Horticulture courses

Rachel Swain, Editorial manager
March, 2023

Whether you're helping to combat food poverty or healing patients through therapeutic gardening, a career in horticulture is about more than tending to flowerbeds

Contributing £24billion to the UK economy each year and employing 568,700 people, the horticulture industry offers a range of careers - whether you're scientifically minded, have creative flair or want to put your technical aptitude into practice.

Horticulture is responsible for:

  • growing plants for biomass, textiles and medicines
  • keeping a good supply of plants for habitat restoration and conservation
  • maintaining over 20,000 hectares of vegetable and fruit growing in the UK.

The industry needs plant specialists, educators, researchers, mechanics and technicians, designers, gardeners and more.

Business-minded individuals and even healthcare workers have a place in horticulture, filling important horticultural consultant and horticulture therapist roles.

Whether you're a school leaver, have a degree or would like to make a career change, horticulture courses are available at all levels to applicants of all backgrounds. Discover why you should consider a career in horticulture and the entry routes available to you.

Why study horticulture?

The chance to work outdoors, be creative and turn a passion into a career often top applicants' reasoning for wanting to work in horticulture.

But these aren't the only appealing factors. Studying horticulture offers a route into many interesting and varied careers. Beyond getting your hands dirty working in a beautiful garden or country estate, opportunities include everything from designing gardens to working in a pathology or entomology laboratory studying garden problems.

Visit the Chartered Institute of Horticulture - Grow Careers to explore the full range of jobs you could pursue.

A career in horticulture would also suit you if you're passionate about helping to solve global environmental problems. Horticulture is increasingly about supporting the environment and helping to prevent and mitigate climate change, with demand for these skills only likely to grow. This could involve developing new food crops to feed a growing population or finding ways to combat ever emerging plant pest and disease threats.

Horticulture apprenticeships

If you're new to the field and would like to gain hands-on experience as you become qualified, consider completing a horticulture apprenticeship.

The RHS offers two Level 2 apprenticeship programmes, where over the course of two years you'll work alongside horticulturists at one of the society's five garden locations:

  • Bridgewater, Greater Manchester
  • Harlow Carr, North Yorkshire
  • Hyde Hall, Essex
  • Rosemoor, North Devon
  • Wisley, Surrey.

On the Horticulture/Landscape Operative Apprenticeship, you'll focus on plant propagation and growth. On the Arborist Apprenticeship, tasks involve aerial tree work, pruning and operating machinery such as brushwood chippers.

You'll work a 37.5-hour week, including day or block release to study at college. To apply, you'll need two GCSEs in English and maths at grade C/4 or above (or equivalent). No previous experience is needed, although you'll be expected to demonstrate a strong interest in plants and horticulture, and have a reasonable standard of IT literacy.

Find out more at RHS - Apprenticeships.

Kew Gardens offers a two-year, entry-level Apprenticeship in Botanical Horticulture, which will suit you if you're aspiring to a professional career as an amenity horticulturist. On this apprenticeship you'll spend time working in Arboretum, Gardens & Horticultural Services and Glasshouses, Nurseries and Display Horticulture, and have the opportunity to complete a two-week exchange to a European botanic garden or plant collection.

Alternatively, you could consider the Level 2 Horticulture or Landscape Operative apprenticeship with the YMCA. Lasting two years you’ll work in a range of settings including parks, retail outlets and production nurseries.

Learn more about apprenticeships.

RHS qualifications

Designed by the Royal Horticultural Society, these qualifications are widely recognised and respected within the horticulture industry. They provide learners with up-to-date horticultural information and practical skills, which can be used for accessing or developing a horticultural career.

Students study part time over a year, with the syllabus delivered via approved centres across the UK and Ireland, and theory qualifications are also available via approved distance learning providers. Modules cover everything from garden landscaping principles to plant growing and propagation.

Horticulture degrees

You'll find undergraduate horticulture courses at institutions across the UK, specialising in different areas. Whatever your ambitions, there will be a degree to suit you.

For example, if you're creative, the BA (Hons) Landscape Architecture and Design at Leeds Beckett University may appeal to you. The course involves collaborative working and live projects designed to grow your confidence and explore your individual creativity.

First and second-year modules include 'Designing for People & Place', 'Plants in the Landscape' and 'Strategic Ecological Design', and you'll complete a 'Specialist Design Project' in your final year. Previous students have gone on to work as garden designers, landscape conservation officers and landscape architects.

If you're scientifically-minded, you may consider courses such as BSc Plant Science offered at the University of Bristol. You'll be introduced to a range of biological science topics in your first year, such as life processes, before choosing more specialist units such as agricultural biotechnology in later years.

See what you could do with a landscape and garden design degree.

Postgraduate horticulture courses

A Masters or postgraduate professional qualification offers another route into horticulture, whether you have a degree in an unrelated subject or you'd like to build on the knowledge you've already gained.

Institutions offering postgraduate horticulture courses include:

  • The University of Edinburgh - MSc Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants (available as an MSc and PGDip)
  • Harper Adams University - Plant Health and Biosecurity PGCert, Plant Pathology PGCert
  • Writtle University College, Essex - MSc Horticulture, MSc Crop Production (Horticulture), MSc Postharvest Technology.

For a more flexible study option, the three to five-year Master of Horticulture offered by the RHS is delivered mainly through the society's MHort Virtual Learning Environment - allowing candidates to fit their studies around other commitments.

In the first year, you'll broaden your understanding of the horticultural environment, and develop skills that will help you deepen your knowledge in a specific area in subsequent years. In your final year, you'll carry out research on a topic of your choice to write a dissertation, and undergo an applied knowledge assessment where you'll put your knowledge into practice.

If you're ready to start looking for opportunities, search postgraduate courses in horticulture, or learn more about postgraduate diplomas and certificates.

Find out more

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