nursery and gardens

Stepping stones to a rewarding career

Career pathways in nursery and gardens

There are several different types of nurseries. Some grow and sell a broad range of plants, others specialise in areas such as native plants, flower seedlings and bulbs, advanced trees, roses, conifers, palms, ferns or orchids.

Retail nurseries sell to the general public. They employ workers with a good knowledge of plants and gardening products and – most importantly – who can communicate well with customers.

Smaller retail nurseries may employ a few staff but large nurseries may employ thirty or more. As many retail nurseries are open seven days a week, they often employ casual and part time workers.

Wholesale nurseries propagate and supply plants to supermarkets, retail nurseries, garden centres and landscapers. They are often large and are generally located on the outskirts of major cities and may employ from 10 to 100 staff. Some have retail outlets as well. Wholesale nurseries usually operate five days a week.

Nurseries can also be found in some municipal councils, government departments, landscape companies and greening or revegetation organisations. These nurseries grow plants for local landscape and revegetation projects.

Other businesses allied to the nursery industry include indoor plant hire and maintenance companies and suppliers of garden products.

There are approximately 8,000 businesses nationally and the national industry is estimated to be worth $5.71 billion. An average nursery business employs 3-4 people and the industry nationally employs between 24,000-32,000.

  • Retail nurseries (2,500)
  • Growers (4,000), and
  • Allied traders and discount department/hardware stores, which sell plants (1,500) in the nursery sector or derive significant income from it.

The nursery sector can be found in cities and rural areas across Australia. There is hardly a living plant grown for the horticultural industry that does not start life in a nursery of some kind. There are many opportunities in then nursery sector for nursery, plant and sales assistants, nursery hands and horticulturalists.

Jobs and qualifications

Nursery Hand Certificate II in Retail Nursery », Certificate II in Production Nursery »
Nursery Tradesperson Certificate III in Retail Nursery », Certificate III in Production Nursery »
Nursery Supervisor Certificate IV in Retail Nursery », Certificate IV in Production Nursery »
Nursery Manager Diploma of Retail Nursery Management », Diploma of Production Nursery Management »
Nursery Hand

A nursery hand is likely to be involved in a wide range of nursery tasks under limited supervision:

  • Tending nursery plants
  • Assisting sales of products and services
  • Treating weeds, pests and diseases
  • Using chemicals and biological agents
  • Propagation work
  • Operating tractors, equipment and machinery

There are several ways to get work as a nursery hand. A nursery traineeship will start your training as a nursery assistant before moving on to work as a nursery hand.

Individuals with general horticultural experience are often able to find employment as nursery hands on a casual basis, assisting with general nursery work.

The qualification available for nursery hands who have either undertaken formal training or learned their skills on the job is the Certificate II in Horticulture (Nursery).

Priority skills include workplace health and safety, chemical application, plant maintenance, and machinery and equipment operation.

Nursery Tradesperson

Work as a nursery tradesperson includes:

  • Selling plants and services
  • Receiving and dispatching plants
  • Controlling weeds, pests and diseases
  • Installing irrigation and drainage systems
  • Providing information on plants
  • Products and treatments
  • Propagating plants and preparing specialised plants
  • Supervising machinery and equipment use

There are a number of ways to get work as a nursery tradesperson. Most employees have either progressed from working as nursery hands or have completed a Nursery Traineeship, which involves formal learning while working on the job. The national qualification for a nursery tradesperson is the Certificate III in Horticulture (Nursery).

Priority skills include workplace health and safety, selling products and services, receiving and dispatching plants, providing information and controlling weeds, pests and diseases.

Nursery Supervisor

The nursery supervisor is responsible for a number of workers and nursery activities:

  • supervising and training staff
  • Overseeing nursery sales
  • Coordinating nursery production
  • Implementing propagation plans
  • Recommending plants, products and treatments
  • Setting up promotional programs
  • Managing a budget

There are several ways to get work as a nursery supervisor. Most nursery supervisors have been nursery tradespersons and have become nursery supervisors after demonstrating leadership and organisational skills.

Others have completed a Level 4 Nursery Traineeship, which involves formal learning while working on the job.

The qualification for nursery supervisors who have either done formal training or learned their skills on the job is the Certificate IV in Horticulture (Nursery).

Priority skills include staff supervision and training, overseeing sales, coordinating production, promotion and managing budgets.

Nursery Manager

The nursery manager is likely to have significant responsibilities in managing a nursery operation:

  • Administering the business
  • Developing a production plan
  • Developing plant sales programs
  • Monitoring budgets and financial reports
  • Preparing estimates, quotes and tenders
  • Providing specialist advice on plants, products and treatments
  • Designing irrigation, drainage and water treatment systems

To obtain a Diploma in Horticulture (Nursery) you will have to demonstrate that you possess the necessary knowledge and skills and also that you can apply your knowledge to industry standards.

Priority skills include business administration, planning for production and plant sales programs, monitoring budgets and financial reports, and staff management.

* Source acknowledgement: Primary Skills Victoria »