Parks 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:
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:
Some officers have a development role, which involves:
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.
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
A parks officer should:
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.
Grow Your Own Career in Horticulture
The Institute of Gardening,
Overbrook Business Centre,
Poolbridge Road, Blackford,
Wedmore BS28 4PA
Tel: 0800 781 1715
The Institute of Groundsmanship,
28 Stratford Office Village, Walker Avenue,
Wolverton Mill East, Milton Keynes MK12 5TW
Tel: 01908 312511
The Institute of Horticulture,
Capel Manor College, Bullsmoor Lane,
Enfield EN1 4RQ
Tel: 01992 707025
The Institute of Sports, Parks and Leisure (ISPAL),
Abbey Business Centre, 1650 Arlington Business Park,
Theale, Reading RG7 4SA
Tel: 0845 603 8734
Landscape Institute (LI),
33 Great Portland Street, London W1W 8QG
Tel: 020 7299 4500
Professional Gardeners' Guild
Royal Horticultural Society (RHS),
80 Vincent Square, London SW1P 2PE
Tel: 0845 260 5000
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.