George Van Haasteren is director of grounds operations at the Dwight-Englewood School in Englewood, New Jersey. He also serves as the First Vice President of the Professional Grounds Management Society, an APPA strategic alliance partner. He can be reached at 201-569-9500 ext. 4321 or

One of the most important things that you can do to improve your career is to continue your professional development. One step that shows your commitment to grounds management and your career is joining those who have become a Certified Grounds Manager (CGM) over the last 20 years. The Certified Grounds Manager program, developed and offered by the Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS), is the first and premiere program of its type in the Green Industry.

What does it mean to become a Certified Grounds Manager? It represents that you have met the standards of PGMS for grounds management through education and experience. Being certified puts you at the top of your profession. Certification proves that you are dedicated to your profession by expanding your goals and continuing your professional development. It also means that you manage your grounds maintenance operation by using organizational, financial, and management skills.

How do you become certified? Simply put, it combines the requisite education and experience, plus passing the open- and closed-book tests and having the site you maintain reviewed by fellow CGMs. Sure it's hard work; anything worth having is.

Everybody knows that M.D. following an individual's name means they're a medical doctor. The letters CPA signifies the individual has met the standards and fulfilled the requirements to be a certified public accountant. And CEM represents those individuals who have become certified energy managers. More than a few cryptic initials may follow a name, as many associations utilize professional certification to recognize individuals for their dedication to their chosen career and their ability to perform to set standards. I believe that when you ask a certified professional "Why?" they will tell you that the certification process is one of the single most important steps you can make in career development.

In today's world we all need the values of certification. See the next page for the top ten reasons to become certified. That includes the individual grounds professionals as well as those who benefit from our services. Anyone can call themselves a grounds manager, and the public has no way of evaluating the reliability of the claim. Certification certainly provides one undeniable barometer for everyone.

Ultimately, certification is intended to assure better use of public and private personnel, equipment, supplies, and resources by trained personnel. As well, the basis of grounds management and the activities associated with it are articulated to a wider audience through such recognition.

The real benefit of certification will be when more grounds managers are certified and employers begin recognizing it. The results will then be higher pay, and the certified person will be given the priority in hiring.

The grounds management profession needs to be more recognized for what we do. Some people feel that simply because they have planted a bush or mowed their lawn, they are qualified to do our job. Or worse, others (such as institutional decision makers) might think they can.

With certification, our presentations, requests for funds and equipment, and recommendations carry more weight. Personally this has happened to me. I would strongly urge anyone who might benefit from the program to pursue it. The benefits both professionally and personally are well worth it.

Remember that each individual certified grounds manager is also contributing to that larger picture of improvement to the entire profession. We're in a profession that requires ever more technical and management ability and dedication; but we must draw attention to that. That's our job to do, individually and collectively.

PGMS's CGM program has recently undergone its first updating and streamlining since its introduction in 1980, and the changes have been made to take the program well into the foreseeable future.

These changes support the original idea of providing a peer review program to measure, evaluate, and attest to the key basic competence of a professional grounds manager. The intended result of the program is the protection of the public and potential employer, while strengthening the role of grounds management. The examination process and certification are open to all grounds managers. We at PGMS feel that the changes made will provide for a precise, updated, and improved program.

The changes are several, including:

Preparation for Becoming a CGM

For those interested in becoming a Certified Grounds Manager, there is a very specific prescribed procedure. To qualify, an individual must meet the following requirements:

  1. A Bachelor of Science degree (BS) in a recognized green industry field, including management, plus four years experience in the field of grounds maintenance, of which two years are of supervisory experience;


  2. A two-year Associates of Arts degree (AA) or equivalent degree from a four-year college or community college, plus six years experience in the grounds maintenance field with a minimum of three years of supervisory experience;


  3. Eight years in the grounds maintenance field with a minimum of four years of supervisory experience.


The examination process consists of two parts. Part one is administered by a proctor and covers a core of basic principles of grounds management, consisting of the following:

A proctor administers an examination of 100 questions. The applicant taking the examination is required to answer these particular questions without referring to notes or reference materials. A minimum passing grade of 70 percent is required.

Part two of the certification examination is a newly revised take-home exam to be completed by the applicant, based on personal experience and the site or sites they maintain.

Upon successful completion of the Certified Grounds Manager program, CGMs will be required to be accredited every five years by compiling no less than 50 units. Accreditation units will be divided into two categories: Category one will be classified as Continuing Education Units (CEUs), and Category two will be classified as Professional Development Units (PDUs).

Application and examination fees for PGMS members are $150. For nonmembers the fee is $300. For more information on becoming a Certified Grounds Manager, please visit or contact Professional Grounds Management Society, Suite 104, 120 Cockeysville Road, Hunt Valley, MD 21030; 800-609-7467.


  1. Certification Demonstrates Your Commitment to the Profession.
    Receiving your certification shows your peers, and in turn the general public, your commitment to your chosen career and your ability to perform set standards. University degrees alone can no longer represent the full measure of professional knowledge and competence in today's evolving job market. Certification sets you apart as a leader in the grounds profession.

  2. Certification Enhances the Profession's Image.
    PGMS certification programs seek to promote and develop certified professionals, who can stand out in front as examples of excellence in the industry or field.

  3. Certification Reflects Achievement.
    Not only professional achievement, but also personal achievement. Becoming certified displays excellence in the field and fulfills set standards and requirements.

  4. Certification Builds Self-Esteem.
    PGMS certification creates a standard for our profession, complete with performance standards, ethics, and career paths. You'll begin to define yourself beyond a job description or academic level. You'll see yourself as a certified professional who can control your own destiny and find a deep sense of personal satisfaction.

  5. Certification Establishes Professional Credentials.
    Since it recognizes your individual accomplishments, certification stands above your resume, serving as an impartial third-party endorsement to your knowledge and experience. And when the industry looks for individuals qualified to perform services, they seek individuals — like you — who have achieved certification.

  6. Certification Establishes Career Opportunities and Advancement.
    Certification gives you the "edge" when being considered for a promotion or other career opportunities. It clearly identifies you as an employee who can adapt to changes in work, technology, business practices, and innovation.

  7. Certification Prepares You for Greater On-the-Job Responsibilities.
    Since certification is a voluntary professional commitment to an industry or field of knowledge, it is a clear indicator of your willingness to invest your own professional development. PGMS professionals are aware of the constantly changing environment around their profession, and possess the needed tools to anticipate and respond to change.

  8. Certification Provides for Greater Earnings Potential.
    As a certified professional, you can expect many benefits, but for today's downsized working world, salary increases speak for themselves.

  9. Certification Improves Skills and Knowledge.
    Ideally, achieving certification shows your individual competence by confirming proficiency and career involvement and assuring knowledge.

  10. Certification Offers Greater Professional Recognition from Peers.
    As a certified professional you can expect increased recognition from your peers for taking the extra step in your professional development. It will give your career and professional life a real boost.