Ned Lipman is the former Director of Continuing Professional Education at Rutgers University's New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, a position which he has held for over 30 years. He is also an instructor in the golf course turf management program.
What is the Rutgers Professional Golf Turf Management School?
We offer a unique and internationally acclaimed learning opportunity for motivated students who are serious about becoming golf course superintendents. Our students are looking for a valued credential which will help them succeed in a highly competitive industry.
What are the students like?
They come from all across the United States and around the world. Many have college degrees. Some have high school GEDs. Some are career changers. Some tried to be golf pros and now want to pursue a different career path within the golf industry.
They all want to succeed in completing two very intensive 10-week sessions here in New Brunswick on the turf research grounds of Rutgers, New Jersey's state university.
We are very proud of our 2,200+ alumni and their successes on many of the world's best known golf courses.
Is education necessary to succeed in the golf turf industry?
I cannot think of a more complex job than successfully managing a golf course. So many different skills and knowledge bases are necessary to keep ahead of a complex set of challenges including: agronomic science, water and soil relationships, pest and disease management, business and budgeting skills, the mechanical technologies, course design, maintenance practices and motivating/managing employees, to name but a few.
It is hard to imagine any superintendent today earning a reputation of success without a broad portfolio of education. And let's not forget the all-important communication and customer service skills without which a superintendent will be doomed.
So yes, I believe education is a necessary ingredient to achieve greatness and your education in this business should never end.
How does the Rutgers curriculum prepare students to achieve career success?
Many of our instructors like to say that here at Rutgers in addition to teaching and demonstrating how to do things, we spend an equal amount of time discussing why things are done the way they are.
We offer the latest turf research in our classrooms and show it on our turf research plots. Clearly, turf science is a rapidly expanding field and our curriculum is specifically designed around the critical learning needs of our students. As those needs evolve, so too does our curriculum. And one more critical point, we focus exclusively on those subjects necessary to become successful in the golf turf or sports turf industries.
What I am most proud of is that our instructional team is a rich mix of research and teaching faculty from the Rutgers Center for Turfgrass Science, experts from across turf and related industries who work every day on the world’s best golf courses and several of New Jersey's most experienced and successful superintendents.
This value-adding blend of scientific, practical and experiential expertise is what makes the Rutgers Professional Golf Turf Management School stand out from the rest. Our formula for instructional excellence has worked for over 50 years now, and our alumni are happy to testify as to the transformational benefits their stay here in New Jersey had on their careers.
What attracts people to work in the turf management industry today?
Perhaps the most common element in virtually all of our students is the desire to work outdoors. Today's golf course employees love the diversity and complexity of golf course operations made even more complex by Mother Nature and the elements.
Most employees also enjoy the game of golf and especially the golf privileges that come with their jobs. Most enjoy their special role as stewards of the land, as well as serving the needs of very critical and demanding players and members.
Like artists, today's golf turf employees enjoy the opportunity to make their marks on the natural landscapes and to be part of a rich history and legacy attached to our golf traditions worldwide.
What kinds of jobs are available in the golf turf and sports turf industries?
The real advantage to earning a certificate from the Rutgers Professional Golf Turf Management School is the number of career doors which open to our graduates.
Within the golf turf career track, most of our graduates stay on the golf course as greenskeepers, assistant superintendents or superintendents. Many grads, however, go into sales of seed, fertilizers or chemicals or become irrigation sales reps. Some become "grow-in" specialists. Some work for golf course management companies. Some even grow turf which golf courses then purchase as sod for greens or fairways.
On the sports turf side, our graduates are employed by major and minor league baseball teams. They oversee local, county and state parks. They even manage grounds of large corporations and administer to infields at NASCAR stadiums.
There are so many different career options which become available to Rutgers Professional Golf Turf Management School graduates.
And the best part is that we have over 1,800 active alumni worldwide, who are always looking to hire our students or point them to other available openings.
What kind of financial aid is available?
Approximately 35% of our incoming students are awarded scholarships. These range from $250 up to $500 depending on a number of need-based and academic criteria.
Returning students for their second year fare even better; up to 40% receive awards of between $500 and $3,000.
Many are awarded scholarships from local and state golf associations as well as from private foundations which support turf instruction in addition to a broad scholarship portfolio here at Rutgers.
What salary can Rutgers graduates expect to earn?
When you talk about being a superintendent at a state, regional or national golf course, you can make over a quarter million dollars a year. However, as many have learned, with that level of salary comes an incredible responsibility to a very demanding membership.
Within the mid-range, superintendents of respected golf courses start at between $60,000 and $85,000 a year with many earning over $100,000.
Average salaries for assistant superintendents here in the mid-Atlantic region start in the low to mid $30,000s and work their way up into the low $40,000s.
What is clear from the GCSAA's Annual Compensation and Benefits Report of golf course superintendents is that our turf school certificate program alumni earn salaries in most U.S. states which are comparable to those graduating from four-year undergraduate degree programs.
So depending on what your ambitions are, your educational background, and your political/communications skills, you can earn anywhere from $30,000 up to $250,000 a year.
For more information about the Rutgers Professional Golf Turf Management School, please visit www.golfturf.rutgers.edu.