There are many career paths in the world of gardening, lawn care, and landscaping. There are also many paths of education that may suit your particular interests and abilities. This is a working list of educational resources for people looking to work in garden and plant related fields. It is by no means extensive, and if you have any suggestions for additions, please let us know! We’re focusing on education available to people in Western Pennsylvania, but will include online resources that are available to everyone, so no matter where you are there may be something of value to you.
Degrees and certificates
Penn State University – Being PA’s official agricultural college, Penn State offers many garden related courses of study from turf grass management to landscape architecture, and everything in between. Many programs can be taken virtually or at one of Penn State’s many regional campuses.
Bidwell Training Center – The Horticulture Technology Program at Bidwell Training Center has been providing students with real knowledge and experience to enter the industry immediately upon graduation. Students work in the Drew Mathieson Greenhouse, work with local organizations, and do an externship before graduation. The best part is, attending Bidwell comes at no cost to the student. If you have 7 months to study, you can come out of school debt-free and well prepared for a career in many horticulture disciplines.
Penn State Extension – Penn State Extension offers many services, one of the most valuable being education. Courses can be free or for a fee, for information or for a certificate, for the lay person or for the professional. They seriously offer courses on a wide variety of topics: Forest management, viticulture, gardening, tree climbing (for arborists), retirement planning for farmers, and much much more. I’ve learned a lot from many Penn State Extension courses and have picked up a couple certificates along the way too!
Tree Pittsburgh or Tree Vitalize – Join them for a tree id walk or better yet become a certified tree tender. Or, just get your hands dirty and volunteer to plant trees with them. Lots of great learning with these community organizations.
Online education –
Coursera and Udemy are two online learning platforms that offer courses on horticulture. The Offerings at Coursera tend to be more academic in nature, but I took a really good course Understanding Plants: What a Plant Knows from Tel Aviv University. It was very informative and gave great scientific background into the biological workings of plants. On Udemy, you get things that are more practical, and it tends to be a bit more affordable. I’ve taken courses on Udemy on plant propagation, pest identification, landscape design, and more.
Youtube – If you can avoid distractions you can find info on any gardening topic on youtube. Whatever garden project I’m going to do, I love to research how others have done it before me too. I’ve learned skills on youtube like how to change the rip cord on my lawnmower, how to breed your own pepper crosses, and much more. I’m not going to recommend specific channels right now, but usually a search will reveal plenty about any gardening topic.
Volunteer opportunities (for hands on learning)
Western Pennsylvania Conservancy – With gardens throughout Western PA there are plenty of opportunities to plant or maintain gardens. Maybe even right in your neighborhood.
Tree Pittsburgh or Tree Vitalize – I listed these groups under continuing education too because of the tree tender course, but volunteering with them is a great way to get outdoors and learn the proper way to plant trees.
Pleasant Hills Arboretum – I love the arboretum, and have volunteered with them, but haven’t in a while (haven’t heard about any of their volunteer days). Try their contact page. A lot of the work is mulching, removing invasive species, and caring for young trees. Great group of people, great location, great local treasure!