The Real Poop
In recent times, gardeners have been given the short end of the rake. Once upon a time, the great civilizations of the world were defined in part by their luscious gardens or magnificent lawns.
From the Hanging Gardens of ancient Babylon to the exquisite (and since 1789, public) hedges of Versailles in France, landscaping has been the primary way humans show their aesthetic control over the land—even if that means trimming bushes into the shape of giraffes.
Nowadays, the gardener is looked at as a basic laborer. At barely $25,000 a year, many gardeners average just above minimum wage for their cutting and cultivation (source).
More than any other horticultural industry—and really more than almost any other non-horticultural industry out there as well—gardening requires only a basic amount of understanding to begin. But to become a (well-paid) professional, you'll have to learn how to be the best hedge-trimmer you can possibly be.
There are a few educated and experienced horticulturists out there in the garden maintenance industry, but most of the industry is a "mow, blow, and go" type of service. Which makes you wonder—do funeral directors offer "grieve, bereave, and leave" services? Are jockeys told to "saddle, straddle, and skedaddle"? Are ice cream truck drivers taught to "scoop, goop, and—"
You know what? You get the idea.
While much of the work is fairly basic, skilled labor does have its place in gardening. We're talking about those sorts of gardeners who don't just mow the grass; they know how to care for it so it doesn't become an ugly patch of brown death. Those who are good at gardening and respect it as a craft can "profit" (if you want to call it that) from gardening more than those who just know which end of the rake belongs on the ground.
The only problem is the need to compete financially, which means gardening isn't often lucrative because competition drives prices down. We already knew that money doesn't grow on trees; apparently it doesn't grow on lawns, flowers, or tomato plants either.
There are always exceptions. Some people who own gardening maintenance services can make a decent living, as long as they run a tight business and keep their clients happy. There are also many gardeners who work hard enough and learn enough about the little things to score a much more respectable—and perhaps even prestigious—job as a gardening supervisor.
That means you're in control. (But don't yell orders at the trees too often; people might start to talk.)
Large public municipal gardens and parks—Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Central Park in Manhattan, and the many big city parks throughout the country—offer rather good employment, including decent government pay and excellent benefits (source).
The really-big-city parks often include smaller gardens, featuring things like rose collections, conservatories, and arboretums, that need a full-time staff separate from the larger parks that contain them.
Then there are the massive sports stadiums that require a grounds crew to keep their fields in good playing condition. You may have dreams of playing in the big leagues, but this is probably as close as you'll ever get to stepping on the field and helping the team when it matters.
Gardening is the sort of work that should be done by those who enjoy it instead of those who are looking for an easy way to spend a day. As we mentioned, the money has the potential to make it worthwhile under the best circumstances, but only for those who score a good job or own a business. That's not going to happen mowing lawns around your neighborhood every other weekend.
Those who enjoy gardening and are able to tolerate the low pay get to avoid the stress that's more common in the majority of other jobs. You'll also be outside all day, which can be a whole lot better than a stuffy office or a factory floor. How many people can say they get paid and get to work on their tan?
It's basically just movie stars and you gardeners. So...not many.