Wage & salary ranges in Southeast

idixierose(z8b Coastal SC)March 15, 2008

I'd like to hear about wage and salary ranges for horticultural and gardening work in the Southeast and in South Carolina in particular.

I work as a horticulturist in landscape maintenance for a real estate development & golf corporation that employees about 600 people. Starting hourly rate was $13/hour, plus health/life insurance, sick leave, vacation. Merit raises up to 4% per year.

Perhaps a union would help us better negotiate with the corporation.

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Surely you looked into pay before choosing the career?

What career would you compare skills and education with? My research has shown that a lot of fields really don't pay well, even with 2- or 4-year degrees and complicated and difficult work with bad hours, so if making money is a priority, you really do have to choose carefully.

Unions just cause expenses to go through the roof and profits to drop so low that companies close or move offshore.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 11:51PM
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hitexplanter(8 a)

Dang where do I apply. Come to Texas if you want to find out how cheap folks value horticulturists. You have to be in this field and work for someone else because you love it not for the pay. Go to work for yourself is the only way to get what you are worth and that may or may not pay what this company is currently paying. Your choice. I am thinking seriously about getting back on the self-employeed end because of this and I know I am worth way more than I am being paid but the reality is you give up the stability of security for the chance to work your butt off and hope at the end of the year you made more than you paid out. It is no picnic but it still the only time of my life where I made more money than working for some else. I am going on 50 with 22 years in this field half for myself and half working for some one else.
I wish you the best whatever you choose to do.
Happy Planting David

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 7:56AM
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Most of the people I know, doing basic entry level work in hort, in the Raleigh NC area, make around that hourly rate or a little less with either none of those benefits or some of them (but not all). I now work somewhere else doing something else entirely.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 10:24AM
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After having worked as a cog for a major corporation that tried their hardest to fire me without cause after each injury I sustained (two broken bones and a hernia), I have to ask if any of you union-bashers have ever worked for such a place? A union would've protected my rights. Don't believe the corporatist propaganda- part of the reason for the erosion of the middle class is the phenomenal job of union-busting that Reagan accomplished. God forbid we have a middle class!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 2:32PM
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The numbers in the original post sound like standard for the industry - perhaps better relative to the cost of living vs. up here - but 'standard for the industry' and 'competitive with other fields' are obviously two different things. Many lower paying fields no longer allow one to live even a modest existence any more, and hort is quickly becoming one of them. I agree with the premise that you're unlikely to get far unless you are working for yourself - it's unfortunate but true.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 4:03PM
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All true. This brings up a topic for another post I should make... "how did you escape from the field of horticulture?" LOL

    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 12:11AM
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My escape was forced onto me when the dermotologist started treating me for skin cancer (the mildest of the mild forms) when I was only 30!!! after a lifetime of wearing heavy duty sunscreen and a broad brimmed cowboy hat it sunk in that I was not built to work outside in the weather. So I got busy working with my other skill set (illustration, graphic design). I get what I need by gardening like a mad man and participating in local garden/nature themed events and activities.

I'm the odd guy in that I actually like my desk job, I have no desire to work with plants or animals all day like I did before (I was a zookeeper and exhibit designer when younger). I don't make a whole lot more money but I rarely put in a full 8 hours and no work comes home with me - it is a stress free situation. They even let me bring my dog to work! and its not a casual workplace.

For those want the details - I repeatedly have to be treated for minor skin cancer problems even though I now work inside and have for years. I'm now 50 years old and started wearing the highest level of sunscreen since I was 15, and wearing it daily because my grandfather was being carved up to remove skin cancers from his neck, ears and nose and I didn't want any part of it. I am the skin cancer classic = blue eyes, brown hair, ruddy complexion.

I also worked with people that came into the hort and animal keeping world from corporate hell that discovered that physical labor every day brought out all sorts of joint and back problems - something they never considered when they made their life changing decision.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 6:27PM
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Triangle John, your professional situation (not the cancer part.... I'm really sorry about that) sounds great to me. Every year my allergies get worse and I'm starting to experience some back problems. Of course I'd take that over skin cancer but just to make the point that there are reasons I wouldn't miss working outdoors a whole lot. Most importantly I'd really like to be able to use my brain a bit more, I'm worried if I don't start using it soon I'll lose it! In today's job market it's hard to find an ideal career path of escape where it's not too hard to get my foot in the door.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2008 at 12:30AM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

I'm in the interiorscaping field, that's a better starting package than the technicians get.

I never expected hort to pay a lot. I love it and will never leave unless the body gives out (rotator cuff issues, but they are manageable working as a tech as opposed to lots of heavy lifting at the garden center where I used to work).

I'm also transitioning into self-employment - twice as much money possible, with about two hundred times the stress.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2008 at 7:28AM
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At 44 years of age I left a desk job to work in greenhouses. I was a medical transcriptionist for 17 years and also worked as a medical secretary and other clerical positions. Being locked in a chair for 8-12 hours isn't good for the back either, and those who fail to walk for exercise end up with serious weight gain, pain and disc problems. And for me the worst was the depression from working inside, completely isolated, knowing that managers are trying to replace you with voice recognition software or foreigners in sweatshops a world away, convinced they are better at English than we are. Wages are approximately half what they were in 1990. So please don't go from the frying pan into the fire - do your research before investing in a new career.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 12:02AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Wage and salary rates depend upon the location, the skill level required, responsibility level, experience, and education.

I suspect that you might be in the Hilton Head area (my old stompin' ground) where there can be a very wide distribution of salaries. However, in most cases, landscape maintenance is typically rather low paying.

There are definitely some high dollar opportunities in that area, though. :-)

    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 4:09PM
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horse_chick(Sunset 26)

Wages can also depend on the size of the company.

I'm an interiorscape tech and I also hold our companys pest control license. I work for a small company (sole propriator)and my wages have been stagant for over 2 yrs. No raise of an kind. None.

I love the work. I even like person I work for but with over 15 yrs experience in this field AND an AA in Horticulture AND My state pest control certification, I'm thinking it may (sadly) be time to move on.

I make all of $13.50 an hour.

I never expected to get rich in this field but fair compensation for my knowledge and experience would go a long way in keeping me from looking for a new line of work or branching out on my own.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2008 at 9:11AM
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hitexplanter(8 a)

I too am moving on. After two years with this company as a garden center manager with over 20 years of in the field experience I was making $12 per hour and that just is not going to cut it. They didn't even blink when I handed them my resignation letter reminding them again of our starting point to present and why I am leaving. They will eventually find someone to replace me but the customers and revenue lost will take them a few years at least to recoup. Ask for what you are worth and stick to your guns. I am close to the pinnacle of my carrer at 50 years of age and am seriously looking at going back into business for myself. It will be tough, it will be a challenge, but the rewards for a job well done will also be mine so that is what I will do. Over this next 6 months I will search for a place to set up, build a business plan, consider financing and structral needs and decide if this will be a silent partnership or strictly a family owned business.

I may decide to work for a big box for a few months to understand their inner workings and the advantages and holes in there business concepts just so I am better prepared to go it alone. Do I feel bad for going into a place for employment just to understand them better for self gain? (No) because while I am there the customers I help will have a pro that knows his plants, chemicals, soils, irrigation, pests and diseases. The company will benefit and I will benefit all be it theirs will be temporary like their quarterly profit management style. I will carry away the knowledge that will stay with me forever and know their weaknesses and will exploit it endlessly. It is business and I will use every tool this world gives to make the best nursery, garden center I can for my underserved area and when the big boxes move closer at least I will know them from the inside out for what they are and aren't.

Just my part of my take on what I feel I need to do before making the plunge back into this my passion and my lively hood. I love what I can do to help folks with their gardening needs but am like so many others in this field frustated by the lack of real compensation for what I offer.

For all of you may this be your best Spring ever.

As for me, I will be ready next Spring to go back at it with all I can muster. I will make myself ready and look at this as pragmatically as I can so as to keep the passion in check so I can make all the right moves before I leap back into business for myself.
Happy Planting David

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 8:27AM
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Bogart(6 Ont.)

Being a self employed gardener up here in the great white north certainly does provide a much bigger wage than working for a landscape company, provided you have the qualifications and experience to justify it. Out of that wage comes, of course, a multitude of business expenses that eat up much of it.

For me, being self employed didn't come with the incredible benefits package I now have with my office job (working in a field quite far removed from gardening), which includes six weeks of paid vacation (!!!) a load of paid sick days (!!!) plus great medical/dental/life insurance/pension plan.

I sometimes miss being outdoors on those bright sunny days in the spring and fall, but I get my gardening fix working on my own land, with no one telling me what they don't like or asking for plants to be planted where they quite obviously wont thrive.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 1:31PM
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Here in N.E. Ohio the pay range is low for most folks working in established garden related businesses. We also have a large immigrant population that dilutes the wage pool. I am on my own, I got a late start, and I've been business for 10 years. I am a pro gardener, mostly bed maintenance. I charge $20-$25 depending per hour. I know of a few up-scale gardeners with no education charging more. I have weekly, and monthly clients, all female, and almost all are widows. They want the garden, and the pots and urns, and I provide 100% garden maintenance. It has been a good thing, but it is hard on your body, and at 33 when I jumped into this career, I had no idea how I would feel at 47 after edging all day with an english gardening spade.
Good luck to you, independence can be lonely, but you do have to pay the bills.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2008 at 11:42PM
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drexler(Z5 PITTSBURGH)

Well, my take on the wage is this: What do you feel you are worth? Really? You see, why do a job that you are qualified (or over qualified) to do if you are not going to get a FAIR pay for your time and experience.

I am a manager at a local chain restaurant. I usually put in around 55-60 hours each week. I spent 16 years with the company. I started with them when I was in HS making $4.25 and hour. The best money they ever paid me was $31,500 a year. That equals $11.00 /hour plus benefits and no bonus available.

What makes me sick is that I have a degree. The company would higher people in with less experience for $42,000. But that changes next week. I have been hired by a different company who will increase my pay by over 35% with bonus options. I can't agree more with what Hitexplanter says:

"I too am moving on. After two years with this company as a garden center manager with over 20 years of in the field experience I was making $12 per hour and that just is not going to cut it. They didn't even blink when I handed them my resignation letter reminding them again of our starting point to present and why I am leaving. They will eventually find someone to replace me but the customers and revenue lost will take them a few years at least to recoup. Ask for what you are worth and stick to your guns."

I do Landscaping work on the side in my SPARE TIME because I love to do it. My spare time is worth a whole lot! The work I do is a labor of love and not full time. (but if it was, I know I would be very successful)

I typically charge around $15 to $20 per hour for the work I do. Most people are not surprised by what I charge. My clients like to see me treat their project as if I OWN IT. I do exactly what they want done and add a few extras in here and their. In the end, I have very few complaints and get nice repeat business. Also, I love driving by the properties and seeing the owners enjoying my labor.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 1:38PM
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