Internships and work experiences are valuable ways for students to enhance their career preparation and marketability to employers upon graduation. An internship is a structured combination of educational experiences in the context of on-the-job training. A work experience puts a student in a pure employment situation, right in the horticultural workplace along side non-student employees.
Degree requirements for all horticulture students include either a work experience or an internship. Students in Horticultural Science, Horticultural Production and Marketing, and Landscape Horticulture & Design must complete a minimum of 320 hours of work experience. Students in these major areas may choose to complete an internship which, if appropriately structured, will satisfy the work experience requirement. Public Horticulture students must complete six months of internship. This is commonly done in two, three-month increments over two summers. However, internships may be completed during the academic year or following completion of all other degree requirements.
Horticulture Work Experience
In a competitive job market, the graduate with practical experience is better positioned to secure a start on their career compared to a student without such “outside the classroom” experience. Employers look for the graduate who really knows what they want to do and have a practical background in addition to a strong academic education.
Work experience can help a student refine their career aspirations while they are still in school, giving them a real “taste” for the career they are training for before they commit a full four years of education to that preparation.
To meet the work experience requirement, students must work in horticulture or some area reasonably related to horticulture. Students typically find their own work experience opportunities. The College of Agriculture offers career and internship fairs during the academic year to help connect students with employers. Professors frequently assist with employer suggestions, contacts and referrals. Employment listings can be found on the HLA website: https://ag.purdue.edu/hla/Hort/Pages/hlacareeropportunities.aspx.
Public Horticulture Internship
Public Horticulture is a specialized, small, and yet competitive segment of horticulture. Many public horticulture professionals begin with varied educational backgrounds, and then enter the field via the practical experience of internships. At Purdue, we integrate the formal education of a four-year horticulture degree with the practical background gained through six months of internship. Students who pursue internships during the regular academic year register for HORT 39000 (0 credits) for the semester in which they are interning. No course registration is required of students completing their internships during summer.
Purdue is one of only a select few universities awarding a baccalaureate degree in public horticulture. Program alumni consistently relate the importance of the internship experience to helping them move into the profession and indicate its importance in helping them formulate their specific professional direction.
The American Public Gardens Association (www.aabga.org), the primary organization for public horticulture professionals, helps connect students with internship opportunities coast-to-coast.
Official Documentation of Internship or Work Experience Completion
Upon completion of a student’s work experience or internship, the student must have their employer(s) send a signed letter on company or organization letterhead (hard copy via regular post or as a signed, scanned .pdf attachment to an e-mail) to the HLA Student Service Office. It must indicate:
1) the name of the student completing the work/internship,
2) the nature of the experience (describe the work)
3) the duration, either days/weeks for an internship or an approximate number of hours worked.
Letters should be directed to:
Coordinator of Student Services
Student Services Office
Department of Horticulture & Landscape Architecture
625 Agriculture Mall Drive
West Lafayette, IN 47907-2010
E-mail letters may be sent to:
The employer letter(s) must be on file in the HLA Student Services Office prior to the student’s graduation date.