticulture at Olds College.
Essentially, a person can pursue any specialty they want in the field of horticulture, he says. You can be an engineer, chemist, plant physiologist, botanist, business entrepreneur, entomologist, pathologist, among other roles.
Depending on your specialty, horticulturists can expect to work in an office environment analyzing data and researching new technology or in the field inspecting plants and conducting experiments.
Getting qualified to work in this field, on the production side at least, is fairly simple. Obtaining a technical diploma is recommended yet not required. With a certificate or a degree, the likelihood of finding year-round employment and opportunities for advancement significantly increases, says Fry.
Most [horticulturists] today tend to have a degree in either agronomy or agriculture economics or some type of formal education to blend with whatever hands on experience that they may have, says Anne Fowlie, executive vice-president of the Canadian Horticulture Council.
At Olds College, students can get a number of different certifications in the field of horticulture. You can acquire technical certificates in arboriculture or horticulture or even continue your education by getting a bachelor of applied science in horticulture if you've already completed a two-year diploma program.
Fry says a graduate can expect to encounter opportunities to rise to management, diversify their skill set, or own their own business in this highly diverse industry. They currently have a graduate working as a landscape maintenance supervisor at Google in San Jose, California, and another manages the research greenhouses in the faculty of agriculture, life sciences, and environment at the University of Alberta.
Working in this field also has many rewarding aspects, says Fry. There's the connection to the environment, work that's outdoors, [and it's] work that's creative and contributes to healthy lives and enriched experiences.
For any supporting roles in the sector, it's very dynamic [with] people who are very committed and passionate to it, says Fowlie. There are challenges, but there are [also] a lot of opportunities.
Fry says students looking to pursue a career in this field need to be open-minded. Do not be reluctant to expand your horizons... You can move from production to construction or maintenance to design.
I cannot stress enough the flexibility of the field of horticulture or the rich variety of opportunities, says Fry. The community of horticulturists is welcoming and creative. I can't think of a better vocation.