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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.

  • Avg. Salary $59,186.00
  • Avg. Wage $29.21
  • Minimum Education 2 years post-secondary
  • Outlook N/A
  • Employed < 1500
  • In Demand Medium
Also Known As

Tree Nursery Operator, Farmer

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) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

Average Wage
  • Certification Provincially Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 10 kg
Interest Codes
The Nursery Operator is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Nursery and Greenhouse Operators and Managers

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

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 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 More

Updated Jul 07, 2016

Nursery operators run wholesale and retail horticultural firms ranging in size from small family businesses to operations employing over a hundred people on a full time or seasonal basis. They may deal with all kinds of trees and shrubs or specialize in a perennial herbaceous plants or a combination of a few kinds of trees. Therefore, their duties and responsibilities vary. However, 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 equipments including tree spades, pesticide sprayers and skid steers 
  • develop marketing plans
  • provide customers with information on the selection and care of 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 in nurseries:

  • 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 Jul 07, 2016

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.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 10 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Jul 07, 2016

Nursery operators need the following characteristics:

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

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.

Educational Requirements
Updated Jul 07, 2016

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.

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

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

Certification Requirements
Updated Jul 07, 2016

Pesticide Applicator and Dispenser

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

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. The 2 types of dispensers in Alberta are:

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

What You Need

Certification for applicators and dispensers require successful completion of an exam. A preparatory course is available through home study materials or classroom tutorials.

Individuals may become certified in one or more applicator classes. For detailed official information, read about the pesticide applicator and dispenser certification requirements on the Government of Alberta website.

Working in Alberta

Pesticide applicator and dispensers who are certified by and in good standing with a regulatory organization elsewhere in Canada may be eligible for certification in Alberta if certified pesticide applicators and dispensers in the two jurisdictions have similar responsibilities and competencies. For more information, see What if I am already certified in another province or territory in Canada? and the Government of Alberta website.

Contact Details

Alberta Environment and Parks
Government of Alberta
Box 24, 10320 - 99 Street, Main Floor
Grande Prairie, Alberta  T8V 6J4

Call: 780-538-6460
Toll-free within Alberta: 310-3773
Toll-free outside Alberta: 780-944-0313
Fax: 780-538-5336

Employment & Advancement
Updated Jul 07, 2016

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 and 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 in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the Agriculture 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 that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

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

Wage & Salary
Updated Jul 07, 2016

Earnings for nursery operators vary, especially for self-employed operators.

Managers of large nursery operations may earn considerably more than these figures suggest.

Managers in horticulture

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $13.85 $46.15 $26.64 $22.00
Overall $13.85 $50.26 $29.21 $25.00
Top $13.85 $54.63 $31.62 $30.00

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.

B: Good Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Good Reliability, represents a CV of between 6.01% and 15.00% and/or fewer than 30 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 50% of all estimated employment for the occupation.

Industry Information
Business, Building and Other Support Services

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 Jul 07, 2016

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry website:

Alberta Environment and Parks website:

Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (CNLA) website:

Landscape Alberta Nursery Trades Association website:

For more information on career planning, education and jobs call the Alberta Supports Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-644-9992 or 780-644-9992 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Supports Centre near you.

Updated Dec 11, 2012. 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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