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 |

Certfication and Plagiarism | List of all CGMs

*New Policies Take Effect in 2013*


A candidate must be employed at their facility for at least one year prior to applying and must also 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: The Application Test

100 multiple choice and true/false questions based on different facets of grounds management, such as insects and disease, soils, trees and shrubs, turf grasses, and chemicals and fertilizers. The test is administered by an approved proctor and applicants must complete the exam with a minimum passing grade of 70% within thirty days of acceptance into the program. The test is based on the knowledge that an individual pursuing CGM certification should already have and no study material is provided.

Part Two: The Professional Grounds Manager Evaluation (PGME)

This extensive portfolio is compiled by the applicant based on his or her personal experience and the local situation. Candidates have one (1) year to complete the PGME and are provided a CGM as a mentor and whose approval is needed before the PGME can be submitted to the Certification Committee for evaluation. The PGME is submitted to the Certification Committee on three identical flash drives.

The Professional Grounds Manager Evaluation Portfolio 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


$150 for PGMS members
$250 for non-members
$350 to join PGMS and apply simultaneously

To complete the CGM application, click here. Please note that once your application has been received, an invoice will be emailed to you and your application will not be processed until payment is received.


Once you become a CGM, you must keep up your certification 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.


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 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 application 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 is required to review your PGME prior to submission to the Certification Committee for evaluation.

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 Application Exam?

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

QWhat does the Professional Grounds Manager Evaluation (PGME) 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. Completion of the PGME 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 your PGME portfolio to the Certification Committee on three identical flash drives for evaluation. Submissions are between 150-200 PowerPoint slides in length.

QHow is my Professional Grounds Manager Evaluation reviewed?

A – We have an established rubric for each section of the PGME. 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. This is to be a well presented document with charts, graphs, photographs, videos, etc., with minimal to no spelling errors.

QIf I am not responsible for “irrigation,” how do I express this in the PGME 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 PGME 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. Please note that only one individual for each institution can pursue CGM certification at a time.

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 x1157 or info@pgms.org.

Certification and Plagiarism

PGMS defines plagiarism as the reuse of someone else’s words, findings, and results without explicitly citing or acknowledging the original source or author. PGMS takes plagiarism at any level seriously and it is considered a breach of professional conduct that could face potential ethical and legal consequences. In the event that a potential case of plagiarism is identified, PGMS requires that members of the Certification Committee conduct a full investigation. If the findings identify that the submission was plagiarized, the submission will be rejected, the application fee will not be refunded, and the Candidate will be unable to pursue future certification through PGMS.


“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, Daytona Beach, FL

“The CGM process is a brilliant tool to deeply analyze your program, anticipate issues, and consider ways to improve operations. The mentor feature is an excellent part of the program as you’ll be connected with a fellow professional which will help build your green industry network”
Brett McNish, CGM, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC

“The CGM designation, and PGMS, allows me to broaden my knowledge to be a better leader, set a good example, and hopefully, become a mentor to those around me and to others who choose to go into this field or the CGM program.”
Donna Hibbs, CGM, Masonic Homes of Kentucky, Louisville, KY

“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