Certified Grounds Manager®

The Certified Grounds Manager program, developed and offered by PGMS, is the premiere program of its type in the Green Industry. With certification, your presentations, requests for funds and equipment, and recommendations carry more weight.

For those interested in becoming a Certified Grounds Manager (CGM®), there is a very specific prescribed procedure.

Criteria | Exam Process | Recertification

Application Fee | Application form

Testimonials | FAQ’s | List of all CGMs

*New Policies Take Effect in 2013*


A candidate must meet one of the three criteria below:

  1. A Bachelor of Science in a recognized green industry field, including management and four years of experience in the field of grounds maintenance, of which two years are supervisory.
  2. A two year degree from a recognized college or junior college, plus six years of 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 an approved proctor and covers a core of basic principles of grounds management, consisting of one hundred true/false and multiple choice 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% is required.

The Closed Book Test Contains Questions On:

        • Insects and Diseases
        • Soils
        • Trees and Shrubs
        • Turfgrass
        • Chemicals and Fertilizers
        • Management

Part Two is the open book exam. This take home examination is to be completed by the applicant based on personal experience and the local situation. Candidates have one (1) year to complete this open book test on flash drive for review by the committee.

The Open Book Test Consists Of The Following:

        1. Site Inventory
        2. Operations Inventory
        3. Turf Management
        4. Trees, Shrubs and Ground Covers
        5. Irrigation
        6. Pavings
        7. Management Skills
        8. Budgets and Finances
        9. Safety Standards and Regulatory Compliance


Once you become a CGM, you must keep up your recertification by earning 25 CEUs every three (3) years. Click here to find out more information on how you can earn the 25 CEU’s.

*Please note CEU requirements are waived for PGMS Retired Members.


$150 for PGMS members
$250 for non-members
$325 to join PGMS and apply simultaneously

Download the Application Form


QIs the CGM certification open to international grounds professionals?

A – Yes, the CGM certification is available to all professionals in the U.S., Canada and all other foreign countries.

QWho is my proctor?

A – A superior manager in your company or your HR Director. Exams are also available at regional and national conferences or can be proctored by a local CGM.

QHow are we assigned a mentor and how exactly does this work?

A – After successfully passing the closed exam, you will be assigned a mentor from your region or close to your region depending upon where you reside. You also have the flexibility to choose a committee member depending on their availability. The mentor is there to offer guidance and support and can help also by reviewing your current body of work to see if it matches the rubric.

QHow do I study for the closed book certification exam? What are good study references?

A – The exam tests grounds management competencies; the test you’re given is based on what you do and how you manage. A practical approach for study would be to freshen up on other geographical areas other than your current location, i.e., if you are from the northeast, it would be beneficial to review warm season grasses and diseases and vice versa.

QWhat is on the closed book exam?

A – The exam covers management, human resources, business dynamics, technical grounds management issues, etc.

QWhat does the open book test?

A – It is more than a test. It is an opportunity to document your work site, from tree and shrub inventory to job descriptions. The open book completion results in a working document for your site. For areas you don’t actively manage, it helps you learn the complexities and technical aspects so you can hire or supervise a project. You will present the open book test on flash drive.

QHow is my open book graded?

A – We have an established rubric for each section of the open book. We are looking for specific competencies. A good example may be a plant inventory – we are looking for a proper nomenclature, cultivars, plant varieties, spelling, thoroughness of the document, an accompanying map and related visual. Innovative ways to list and record data are also a plus.

QIf I am not responsible for “irrigation,” how do I express this in the open book section?

A – You might go to a vendor, or actually take an irrigation class if you have no prior experience with irrigation. Now you can understand the technical aspects of design and installation. If you currently do no more than supervise installation, you will now understand foot of head, frictional losses, static pressure, etc. This is an example of a required competency. Remember, your CGM status represents your ability to work at any grounds at any location, not just your present position.

QHow long does the certification process take?

A – Most managers take about a year to complete the certification, others will fast track and complete it in six months.

Q Should my staff work on their CGM certification?

A – Absolutely, especially if they are engaged in most or all of the open book areas you have just completed. If they are new to the profession, you can still get them ready by having them take classes. Or have them complete the CGT program and build their skills until they are at the level for CGM certification.

Q If I achieve the CGM certification will my CGT certification be cancelled out?

A – These are two separate distinct certifications each with different requirements to attain the certifications. The CGM does not cancel out the CGT. However, you will need to keep up with the CEU’s needed to keep both current. In that case, the CEU’s required can be applied to both certifications.

Other questions? Contact PGMS at 443-966-3852 x146 or info@pgms.org.


“To me the Certified Grounds Manager distinction shows an all out commitment to our profession. It goes well beyond our academic training, it is a culmination of management skills and professional knowledge that is gained through real life work and management experience. The certification is a rigorous and thought provoking process that tests your competency in all disciplines of grounds management. Serious employers would specifically ask for such a qualification for their next Grounds Manager.”
John Van Etten, CGM, Hoffman Landscape & Design, Scotia, NY

“The Certified Grounds Manager process is a great way to develop and sharpen your managerial skills. To complete my open book I used new computer skills, practiced my drafting and developed my own inventory files. I also built my presentation and budgetary skills. Completing and maintaining my CGM has allowed me to build my resume with continuing education requirements. My CGM gave me the confidence to pursue leadership opportunities in PGMS at the national level and had led to my being selected as chairperson of the certification committee. And perhaps most important, my CGM helped me obtain my “dream goal” of working in a new state, Florida. Without my certification, convincing potential employers of the ability to transfer from Kansas to Florida might have been impossible.”
Monica Higgins, CGM, Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club, Naples, FL

“There are many benefits to becoming a certified grounds manager. The certification shows others and, most importantly yourself, that you have made an effort to raise the bar of excellence in professionalism.

Personally, I feel one of the highest value assets of certification is the process of certification in itself. You are drawn out of your comfort zone and are required to think out of the box. What a great way to develop your management skills, marketability and confidence. Just do it!”
Gene Pouly, CGM, E. F. Pouly Company, Orrville, OH