Parks Officer

The Job and What's Involved

Public parkParks officers work for local councils and private companies managing parks and open and green spaces for the benefit of local residents and visitors. They supervise and allocate work to teams of gardeners and landscaping staff.

Their main tasks are usually to:

  • Organise the maintenance of parks and open spaces, e.g. mowing grass, re-turfing, adding fertiliser and weeding.
  • Plan landscaping and planting of flowers, shrubs and trees.
  • Organise planting programme's at appropriate times of year.
  • Arrange areas and facilities designated for sports and recreation purposes.
  • Work with community and volunteer groups.
  • Organise and plan events in parks.
  • Ensure that environmental and conservation needs are taken into account.

Much of their time is spent checking on the progress and quality of maintenance and planting programme's. They manage teams of two or three people to around 20, according to the number of sites and the areas covered.

Parks officers also:

  • Ensure vehicles and equipment used by their teams are maintained in good and safe condition.
  • Plan ahead to ensure equipment, materials and human resources are available at the right times of year.
  • Work with other members of staff, such as ground maintenance staff or landscape architects, to regenerate or develop horticultural features, such as plant beds.
  • Ensure health and safety guidelines are followed, monitoring the safety and condition of features and facilities, such as play areas.
  • Prepare estimates and ensure they work to budgets.
  • Ensure staff receive all the necessary training.

Some officers have a development role, which involves:

  • Establishing the future needs of parks and open spaces by consulting with park users and members of the community.
  • Planning new parks or redeveloping existing ones.
  • Preparing proposals and writing reports.

Parks officers work closely with colleagues in their company or local council.

Parks officers work standard office hours, but may need to be flexible according to the season and jobs in hand. They may occasionally have to work evenings or weekends.

There is some office-based work, but most of their time is spent outdoors in all weathers, visiting parks, open spaces, sports areas or depots where teams and equipment are based. The work involves a considerable amount of walking around sites. Some parks officers manage work at sites that are some distance apart, so a driving licence may be needed.

Starting salaries are usually from around £17,000 a year. Experienced parks officers can earn up to around £27,000.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Jobs are available throughout the UK, working for local councils and private businesses involved in park and open space management.

Vacancies may be advertised in local newspapers and in specialist press, on local government jobs site www.lgjobs.com and on individual council website's. Jobs bulletins may be available from local councils, libraries and local community and employment offices. There are also job search website's, such as www.horticulturejobs.co.uk

Education and Training

There are no set qualifications for entry to this job, but most employers expect applicants to have at least five GCSE's (A*-C) and some qualifications or experience in horticulture or landscape work. Practical work experience or voluntary work is useful.

The Diploma in environmental and land-based studies could be a useful starting point.

Other qualifications include:

  • BTEC National Certificate and Diploma in countryside management.
  • BTEC Higher National Diploma (HND) in horticulture.
  • ABC Level 2 and 3 Diploma in work-based horticulture.
  • ABC Level 3 Award in design and landscape skills.
  • City & Guilds (C&G)/NPTC Level 3 Advanced National Certificate in countryside management.
  • Foundation and honours degrees in subjects related to horticulture, landscape design or green space and landscape management.

As a guide, minimum requirements for entry on to a foundation degree or HND are normally one A level and four GCSE's (A*-C), or equivalent; for a degree course the minimum requirements are normally two A levels and five GCSE's (A*-C), usually including English and maths, or equivalent.

Entry requirements do vary, so applicants should check with individual institutions.

It may also be possible to enter this career on an Apprenticeship scheme.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

Some applicants start their careers as gardeners or groundsmen/women and work their way up, taking horticultural or management courses. Applicants with management qualifications or other local amenity management experience may also be considered.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training is usually given on the job, under the supervision of a senior parks officer or manager. Employers usually also offer training opportunities in health and safety, management skills, first aid and specialist horticultural techniques.

Many colleges, training organisations and bodies such as the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) offer courses in horticulture and related subjects. The Institute for Sport, Parks and Leisure (ISPAL) offers continuing professional development (CPD) and a range of courses.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A parks officer should:

  • Have a good knowledge of parks management and landscape design.
  • Be enthusiastic, with the ability to motivate staff, colleagues and local residents.
  • Be a good planner and project manager, able to prioritise tasks.
  • Have good staff management and delegation skills.
  • Have excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • Understand health and safety issues.
  • Be able to work within budgets and to meet deadlines.
  • Have the administrative and computer skills needed for planning and budgeting.

Your Long Term Prospects

There may be opportunities for promotion to senior parks officer or manager, especially in councils with larger parks departments. Some people move to management positions in other areas of council work.

Promotion opportunities may be more limited in some private companies. Employees sometimes progress by moving into other areas of amenity and leisure management.

Get Further Information

Grow Your Own Career in Horticulture
Website: www.growcareers.info

The Institute of Gardening,
Overbrook Business Centre,
Poolbridge Road, Blackford,
Wedmore BS28 4PA
Tel: 0800 781 1715
Website: www.inst.org/garden

The Institute of Groundsmanship,
28 Stratford Office Village, Walker Avenue,
Wolverton Mill East, Milton Keynes MK12 5TW
Tel: 01908 312511
Website: www.iog.org

The Institute of Horticulture,
Capel Manor College, Bullsmoor Lane,
Enfield EN1 4RQ
Tel: 01992 707025
Website www.horticulture.org.uk

The Institute of Sports, Parks and Leisure (ISPAL),
Abbey Business Centre, 1650 Arlington Business Park,
Theale, Reading RG7 4SA
Tel: 0845 603 8734
Website: www.ispal.org.uk

Landex
Website: www.landex.org.uk

Landscape Institute (LI),
33 Great Portland Street, London W1W 8QG
Tel: 020 7299 4500
Website: www.landscapeinstitute.org

Lantra, Lantra House,
Stoneleigh Park, Near Coventry,
Warwickshire CV8 2LG
Tel: 0845 707 8007
Websites: www.lantra.co.uk www.lantracoursefinder.co.uk
and www.afuturein.com

Professional Gardeners' Guild
Website: www.pgg.org.uk

Royal Horticultural Society (RHS),
80 Vincent Square, London SW1P 2PE
Tel: 0845 260 5000
Website: www.rhs.org.uk

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