Landscaping Certification: How to Get a Landscaping License in the USA
If you’re looking for a job that lets you work outside and spend your day in greenspace, then getting your landscaping license will offer you the best career opportunities. Not only do you get that fresh air, but you also get to enter a lucrative market that will grow for the foreseeable future.
Estimates put the landscaping industry market value at $128 billion in the United States for 2023, with the industry seeing a growth rate of 2.3%.
With the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimating that there are 892,450 landscapers working in the country and the industry continuing to grow, there’s a clear demand for this position.
In this landscaping guide, we’ll go over all the important questions, and need-to-know info about getting your landscaping license in the United States:
- Do you need a license for landscaping?
- Can you do landscaping without a license?
- How to get a landscaping license
- How long does it take to get a landscaping license?
- How much does a landscaping license cost?
- Does a landscaping license increase your earning potential?
And don’t forget to bookmark this page when you’re finished so you can revisit this guide whenever you have questions about landscape licensing in the United States!
Do you need a license for landscaping?
The requirements for working as a landscaper in the United States change depending on the state you want to work in. Some states, like California, have a structured licensing system, while others don’t have any requirements.
While the definition of what work falls under the domain of landscaping also changes from state to state, there’s lots of work that commonly falls under the category of landscaping and is usually split into the following types:
- Planting different types of flowers, shrubs, and trees according to a specific design
- Laying new sod and artificial turf or maintaining and repairing existing turf
- Maintaining gardens and lawns by mowing, water, and trimming regularly
- Removing any flowers, shrubs, or trees that don’t fit with the design
- Excavating and grading the foundation for patios, paths, and driveways
- Paving surfaces with brick, concrete, flagstone, and other hard materials
- Building fences, decks, and retaining walls
- Installing water features, fire features, and irrigation systems
Depending on the state you want to work in, there may be different licensing requirements for softscaping and hardscaping.
Can you do landscaping without a license?
The answer to this question changes depending on the state you want to work in.
Some states restrict the amount of work you can do based on costs, such as limiting the scope of work to $500 or less, including materials and services. Other states limit the type of work you can do, like allowing softscaping but not hardscaping.
To be sure you’re not operating against any regional laws, it’s always a good idea to check in with your state licensing agency.
How to get a landscaping license
Like many other skilled trades, you need to build up your landscaping skills by working as an apprentice or journeyman landscaper under the supervision of a fully licensed contractor.
Different states may or may not have additional requirements in terms of experience, education, and examination, so it’s important to check in with your state government to see what you need to do before you start working as a landscaping contractor.
California is one of the most regulated states for working as a landscaper, with these services only being performed by individuals with a C-27 Landscaping Contractor’s License.
If you’re interested in getting your landscaping license in California, here are the steps you need to follow:
- Gain at least 4 years of journeyman-level experience working for a licensed C-27 landscaping contractor or on jobs less than $500 in labor and materials.
The California State Licensing Board (CSLB) also allows applicants to use technical training, college, and apprenticeship program experience as 3 of the 4 years of required experience.
- Fill out your C-27 landscaping contractor license application through the website or by downloading the PDF version.
- Schedule and pass the landscaping contractor examination.
- Pay the necessary licensing fees and submit your fingerprints to the CSLB.
- Obtain a bond and provide proof of insurance to the CSLB.
For more information on how to get your landscaping license in California, check out our comprehensive California licensing guide.
How long does it take to get a landscaping license?
The length of time it takes to get a landscaping license ranges from 0 to over 4 years, depending on the state you want to work in and the level of certification you want to achieve.
For example, in California, you need 4 years of experience working as a journeyman-level landscaper before applying for the full C-27 Landscaping Contractor’s License.
How much does a landscaping license cost?
The cost of getting your landscaping license changes depending on the state you live in. Some states have no licensing requirements or associated fees, while others, like California, have fees that range from $450 to over $1,000, depending on related specialty licenses.
Does a landscaping license increase your earning potential?
Getting your landscaping license has a major impact on your earning potential for states that regulate the industry.
For example, the average entry-level landscaper earns about $26,800 annually. But with a full landscaping contractor license and more experience, you stand to earn around $35,300.
And remember, that includes states that have no licensing requirements whatsoever. On top of that, you can earn even more by starting your own landscaping business.
If you want to learn more about how much landscaping professionals command in terms of salary across the United States, make sure you check out our comprehensive salary guide.
Originally published November 2022. Last updated December 2022.