Nursery Worker

Note: Completion of a TAFE SA course does not guarantee an employment outcome. Formal requirements other than educational qualifications (eg licensing, professional registration), may apply to some occupations.

Job Prospects Openings 5 years to November 2019: < 5,000
Salary Range Median weekly earnings: $921 to $1050 to Source: Australian Government Department of Employment 2015
Brief "Nursery work is a wonderful job if you love the outdoors and enjoy plants," says Sally, a nursery worker.

There are currently around 100 nurserypersons employed in South Australia. Employment is largely full-time and most work in the agriculture, forestry and fishing and retail trade industries. Over half of persons in this occupation are male and over half are employed in the Adelaide metropolitan area. This occupation has a slightly older age profile with close to half of nursery workers aged 45 years or older.

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TAFE SA courses that may be relevant for: Nursery Worker

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Being surrounded by the forest green leaves of trees or the perfumed petals of gardenias, may seem like a holiday to some, but its what nursery workers get to enjoy every day. Nursery workers are engaged in the growing and selling of plants. Production nursery workers cultivate plants from seeds or cuttings and care for them until they are ready for sale. Retail nursery workers then step in and care for plants awaiting sale in retail nurseries.

OutdoorPractical and Manual

Education Requirements

Approximately 30% of nursery workers have Certificate II or Certificate IV and 13% have Bachelor Degrees. While there are 53% of workers who have no post school qualifications it is recommended that you gain the available qualifications to have the best possible chance of employment.

TAFE SA offers courses relevant to this occupation including the Diploma of Horticulture and Diploma of Landscape Design. Pathways include the Certificate II, III and IV in Horticulture, Certificate II and III in Production Horticulture, Certificate III and IV in Irrigation and Certificate III in Sports Turf Management.

SA Apprenticeships are available in this occupation for further information go to the Traineeship & Apprenticeship Services Website at or phone the Freecall number 1800 673 097.

Career Path

Robotic equipment, used to seed and pot plants, have been introduced into some of the larger nurseries and will eventually decrease the overall demand for workers, especially in larger production nurseries. In the meantime, demand for nursery workers tends to be very seasonal, increasing significantly over the holiday periods and in the springtime. Work may be found in wholesale, production or retail nurseries or in department stores selling plants and gardening products. Some nurseries may have both retail and production outlets. There are also employment opportunities in related horticultural fields such as bushland regeneration, landscape gardening and turf management (though not strictly a part of the nursery industry). ''Turf management is a huge and growing area. All bowling greens, golf courses and local governments require this expertise. You may end up as a curator of a golf course or the curator of AAMI stadium,'' says Barry Waldeck, owner of a nursery.

Nature of the Job

Whether working in production nurseries or retail outlets, nursery workers play an important role in the maintenance of plants. Their time is spent weeding and pruning and removing any dead or damaged leaves from the plants so that new growth can occur. In cases where there are no automated irrigation systems, nursery workers hand water and fertilise plants, making sure that they receive the correct concentration of fertiliser and the right amount of water. They also identify plant diseases and determine the best way to eliminate them, so that plants don't have to be thrown away. Some plants just love the sun, so having them tucked away in the greenhouse is not going to help them grow. Nursery workers need to understand the environmental conditions that suit particular plant varieties, including factors such as the PH level of soil (acid or alkaline). Rapid changes in pest control, plant breeding and propagation techniques means that there is a constant need for updating of skills and knowledge. No matter whether you're working in propagation or retail, the work is often physically demanding and carried out in varying weather conditions. "Being a nursery worker isn't for everyone!" warns Shaye, a local nursery worker. "Its hard, physical work and you definitely have to be an outdoors person, someone who doesn't mind getting their hands dirty."

Typical Physical Working Environment

"You need to keep up with new plant releases and tune in to the gardening shows on television. Its very common to have customers request a plant they saw on 'Backyard Blitz' the day or week before," says Shaye. Customer service is a big part of the job of retail nursery workers. They are constantly dealing with questions from customers who expect polite, friendly and informed responses to questions like "How do I grow this plant?" or "Which pot do you think will go best with this cactus?"

As a nursery worker, you must enjoy practical and mechanical activities. You also need to be able to undertake manual and heavy work and work safely with chemicals and machinery. Nursery workers may be required to work for long hours and they also work outdoors in all sorts of weather conditions.

Typical Occupational Example

Like any store, retail nurseries must be kept clean. A retail nursery worker sweeps the floors and ensures that displays of plants and other products are presentable at all times. It also helps if you have good communication skills and a fashionable and artistic eye for advising clients about what's going to look good around their home. Major changes in the industry are also starting to impact upon the skills requirements for nursery workers. Cash registers are becoming computerised and stock is bar coded, so nursery workers also have to be competent in the use of computers.

For further information, contact:

Nursery and Garden Industry of SA Inc
505 Fullarton Rd Netherby SA 5062
Ph: (08) 8372 6822 or (08) 8271 1012
Fax: (08) 8372 6833
Internet Address:

Australian Institute of Horticulture Inc.
PO Box 2190, Delivery Centre Bendigo VIC 3554
Ph: (02) 8001 6198
Fax: (02) 8001 6179
Internet Address:

Agri-Food Skills Australia
Ph: (02) 6163 7200
Fax: (02) 6162 0610

Further Information

For further information about all TAFE SA Courses, phone 1800 882 661 or enquire online