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What Grounds Maintenance Workers Do About this section

Grounds maintenance workers
Grounds maintenance workers mow, edge, and fertilize lawns.

Grounds maintenance workers install and maintain landscapes, prune trees or shrubs, and do other tasks to ensure that vegetation is attractive, orderly, and safe.

Duties

Grounds maintenance workers typically do the following:

  • Mow, edge, and fertilize lawns
  • Weed and mulch landscape beds
  • Trim hedges, shrubs, and small trees
  • Remove dead, damaged, or unwanted trees or branches
  • Plant flowers, trees, shrubs, and other plants
  • Apply pesticides, herbicides, or other treatments to plants or soil
  • Water lawns, landscapes, and gardens
  • Monitor and maintain plant health

Grounds maintenance workers do a variety of tasks to achieve pleasant and functional environments. They care for outdoor grounds of businesses, homes, parks, and other spaces and for indoor plants in hotels, malls, botanical gardens, and other commercial and public facilities. They generally work under the direction of a landscaping, lawn service, or groundskeeping supervisor.

Depending on their specific tasks, grounds maintenance workers may use a variety of handheld tools (such as such as garden shears, spray applicators, and shovels) and power equipment (including lawnmowers, chain saws, and backhoes).

The following are examples of types of grounds maintenance workers:

Landscaping workers plant flowers, shrubs, trees, and other vegetation to create new outdoor spaces or to upgrade existing ones. They also trim, fertilize, mulch, and water plants. Some grade and install lawns or construct hardscapes such as walkways, patios, and decks. Others help install lighting or sprinkler systems. Landscaping workers attend to a variety of commercial and residential settings, such as apartment buildings, homes, hotels and motels, office buildings, and shopping malls.

Groundskeeping workers, also called groundskeepers, focus on property upkeep. Their duties include maintaining plants and trees, raking and mulching leaves, and laying sod. They also care for ornamental features, such as fountains, planters, and benches; clear snow and debris from walkways and parking lots; and tend to groundskeeping equipment. They work on many of the same settings that landscaping workers do, as well as on athletic fields, cemeteries, and other lands that need maintenance. 

Groundskeeping workers who care for athletic fields keep natural and artificial turf in top condition, mark boundaries, and may paint turf with team logos and names before events. They regularly mow, water, fertilize, and aerate natural fields and ensure that the underlying soil drains properly. They also vacuum and disinfect artificial turf to prevent growth of harmful bacteria and replace worn turf or cushioning periodically.

In parks and recreation facilities, groundskeepers care for lawns, trees, and shrubs. They also maintain playgrounds; clean buildings and inspect, repair, and paint them as needed; and keep parking lots, picnic areas, and other spaces free of litter. They may erect and dismantle snow fences and maintain swimming pools.

Some groundskeepers specialize in caring for cemeteries and memorial gardens. They dig graves to specified depths. They mow grass regularly, apply fertilizers and other chemicals, prune shrubs and trees, plant flowers, and remove debris from graves.

Greenskeepers maintain golf courses. Although similar overall to that of groundskeepers, their work on turf maintenance may be more complex. They also periodically relocate holes on putting greens and maintain canopies, benches, and tee markers along the course.

Pesticide handlers, sprayers, and applicators apply herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides to plants or soil to prevent or control weeds, insects, and diseases. They inspect lawns for problems and apply chemical or other treatments to stimulate growth and prevent or control threats to cultivated plants.

Tree trimmers and pruners, also called arborists, cut away dead or excess branches from trees or shrubs to clear utility lines, roads, sidewalks, and other areas. Some specialize in diagnosing and treating tree diseases. Others specialize in pruning, trimming, and shaping ornamental trees and shrubs.

Work Environment About this section

Grounds maintenance workers
Tree trimmers and pruners use chainsaws, chippers, and stump grinders while on the job.

Grounds maintenance workers held about 1.3 million jobs in 2021. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up grounds maintenance workers was distributed as follows:

Landscaping and groundskeeping workers 1,191,600
Tree trimmers and pruners 63,700
Pesticide handlers, sprayers, and applicators, vegetation 27,600
Grounds maintenance workers, all other 16,100

The largest employers of grounds maintenance workers were as follows:

Services to buildings and dwellings 45%
Self-employed workers 23
Government 7
Amusement, gambling, and recreation industries 7
Educational services; state, local, and private 3

Grounds maintenance work is usually done outdoors in all kinds of weather. The work may be repetitive and physically demanding, requiring frequent bending, kneeling, lifting, and shoveling.

Injuries and Illnesses

Grounds maintenance work may be dangerous. Workers who use equipment such as lawnmowers and chain saws must wear protective clothing, eyewear, and earplugs. Those who apply chemicals such as pesticides or fertilizers must wear protective gear, including appropriate clothing, gloves, goggles, and sometimes respirators.

Tree trimmers and pruners and grounds maintenance workers, all other, have some of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. ("All other" titles represent occupations with a wide range of characteristics that do not fit into any of the other detailed occupations.)

Although fatalities are uncommon, tree trimmers and pruners experience one of the highest rates of fatalities of all occupations. These workers are often at great heights and must use fall protection gear and wear hardhats and goggles for most activities.

Work Schedules

Most grounds maintenance workers are full time, and their work schedules may vary. These workers may be busier or work longer hours in the spring, summer, and fall, when planting, mowing, and trimming activities are most frequent.

Some jobs are seasonal. However, grounds maintenance workers sometimes provide other services during the winter months, such as snow removal.

How to Become a Grounds Maintenance Worker About this section

Grounds maintenance workers
Some workers study topics such as landscape design or horticulture.

Grounds maintenance workers typically do not need a formal educational credential and are trained on the job. States may require licensing for workers who apply pesticides or fertilizers.

Education

Entry-level grounds maintenance jobs typically have no formal education requirements, although employers may prefer to hire candidates who have a high school diploma or equivalent. Prospective grounds maintenance workers may benefit from studying topics such as landscape design, horticulture, or arboriculture.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most states require licensing for workers who apply pesticides. Licensing for workers who handle fertilizers varies by state. Obtaining a license usually involves passing a test on the proper use and disposal of insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides. Check with your state’s licensing official for more information.

Although professional certification is not required, it demonstrates competency and reliability for prospective clients and employers. For example, the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) and the Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS) offer credentials in landscaping and grounds maintenance for workers at various experience levels. The Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) and the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) offer certifications for tree care workers.

Training

Grounds maintenance workers typically need 1 month or less of on-the-job training to learn the skills they need, including how to plant and maintain areas and how to use mowers, trimmers, leaf blowers, small tractors, and other equipment. Pesticide sprayers, handlers, and applicators may need additional training that lasts up to 1 year. Large institutional employers such as golf courses, university campuses, and municipalities may supplement on-the-job training with instruction in horticulture, arboriculture, urban forestry, insect and disease diagnosis, tree climbing, or small-engine repair.

Advancement

Grounds maintenance workers who have other qualifications, such as formal education or several years of related experience, may become crew leaders or advance into other supervisory positions. Some workers use their experience to start their own business, such as a landscaping company.

Important Qualities

Ability to work at heights. Tree trimmers and pruners and other grounds maintenance workers must be comfortable working high off the ground when cutting tree limbs and branches.

Communication skills. Grounds maintenance workers must be able to convey information and instructions to clients, customers, and supervisors.

Dexterity. Grounds maintenance workers must have good eye, foot, and hand coordination when using dangerous or heavy equipment such as backhoes, mowers, and tractors.

Physical stamina. Grounds maintenance workers must be able to do strenuous labor for long periods of time, occasionally in extreme heat or cold.

Physical strength. These workers may need to be able to lift heavy equipment or supplies.

Self-motivated. Because they often work with little supervision, grounds maintenance workers must be able to do their tasks independently.

Visualization. Grounds maintenance workers must be able to imagine how plants, shrubs, trees, and other landscaping will look before planting or trimming.

Pay About this section

Grounds Maintenance Workers

Median hourly wages, May 2021

Total, all occupations

$22.00

Grounds maintenance workers

$17.05

Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations

$14.54

 

The median hourly wage for grounds maintenance workers was $17.05 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $11.68, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $23.18.

Median hourly wages for grounds maintenance workers in May 2021 were as follows:

Tree trimmers and pruners $22.58
Pesticide handlers, sprayers, and applicators, vegetation 18.40
Grounds maintenance workers, all other 17.57
Landscaping and groundskeeping workers 16.55

In May 2021, the median hourly wages for grounds maintenance workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Educational services; state, local, and private $18.24
Services to buildings and dwellings 17.46
Government 15.97
Amusement, gambling, and recreation industries 14.20

Most grounds maintenance workers are full time, and their work schedules may vary. These workers may be busier or work longer hours in the spring, summer, and fall, when planting, mowing, and trimming activities are most frequent.

Some jobs are seasonal. However, grounds maintenance workers sometimes provide other services during the winter months, such as snow removal.

Job Outlook About this section

Grounds Maintenance Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2021-31

Grounds maintenance workers

5%

Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations

5%

Total, all occupations

5%

 

Overall employment of grounds maintenance workers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 179,600 openings for grounds maintenance workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Landscaping and groundskeeping workers will be needed to keep up with increasing demand for lawn care and landscaping services from homeowners and from large institutions, such as universities and corporate campuses. As communities invest resources in creating more green spaces in urban areas, the demand for ground maintenance workers to plant and maintain these landscapes will increase.

Employment projections data for grounds maintenance workers, 2021-31
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2021 Projected Employment, 2031 Change, 2021-31 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Grounds maintenance workers

37-3000 1,299,000 1,360,300 5 61,300 Get data

Landscaping and groundskeeping workers

37-3011 1,191,600 1,248,500 5 56,900 Get data

Pesticide handlers, sprayers, and applicators, vegetation

37-3012 27,600 29,200 6 1,600 Get data

Tree trimmers and pruners

37-3013 63,700 65,900 3 2,100 Get data

Grounds maintenance workers, all other

37-3019 16,100 16,800 5 700 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about tree trimmers and pruners, including certification, visit

International Society of Arboriculture

Tree Care Industry Association

For information about landscaping and groundskeeping workers, visit

National Association of Landscape Professionals

Professional Grounds Management Society

For information about becoming a licensed pesticide applicator, contact your state’s licensing official.

O*NET

Grounds Maintenance Workers, All Other

Landscaping and Groundskeeping Workers

Pesticide Handlers, Sprayers, and Applicators, Vegetation

Tree Trimmers and Pruners

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