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Nursery Operator

Nursery operators plan, organize and direct the activities of nursery staff who propagate, grow and market trees, shrubs and perennial plants.

Also Known As

Farmer, Tree Nursery Operator

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Nursery and Greenhouse Operators and Managers (8254) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Nursery and Greenhouse Operators and Managers (I014) 
  • 2011 NOC: Managers in horticulture (0822) 
  • 2016 NOC: Managers in horticulture (0822) 
  • 2021 NOC: Managers in horticulture (80021) 
Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Nursery and Greenhouse Operators and Managers

2006 NOC: 8254

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group

Interest in supervising staff in planting, transplanting, feeding and spraying stock; and in hiring staff and overseeing training, in setting work schedules and in determining types and quantities of stock


Interest in co-ordinating information to organize nursery and greenhouse operations; and in ordering materials such as fertilizer, garden and lawn care equipment, and other nursery and greenhouse accessories


Interest in providing information to customers on gardening and the care of trees, shrubs, flowers, plants and lawns

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 

It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective, and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes for this NOC group is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn About Interests


Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

Updated Mar 31, 2017

Nursery operators run wholesale and retail horticultural firms ranging in size from small family businesses to operations employing over 100 people on a full time or seasonal basis. They may deal with all kinds of trees and shrubs or specialize in perennial herbaceous plants or in a few kinds of trees. Therefore, their duties and responsibilities vary. In general, nursery operators:

  • determine the varieties and quantities of trees, shrubs and perennials to grow
  • determine the environmental conditions required to grow the plants selected and set planting and care schedules accordingly
  • program irrigation control computers
  • supervise staff in planting, transplanting, pruning, feeding and spraying trees and shrubs
  • identify and control problems caused by insects, rodents, birds, diseases and weeds
  • develop and implement an integrated pest management (IPM) plan
  • ensure the safe handling, use, storage and disposal of pesticides
  • operate a variety of equipment including tree spades, pesticide sprayers and skid steers
  • develop marketing plans
  • provide customers with information on selecting and caring for trees and shrubs
  • order equipment and supplies and oversee equipment maintenance
  • hire, train and supervise staff
  • prepare budgets and maintain records.

In smaller operations, nursery operators also may perform some of the hands-on work. They may:

  • prepare soil for planting
  • set up and maintain irrigation systems
  • construct greenhouses or other protective structures for seedlings
  • plant seeds and cuttings, graft plants, transplant seedlings and rooted cuttings, and train and prune plants
  • remove weeds, spray plants with pesticides and apply fertilizers
  • dig, prune and transplant trees and shrubs
  • prepare trees and shrubs for sale or shipment.
Working Conditions
Updated Mar 31, 2017
  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg

Nursery operators work outdoors in fields and shade houses and indoors in greenhouses and offices. They often work long, irregular hours, particularly in the spring and summer months. The work can be hectic at times, and satisfying customer needs can be stressful. Some of the hands-on work is strenuous; lifting up to 20 kilograms may be required.

Traits & Skills
Updated Mar 31, 2017

Nursery operators need:

  • self-motivation and the ability to direct and motivate others
  • patience
  • attention to detail
  • manual dexterity
  • good decision-making skills
  • computer skills
  • no severe allergies to plants, tree pollen, pesticides or other chemicals

Those in retail operations also must be able to deal courteously and effectively with the public.

Nursery operators should enjoy directing the work of others, organizing nursery operations and providing information to customers.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Top 10 Skills Employers Are Looking For

Managers in horticulture

2016 NOC: 0822

This chart shows which job skills are currently in highest demand for this occupational group. It was created using this occupation's 10 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Dec 03, 2021 and May 29, 2023.

Review these skills to learn:

  • Whether or not this occupation matches your skill set
  • What training you may need to get these skills
  • What skills to highlight in your resumé, cover letter, and interview.
Type of Crops: Tomatoes
Tasks: Supervise staff in planting, transplanting, feeding and spraying
Type of Crops: Cucumbers
Construction Specialization: Team player
Construction Specialization: Effective interpersonal skills
Construction Specialization: Flexibility
Construction Specialization: Judgement
Construction Specialization: Organized
Type of Crops: Strawberries
Attention to detail
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2017
  • Minimum Education 2 years post-secondary

In the past, many nursery operators worked their way up to supervisory positions by learning on the job and taking related courses. However, graduates of horticulture education programs have a better chance of advancing to supervisory and management positions than those who do not have related post-secondary education.

Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

The Landscape Alberta Nursery Trades Association offers short courses and workshops in horticulture.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2017
  • Certification Provincially Regulated

Pesticide Applicator and Dispenser

Pesticide applicators use pesticides (chemicals) as part of their paid employment to control pests such as weeds, diseases, or destructive insects or animals.

Pesticide dispensers sell and store pesticides as part of their paid employment.


Under Alberta’s Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act [pdf] and Pesticide (Ministerial) Regulation [pdf], to apply a commercial-class pesticide such as insecticide, herbicide, or fungicide, you must be one of the following:

  • A commercial agriculturalist (farmer)
  • A certified pesticide applicator
  • Supervised by someone who is certified

To sell pesticides, you must be a certified dispenser. There are 2 types of dispensers in Alberta:

  • Lawn and garden pesticide dispensers, who sell domestic-class pesticides
  • Commercial dispensers, who sell domestic, commercial, and restricted-class pesticides

For information on what you need and other details, visit the certification profile Pesticide Applicator and Dispenser.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 31, 2017

Most nursery operators are self-employed or employed as retail or wholesale nursery managers. Some work for government departments and research centres.

Nursery operators generally start in junior positions, then work their way up or start their own businesses. Nursery worker positions may be full time, part time or seasonal. Advancement depends on performance and the availability of supervisory positions.

Nursery operators are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 0822: Managers in horticulture. In Alberta, 90% of people employed in this classification work in the Agricultural [pdf] industry.

The employment outlook [pdf] in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the Agricultural industry)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions)
  • size of the occupation

In Alberta, the 0822: Managers in horticulture occupational group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 0.1% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 1 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: 2019-2023 Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Related Alberta Job Postings
Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2017

Earnings for nursery operators vary, especially for self-employed operators. Managers of large nursery operations may earn considerably more.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Managers in horticulture

2016 NOC: 0822
Average Wage
Per Hour
Average Salary
Per Year
Average Hours
Per Week
Average Months on Payroll
Survey Methodology Survey Analysis

2021 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey

NOC 0822 Wage Profile

Unless otherwise noted, the data shown here is for all industries and all regions in Alberta.

All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production), and other forms of compensation.

To see the full survey data for this NOC group, visit the wage profile.

Other wage sources
To make an informed wage and salary decision, research other wage sources [pdf] to supplement this data.

C: Lower Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Lower Reliability, represents a CV of between 15.01% and 33.00% and/or if fewer than 20 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 33% of all estimated employment for the occupation.

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $16.83 $52.45 $33.94 $34.97
Overall $28.08 $55.00 $39.44 $36.06
Top $28.08 $57.69 $40.75 $35.08

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

Pay brackets for hourly wages

  • Starting pay: average pay offered for entry-level positions
  • Overall pay: average pay across all employees in this occupation
  • Top pay: average pay offered to top-paid employees

Industry Information


Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years
Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties
Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months
Vacancy Rate
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Agriculture and Related Technologies
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 31, 2017

Government of Alberta website, Agriculture and Forestry:

Government of Alberta website, Environment and Parks:

Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (CNLA) website:

Landscape Alberta Nursery Trades Association website:

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 31, 2017. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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