FAQ's about Licensing and Certification

1. What is the difference between licensing and certification?

Licensing is controlled by the state and varies from state to state. It usually covers such professions as Contracting and the Medical Services, and is determined by the need to protect the health, safety and welfare of the state's citizens. Certification, as discussed here with respect to landscaping, is a voluntary activity performed by various professional associations to promote and maintain high standards of knowledge, expertise and business practices.

2. What activities are licensed in Virginia?

In Virginia, it is the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) (804-367-8500) which manages this activity overall. The Virginia Board for Contractors (a part of the DPOR) regulates a wide range of contracting activities including electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and alarm systems, as well as building contractors. Included in this list are Landscape Irrigation Contracting and Landscape Service Contracting. The latter means "that service which provides for the alteration or improvement of a land area not related to any other classification or service activity by means of excavation, clearing, grading, construction of retaining walls for landscaping purposes or placement of landscaping timbers."

Other contractors whose work may include the landscape and who may fall under the specialty services of building contracting, commercial improvement or home improvement contracting, include the following:

  • Bricks, stone, tile, masonry
  • Carpentry, decks, railings, fences
  • Concrete work
  • Ornamental iron

In general, when proposed work involves hardscaping activities likes patios, walkways, driveways, irrigation, decks, gazebos and so on, it is best to check out whether the contractor bidding on the work is properly licensed and insured to do the work in Virginia.

3. What Certification programs are available in Virginia?

In Virginia, the Virginia Nursery & Landscape Association (VNLA), The Virginia Flower Growers Association (VFGA), the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of International Society of Arborist (MAC-ISA), and the Virginia Society of Landscape Designers (VSLD) each maintains a strong Certification program which provides you, the consumer, with professionals who have passed appropriate testing and who maintain stringent annual educational requirements. These tests and continuing education requirements ensure professional knowledge and expertise that is up-to-date as it relates to plant material production, installation and maintenance and to landscape and garden design. In addition, the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA), headquartered in Herndon, VA, provides Certification programs for its members which ensure that certified members are knowledgeable in good business practices, in health & safety issues, and in specialties which are not covered elsewhere, such as proper grading & seeding, and sod installation.


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