What is a Horticulture Degree?

Horticulture is the branch of plant agriculture concerned with garden crops and ornamental plants. Degree programs in the field teach future horticulturists the science and art of cultivating both fruits and vegetables and flowers. The typical curriculum incorporates classes in:

• Environmental and Horticulture Biology
• Chemistry
• Entomology – the study of insects and their relationship to humans, the environment, and other organisms
• Floral Design – the seven principles of floral design: proportion, scale, harmony, rhythm, balance, unity, and emphasis
• Forestry
• Genetics
• Ornamental / Landscape Horticulture – the production and use of plants to beautify outdoor spaces
• Floriculture – the production and use of flowers, potted plants, and annual bedding plants
• Plant Pathology – the science of plant diseases
• Plant Physiology – the study of how different parts of plants function
• Plant Propagation – the process of creating new plants
• Plant Taxonomy – the science of identifying, classifying, and naming plants
• Soil Science – the branch of science concerned with the formation, ecology, and classification of soil
• Vegetable and Fruit Crops
• Weed Science – the study of vegetation management

Program Options

Associate Degree in Horticulture – Two Year Duration
Many students who earn an Associate Degree in Horticulture go on to continue their studies in the field at the bachelor’s level. Others enter the horticulture workforce in junior/support roles.

Here are some examples of classes that make up the horticulture associate curriculum:

• Soil management
• Landscape design
• Plant identification
• Plant biotechnology
• Urban ecology

Bachelor’s Degree in Horticulture – Four Year Duration
With a Bachelor’s Degree in Horticulture, graduates are well prepared to compete for various positions in the field, from greenhouse and nursery manager or marketer to landscape architect and horticultural researcher.

The typical horticulture curriculum at the bachelor’s level includes courses like the following:

• Fundamentals of Horticulture
• Woody Plants – the study of trees, shrubs, and vines
• Equipment Maintenance – the operation, maintenance, and repair of equipment used in horticulture
• Horticulture Business Management – the business aspects of horticulture: budgets, tax laws, marketing, business plans
• Art of Floral Design – the aesthetic principles of floral design
• Soils
• Herbaceous Plants – the identification, culture and designs for native and cultivated annuals, perennials, bulbs, and wildflowers
• Interior Plantscaping
• Greenhouse Management – the basic concepts and principles utilized in greenhouse operation
• Food Crops – Community Sustainable Agriculture
• Nursery Operation – the operation of wholesale and retail nurseries
• Trees – The Urban Landscape – the examination of efforts to integrate trees into the urban landscape
• Arboriculture – the biology and care of trees
• Turf Management – an environmental approach to lawn maintenance and use of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides
• Public Horticulture – horticultural management in the public realm: botanic gardens, zoos, community gardens, and parks
• Flower Shop Management
• Horticultural Therapy – the design of therapeutic horticultural spaces for the physically and developmentally disabled, the visually impaired, and for those in healthcare settings
• Landscape Restoration – how to restore and manage meadows, forests, and wetlands

Master’s Degree in Horticulture – Two to Three Year Duration
Students who earn a Master’s Degree in Horticulture qualify for a diverse range of positions in the field. They may work in production, management, marketing, education, and research.

At this level of education, the general curriculum and thesis research may address topics like:

• Bioactive plant components
• Dietary intervention / cancer prevention
• Ecophysiology – the study of how the physical and biological environment interacts with the physiology of an organism
• Enology – the study of wines
• Environmental and stress physiology – the study of the physiological mechanisms that allow animals to cope with and adapt to changes in temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, and other natural factors of their physical environment
• Floriculture
• Fruit/vegetables
• Germplasm conservation – the most successful method of conserving the genetic traits of endangered and commercially valuable species
• Greenhouse technology
• Landscape ecology
• Landscape/ornamental plants
• Landscape water conservation/xeriscapes – landscaping designed for areas susceptible to drought
• Organic/sustainable production
• Plant antioxidants
• Plant tissue culture
• Potato breeding
• Potato production management
• Potato storage physiology
• Rhizosphere biology/ecology – the rhizosphere is the zone of soil surrounding a plant root where the biology and chemistry of the soil are influenced by the root
• Turfgrass science – the study of grasses, soils, water, and pests
• Viticulture – the cultivation and harvesting of grapes

Doctoral Degree in Horticulture – Three to Five Year Duration
At the doctoral level, Ph.D. candidates develop an original research program in consultation with faculty members. This original research is expected to contribute to the science of horticulture.

Degrees Similar to Horticulture

Degree programs in this field teach students how to investigate the growth and behavior of crops, the development of new plants, the soils and nutrients that nourish them, and the control of pests and diseases.

Botany is the study of the physiology, structure, genetics, ecology, distribution, classification, and economic importance of plants. Degree programs in the field include courses in biochemistry, microbiology, photosynthesis, and plant evolution.

Forestry degree programs teach students how to conserve and manage forests through sustainable practices. This means the curriculum covers both preserving biodiversity, as well as producing wood products in ecologically responsible ways. Classes also address contemporary issues like climate change, carbon management, and how to plan and manage urban forests or green spaces in metropolitan areas.

Landscape Architecture
Landscape architecture students learn how to apply both the creative and technical skills of architecture to plan outdoor spaces and landscapes, such as parks, gardens, playgrounds, residential areas, and college campuses. The curriculum includes computer-aided design (CAD) and courses specific to landscape architecture, such as horticulture, hydrology, geology, environmental design, and landscape design.

Soil Science
Soil science degree programs are focused on the formation, ecology, and classification of soil. Students take courses in seed science, fertilizers, geology, weed science, and genetics.

Skills You'll Learn

Horticulture students develop several transferable skills, including:

• Communication and teamwork
• Planning and organization
• Attention to detail
• Project management
• Capacity to work in physically demanding environments
• Health and safety awareness
• Flexibility
• IT skills

What Can You Do with a Horticulture Degree?

Horticulture graduates can apply their education in many different kinds of work:

• Production and Sales – operating a landscape service, nursery, garden center, plant shop, vegetable farm, or orchard
• Public Gardens – managing plant collections in conservatories and public gardens
• Marketing – wholesale or retail marketing and sales of fruits, vegetable, seeds, cut flowers, etc.
• Research – developing techniques for improving the yield and quality of fruits, vegetables, plants, and flowers
• Teaching – teaching horticulture in high schools, technical schools, and universities
• Consulting – working with seed firms, canning and freezing companies, and fertilizer manufacturers; advising communities and cities on grass selection for parks and golf courses
• Inspection – conducting inspection of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables for government or private agencies
• Landscape Construction and Management – installing landscape projects
• Landscape Design – creating gardens
• Pest management – working with regulatory agencies, agricultural suppliers, and large farms
• Horticultural Journalism – writing for farm and garden magazines, television, and radio
• Plant Pathology – conducting lab experiments on plant matter to determine the nature of diseases that attack plants
• Ornamental Horticulture – working in the florist and landscaping fields
• Horticultural Technology – planting and maintaining plant life used in the food, medical, and decorative sectors


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