Career routes into horticulture


The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) states that Horticulture contributes £9 billion to the UK economy each year and employs around 300,000 people across a range of disciplines. A career in horticulture could be anything from a garden designer to a horticultural scientist. Whether you’re a young person leaving school or a career changer, there are several pathways leading to a career within the horticulture industry. 


( image sourced from ) 


Qualifications and training courses 

There are a range of different qualifications and training courses suiting all ages, interests and time frames across the country. Recognised qualifications can be full time or short time, practical and/or theoretical at a range of different levels. Some qualifications can be studied whilst working. Below are a range of formal qualifications available to both hobbyists and people aspiring for a career in the horticulture industry. RHS Qualifications – The RHS offers a range of horticultural courses dependent on experience and abilities across the country. The courses are conducted at over 90 different centres or at home (dependent on course) on a full time or part-time basis.

  • Courses include the ‘RHS Level 1 Award in Practical Horticulture’ which offers people with limited experience within horticulture an introduction into the skills needed for the industry. It provides a platform for both the ‘RHS Level 2 & 3 Qualifications’. Click the following link for more information: 
  • BTEC/Diploma (technical certification) – These are full time courses covering both practical and theoretical lectures hosted at a range of centres (usually land-based colleges) across the country. BTEC/Diploma are usually recognised as the equivalent to A-Levels. No experience is required however a certain number of GCSE’s (4-9 or A*-C) are needed to qualify for certain course levels. Courses usually last between 1-2 years.
  • National (Scottish) Vocational Qualification (NVQ/SVQ) – Learners can complete this qualification whilst still working. NVQ focus on teaching learners on the required skills they need for the workplace, therefore it is recognised as a competence certificate rather than an academic qualification. Students are sometimes required to attend a college on a day release basis, however the majority of tutoring and assessing is carried out within the workplace. 

There are many other qualifications which you can complete including certificates of competencies, which confirms your ability to use certain tools/machinery safely and correctly.

Sparsholt College/University Centre is our local centre which offers a variety of courses including the qualifications bulleted above. Here is a link to Sparsholt’s website: 

Talks and workshops often give the participant an opportunity to learn and engage with a specific subject for a few hours. These are hosted at a range of locations from gardens to nurseries. Here at Hardy’s, Rosy offers a range of talks on flowering plants through the seasons as well as propagation workshops. We also host guest speakers at the nursery, who share their expertise on specific subjects. For our full list of our talks, workshops and guest speakers at the nursery please visit our website: 


Horticulture apprenticeships are training programmes to help create a skilled workforce. Open to anyone, apprenticeships allow effective on and off the job training and assessment. Apprenticeships act as a direct route into employment. Whilst working as an apprentice you can achieve; 

  • Technical certification E.g. BTEC
  • National (Scottish) Vocational Qualification (NVQ/SVQ) 
  • Academic qualifications E.g. Foundation Degree or Bachelor Degree 

Apprenticeships can vary in length, with some employers offering a position once the course has been completed. Other employers will support with the financing of certain courses. You will be paid an apprenticeship wage throughout your studies. Apprenticeships are suited to employees who have a clear career path or goal which they want to achieve.  


Volunteering within the horticultural industry allows you to develop work-based skills, knowledge and hands on experience. As well as developing skills and knowledge, volunteering enhances a CV and improves a person’s employment prospects. Others choose volunteering as a way to socialise, meet new people and feel valued. Career changers often volunteer in the horticulture sector to gain experience. The volunteer controls the amount of work they choose to do, e.g. a volunteer may only work one day a week if he/she chooses. Volunteering alongside studying allows you to put the theory developed in lectures into action within the workplace and embed new knowledge and skills.