Thinking about MG program- need advice!

lighter(z9 TX)December 9, 2007

Hi there:

I would like to seek some advice from Master Gardeners or those in the horticulture industry.

I have been a gardener for a very long time. Mostly container because I have always lived in an apartment in the middle of the city. I love gardening, there is something aobut flowers that amazes me. It is almost as if I have lost track of time when I look at my lilies at bloom.

I am considering a career in horitculture. I am very interested in greenhouse and grower work. I hold a degree in Psychology (ha!) and have tested various "office" careers, but nothing has given me that sense of "passion" yet. My mind has always traveled back to horticulture.

It has been a long goal of mine to become a Master Gardener (in Texas) and I have finally been presented with an opportunity to where I have the time and money to do it.

Here is my question: I am very hesitant to commit myself to another degree or graduate school without being absolutely sure this is what I want to do. Am I able to use the MG credential when looking for employment in horticulture?

I have read where some people say yes, it is great to get ahead/advance and there are some who feel that the title should only be used for your community. I definitely want to give back to my community via the MG status, it is something that I feel is the best part.

Bottom line: Does the horitculture community frown upon using the MG status when trying to advance or explore a career? If it is acceptable to use, would I even have a shot at getting a good horticulture job once I finish the program (just having a degree in any field is a plus too)?

I would really love to hear different opinions on this and any other advice that I could get. I'm still young, but I am certianly not getting any older. Just want to be sure, something tells me I am on the right path.


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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

You asked:
"Does the horticulture community frown upon using the MG status "

I don't know because it will vary from one person to another. Some value the MG as helpful background, some don't.

Beyond that, the quality of MG training varies from one county to another.

But the Extension Service does care, sort of.

That is, you can use your Master Gardener status on your resume but you can't use your Master Gardener badge and the like when on your regular job. (I hope that came out right.)

    Bookmark   December 10, 2007 at 12:38AM
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Call your extension office and talk to the hort agent there. He/she should have a good idea about conditions and opinions in your area regarding the MG program among the green industry. Jean is right in saying you can use the title as a credential on an application but not in your work outside the extension program.

Don't think the MG class will give you anything near the equivalent of a college degree in horticulture because it won't. There's just no way to pack that much knowledge in a 50 hour class. What it will give you is basic information on a broad range of topics with tons of resources to research any specific information you might need. I (only half-jokingly) tell people that being a master gardener means being a master "researcher!"

    Bookmark   December 10, 2007 at 8:48PM
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I was a FL MG for 9 yrs. before moving to TX 2 yrs. ago. I got a TERRIFIC education (and saved an ER trip when DD got stung by a scorpion & b/c of MG I knew how to treat her. Not to mention how I no longer was afraid of snakes b/c I could identify them, etc., etc.) My MG cert. got me an AWESOME job in landscaping -- I was solicited by a MG small-biz owner who preferred to hire MG's b/c he didn't have to train them. 2 others of our 20 person class got their dream jobs (1 was a biz office manager who chucked it all in & with MG cert. got a manager job at a HUGE Ace L&G dept. Another went from a manager at a fast-food rest. to a HD L&G employee who HD spent BIG bucks to further train in L&G. I was jealous!) Anyway, that's what I know happened to me & 2 others. I took the class, not for a great job, but b/c I just wanted to know and then share that knowledge with my community.
Where in TX are you that the program is coming up now? I'm in Mongomery Co. (n. of Houston) and I got preocuppied with life and missed our Sept. application. Next year. . . (if we're still living here. sigh.)

    Bookmark   December 11, 2007 at 2:40AM
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sandy0225(z5 Indiana)

It's a great place to network, and I sell a lot of plants from my greenhouse to other master gardeners. Also, it's been a good place to fine tune my presentation skills because they needed someone to do a program one month. It's not too hard to do a program to a room full of regular customers!

I don't think it would really advance you towards getting a job unless you wanted to use it to network to get a position with a greenhouse owner. But you could probably do that on your own anyway if you were so inclined.

You don't need a degree to be a grower or work for a greenhouse. Why don't you just jump in and see if you like it before you spend the $ for more training? Although some people like to go to school, my daughter is one. I think she would take classes just for the sake of being on campus. She loves school. If that's the way you are, then go ahead and take the classes.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2007 at 7:46AM
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I'm sure it will depend on the area in which you live as well as the course of horticulture you wish to follow (it's a very broad field), but the training and knowledge you develop as a MG should put you ahead of the rest of the pack when pursuing employment in this field. Some formalized training, regardless of how basic it might be, is better than none at all!!

But gardener sandy is correct in that your MG training will in no way approach the level of education/training you would obtain with a hort degree. While it is true that you do not necessarily need to have a degree or even the experience of the MG program to obtain employment in the greenhouse/growing aspect of the industry, you should be aware that the positions available and income potential are greatly increased by having formalized training. A great many positions specific to this area of the industry are simply manual labor and held primarily by immigrants and generally are at an extremely low pay scale.

I'd agree that pursuing your MG certification might be the best first step if you are interested in working in this field. It will certainly introduce you to the volumes of information one must assimilate and retain to pursue a successful career in horticulture and along the way you may be able to clarify just what type of hort career, if any, you want to achieve and exactly what additional training/education you might need to accomplish that goal. Besides, most MG's consider the MG program its own reward, both for the satisfaction of accomplishment, the giving back to the community and the fellowship of other MG'ers.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2007 at 10:42AM
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ltcollins1949(9a TX)

I took the MG class in the fall 1998 and have been very active with it since. I don't work, but I do lots and lots of garden-related volunteering. I suggest that you contact the State Texas Master Gardener Association to answer you question(s).

    Bookmark   December 28, 2007 at 9:37AM
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prettyphysicslady(8B/N. Houston)

I'm starting the master gardener class in Montgomery county in a couple of weeks.

A Master gardener program is a certificate - not a 'Master's Degree' in gardening. You have about 70 hours of class time and about 60 hours training/volunteer. A Master's degree would require 10 classes of 45 hours each and usually a test or paper at the end.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2008 at 12:25PM
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I came across your fairly old post while searching similar info for myself on becoming an MG. I am scheduled to begin MG training in Jan 2011. Like you, I also have a four year degree in psychology, but did not complete advanced training in it for a variety of reasons. I am looking into horticultural therapy (an area you might want to google and explore if you are not familiar with this field). I am also interested in historical horticulture, such as working on gardens for historical sites. While I certainly don't expect to a huge immediate career change for myself after earning this credential, I do plan to use this certification as a stepping stone for personal exploration, increased knowledge, and who knows, maybe a career change down the road. Because the MG programs are volunteer-oriented, your biggest benefit will be your increased knowledge of something you love, and networking, both of which could eventually land you a job or perhaps a business of your own in some aspect of horticulture that appeals to you. It's not a huge time commitment, nor a lot of money as compared to graduate school, so if you are looking to do something different, in a field that interests you, just go for it, and build upon it as you can or as you see fit down the road. I would love to hear back if you did decide to complete the program and where you are at with it in your life.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2010 at 11:02PM
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Hi there, I just completed the classroom portion of the MG program for Polk county IA. Honestly I never looked at the program as a career training opportunity. Our facilitators always emphasized that it was designed to be a training program for volunteers to work in the community gardens in the area.

Like you, I was looking for increased personal learning and exploration. I think if your program is similar to the one I experienced it will suit your goals to a tee. I think the increased knowledge part will also come from the opportunities to volunteer and work with other gardeners.

Enjoy your journey :-)

    Bookmark   January 1, 2011 at 10:30AM
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nmgirl(8 S.NM)

I don't know about other areas but in New Mexico you can't use your MG certification in a commercial manner or for personal financial benefit. Ex., landscapers can be certified MG's but can't advertise the fact or use it to gain business.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2011 at 1:38PM
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nmgirl is correct and that applies everywhere. The purpose of the universities and the counties sponsoring the MG program is to help in getting the messages about safe gardening practices to the gardening public. You should consider your self as a Master Gardener to be an educator, directed to the non professional amateur gardener. As a MG you will not receive ANY money and your benefit should be in what you learn, PLUS your experience with direct contact with the public will often bring to light a new confidence and public speaking ability. Al

    Bookmark   January 5, 2011 at 9:31AM
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nmgirl(8 S.NM)

Wow calistoga, I thought my growing zone was weird. Yours is the most elaborate I've seen so far, pretty impressive. Does all that include micro-climates?
; )

    Bookmark   January 5, 2011 at 10:46PM
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I have faith that GW will notice their web is in need of updating and I will tolerate the mess made of my zone as long you can refer to my page for correct information. Al

    Bookmark   January 6, 2011 at 9:44AM
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nmgirl(8 S.NM)

They are well aware of the issue.
I was trying to inject a little levity, guess it didn't work.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2011 at 9:43PM
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nmgirl thank you so much for getting GW to fix my zone. Al

    Bookmark   January 11, 2011 at 2:49PM
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