Your Frequently Asked Questions

Many people ask us similar questions before enrolling, so here we answer some of the most frequently asked to help you learn more about HCC and our courses. Do contact our support team on Freephone 0800 083 9191 or 01409 220 777 if you have any other questions or need more information.
I want a new career, can your courses help me?
Yes! Our complete career pathways, ‘Complete Gardener’ and ‘Complete Garden Designer’, have been specially designed for people wanting to change direction. They can provide you with all the knowledge, skills and qualifications you need to successfully retrain for a new horticultural career and make a living out of something you love. Please speak with our student advisors on 01409 220 777 if you need help picking your course.
You can find out more by clicking here:
Do I need any previous experience to enrol on your courses?
Most of our courses (including our ‘Complete Gardener’ and ‘Complete Garden Designer’ career pathways) are suitable for complete beginners and no previous gardening or garden design experience is required.
How do your courses work?
  • Our flexible courses are great for busy adults. You can study where and when you want, fitting your studies around your life and job commitments.
    • You can learn at home, on the train, in the garden, during a work break, from anywhere in the world!
    • And you can work at your own pace. Also, if you’re having a busy time at work or family crisis and need a break from your studying, that’s fine with us.
  • As soon as you enrol, we will send you your first set of course materials. You can start as soon as you want – there are no term start dates or waiting lists to fit around.
  • You work through your course materials at your own speed and send off each assignment to be marked by your tutor. Your tutor is on hand for support – just pick up the phone or email them. All our course materials are written by expert horticulturists and designed to be clear and easy to follow.
  • Your tutor will promptly return your marked assignment with constructive feedback and guidance.
  • Your course includes all the necessary study materials and, if relevant, revision materials.
Upon successful completion of your course you will either be awarded the HCC Certificate1  which, because of HCC’s reputation, can be a useful addition to your CV, a QLS Certificate of Achievement at level 2 or 31  or a qualification2  or certificate issued by one of the awarding bodies below.
Some of our courses also prepare learners for exams or produce portfolios towards qualifications from respected external awarding bodies, including:
  • City & Guilds Assured
  • Royal Horticultural Society
  • Royal Forestry Society
  • ABC Awards
  • Quality License Scheme (QLS)1 
1  The HCC Certificate or QLS Certificate will be issued once you have successfully completed your course and finished your course payments.
2  Learners doing the ABC Level 2 Certificate in Arboriculture course or the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) qualifications do not receive an HCC Certificate as their qualifications are issued by the aforementioned awarding bodies.
Do I get any help to complete the course?
Yes. We believe expert, inspired teaching and friendly encouragement are just as important as great study materials, and you will be assigned a tutor to work closely with you throughout your course. (If relevant, this includes right up to the day when you sit external exams). As well as marking and giving you written feedback on your work, you can call or email your tutor – they will be happy to help. All HCC tutors have advanced level qualifications, considerable industry experience and a real passion for their subject.
Our support team are also here to help you. You can contact them Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
What qualifications can I achieve?
Upon successful completion, you will either achieve the Horticultural Correspondence College Certificate1  for your course, graded to show the standard you have reached, the Certificate of Achievement at QLS Level 2 or 3, or a qualification2  or certification issued by one of the awarding bodies below.
The HCC’s reputation means this can be highly regarded on a CV and, combined with your portfolio of coursework, is evidence of your achievements (whether you are applying for a job or a more advanced study course).
Some HCC courses have also been endorsed under the Quality Licence Scheme.
Some of our courses also prepare learners for exams or produce portfolios towards qualifications from respected external awarding bodies, including:
City & Guilds Assured
Your course materials and tutorial feedback during your studies will help you to prepare and complete your assignments, which will enable you to be awarded our City & Guilds Assured certificate. If you wish to receive the City & Guilds Assured certificate in our Complete Garden and Complete Garden Designer courses, you are required to register (registration fee included in course price).
Royal Horticultural Society
Your course materials and tutorial feedback during your studies will prepare you to complete the Royal Horticultural Society qualifications. When you are ready to sit the examinations you will need to register as a candidate with HCC or as an external candidate with another RHS Approved Centre. We offer advice and assistance for booking examinations when you are ready. Please click here for RHS and assessment centre requirements and fees.
ABC Awards and Royal Forestry Society
Your course materials and tutorial feedback during your studies will help you to prepare and complete your portfolio of coursework which is then externally assessed.
Quality Licence Scheme (QLS)
Your course materials and tutorial feedback during your studies will help you to prepare and complete your assignments. Successful learners will receive a Certificate of Achievement from Quality Licence Scheme and a Learner Unit Summary (which lists the components the learner has completed as part of the course).
Please contact the relevant accrediting body, see more details on each course page, click here.
1  The HCC Certificate or QLS Certificate will be issued once you have successfully completed your course and finished your course payments.
2  Learners doing the ABC Level 2 Certificate in Arboriculture course or the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) qualifications do not receive an HCC Certificate as their qualifications are issued by the aforementioned awarding bodies.
Do your courses include any practical-based training? How can I gain the necessary practical experience if I want a career in horticulture?
Distance-learning courses, such as ours, are by their very nature completely theory-based. At HCC our aim is to provide the technical underpinning knowledge needed for horticultural activities, such as gardening and garden design, in a flexible, affordable way, making study possible for many more people.
Of course, evidence of practical experience is important for learners pursuing a horticultural career and HCC students gain this in a variety of ways. A huge number practice in their own gardens or allotments or those of friends and family, and many complement this by also volunteering in local parks, public gardens, nurseries, garden centres, for organisations like the National Trust and for charities (there is always a demand for volunteers with gardening skills!). Others gain work experience or apprenticeships with relevant horticultural professionals and businesses. Please contact our support team if you need more advice on opportunities for gaining practical experience.
How long does it take to complete your courses?
Our training is designed to give you maximum flexibility. Once you have enrolled on your course, you can start studying when you want and progress at your own pace, fitting your learning around other commitments. The time taken depends on the course, how quickly you like to learn and how much time you wish to commit to study. As a guide, many learners are able to gain:
  • The Complete Gardener pathway in approx 12 to 18 months (approx 300 learning hours)**
  • The Complete Garden Designer pathway in 9 to 14 months (approx 200 learning hours)**
  • Most other courses can be completed within 6 to 12 months**
You have 2 years from the enrolment date to complete your course or pathway. This should be plenty of time, allowing you if necessary to take a temporary break for job or other reasons, while providing a motivating deadline.
** Timescales are approximate and depend upon application and motivation.
What could I do when I successfully complete my course?
  • You could start a new career making a living out of something you love – working outdoors, in private or public gardens, employed by a company or running your own business. Especially if you have completed one of our complete career pathways Complete Gardener or Complete Garden Designer.
  • For professional gardeners and garden designers the skills you have learnt on your course could add to your existing skills, to increase your career opportunities and earning potential. Many highly experienced professionals also do our courses to gain recognised qualifications as formal proof of their ability to employers and clients.
  • If you are learning for leisure, you could achieve more pleasure from and a deeper understanding of your hobby. You could also get the satisfaction of carrying out more tasks yourself and creating the garden you dream of.
  • You may also wish to study another area of horticulture. See the ‘career progression’ section on each course page, or contact us on
    Freephone 0800 083 9191 or 01409 220 777.
What payment options are available for your courses?
You can choose from two payment options:
  • Pay by equal monthly payments***
  • or
  • Pay the total course fee in one sum
*** The HCC Certificate and QLS Certificate (where available) will be issued once you have successfully completed your course and finished your course payments.
How do I enrol?
There are three ways you can enrol on our courses.
  • To enrol by phone, please call Freephone 0800 083 9191 or 01409 220 777 and speak with one of our helpful course advisors.
  • To enrol online, please click here
How do the exams work?
Your course materials and tutorial feedback during your studies will prepare you to complete the Royal Horticultural Society qualifications. When you are ready to sit your examinations, you will need to register as a candidate with HCC or we will help you to register as an external candidate with another RHS Approved Centre which may be closer to you.
Please click here for RHS and assessment centre requirements and fees. Examinations are held in February and June each year at dates that are set by RHS and we email registration instructions to our students in advance of each session.
(Note: We offer the ABC Level 2 Certificate in Arboriculture where assessment for the ABC qualification is via the completed portfolio of coursework and not by exam. In this case, the external assessment of coursework is obligatory.)
Please see each course page for details. Click here to choose your course.
Do your courses include exam support?
Yes, we will do all we reasonably can to ensure you succeed in external exams. So, on the relevant courses, as well as generally preparing you for the exams, we can provide and mark past exam papers and your tutor can help you with your revision right up to exam day.
Do any of your courses lead to RHS qualifications?
Yes, the following courses prepare you for Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) qualifications:
RHS are developing a new suite of qualifications. Registered students on the below courses must ensure they allow sufficient time to sit the examinations and will have until the final exam session to successfully achieve their qualification. For Level 2 qualifications final sessions are scheduled for February 2024 and for Level 3 qualifications final sessions are scheduled for February 2025. For further information please visit our news page.
  • RHS Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Horticulture (No longer available to new enrolments)
  • RHS Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Plant Growth, Propagation and Development (No longer available to new enrolments)
  • RHS Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Garden Planning, Establishment and Maintenance (No longer available to new enrolments)
  • RHS Level 3 Certificate in the Principles of Plant Growth, Health and Applied Propagation (No longer available to new enrolments)
  • RHS Level 3 Certificate in the Principles of Garden Planning, Construction and Planting (available to enrolments until April 2024)
Do any of your courses lead to RFS qualifications?
Yes, the following course prepare you for the Royal Forestry Society (RFS) qualifications:
1  Please note, from December 2023 the ABC Level 2 Certificate in Forestry (601/3582/7) course is no longer available to new enrolments. Students already confirmed as registered on this course will have until 31 st October 2024 to complete their portfolio of work for moderation and must ensure they allow sufficient time to achieve the qualification. Please contact us for details.
Do any of your courses lead to ABC Awards qualifications?
Yes, the following course prepare you for the ABC Awards qualifications:
1  Please note, from December 2023 the ABC Level 2 Certificate in Forestry (601/3582/7) course is no longer available to new enrolments. Students already confirmed as registered on this course will have until 31 st October 2024 to complete their portfolio of work for moderation and must ensure they allow sufficient time to achieve the qualification. Please contact us for details.
I enrolled with you a while ago. Can I carry on with my course?
While we do not set deadlines for completing assignments, we do recommend to students that they complete their course within 2 years of enrolment – this is because we frequently review our courses and update the course materials when necessary.
If you have enrolled:
Within the last 3 years and still have your course materials; you are welcome to continue with your course by sending in your next assignment to us when you are ready. This will be marked by your tutor and returned to you, so you can continue with your studies as normal.
NB If your course carries a qualification from an external awarding body and not HCC’s own certification, please note that the content and/or qualification may have changed since you enrolled to take into account new regulations or requirements; therefore your request will be reviewed in line with the rules set out by the awarding body and may not be available to resume after 2 years from your enrolment date. If the qualification is available, there may be an additional charge in order to complete your studies and we will advise you accordingly.
Between 3 - 5 years ago and still have access to your course materials, you may be asked to pay an additional fee if you’d like to continue with your studies. Please complete our resume course form to submit this request.
If you no longer have your course materials, you will be asked to pay an additional fee if you’d like to continue with your studies. Please complete our resume course form to submit this request.
More than 5 years ago.
We are not usually able to accept course continuation requests unless they are under exceptional circumstances, you may wish to re-enrol or complete our resume course form in order to provide further details for your request to be reviewed.
My circumstances have changed since I enrolled and I am struggling financially, can you help?
We pride ourselves on providing courses that allow flexibility in learning and allow our students to study in their own time and at their own pace to fit in with their commitments in life.
In the event that your circumstances change after enrolment we are here to help and invite you to contact a member of our team to discuss the options available.
In many cases we are able to offer reduced/affordable payments which will allow you to continue with your studies (in line with the payments you make) until such time as your circumstances change.
For more complicated situations you may speak with the Student Liaison Officer who will work with you to find a solution.
Payment Advice
I would like to clear my balance / would like to update the card used for payments / have got behind on my payments, is there a way I can pay this directly?
For ease, we have created a dedicated secure payment link which allows you to make a card payment towards your course at any time.
If you’d like to clear your balance or update your card with us, please refer to your enrolment confirmation for details of the payments due on your course and then visit our payment page to make a payment. If you wish to set up a payment plan for any future payments, please contact us on 01409 220 777 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) to provide your details.
If you’re behind on your payments, please don’t worry, we’re here to help and will be happy to help get you back on track. Please refer to any communications you have received from us with details of the payments due and visit our payment page to make a payment.
Can I cancel my course and receive a refund?
Yes, in line with the terms and conditions of enrolment you have 14 days from receipt of your materials to decide if the course is suitable for you; if the course is not suited to you, please return the materials you have received in good and perfect order to the address indicated on your paperwork within 14 days, we recommend that you return the materials using a recorded/trackable service.
I have been enrolled for longer than 14 days and have decided that I no longer wish to complete my course. I would like to cancel my enrolment, how can I do this?
If you have elected to pay by an HCC Instalment plan, you may terminate your participation on the course at any time by giving 2 months’ notice in writing via our cancellation request form. In line with the terms and conditions of enrolment, any outstanding payments plus any due during the notice period will be payable.
If you have elected to pay by third party finance, the agreement is binding and no cancellation can be processed after 14 days from enrolment. If you are having difficulties in meeting the required terms of your finance agreement, please do get in touch with Deko on 0800 294 5891 as we are aware that they have options available to assist with financial difficulty, such as a payment holiday and flexible payment arrangements. We suggest that you contact them directly for further assistance regarding this and we are assured that they will be happy to help as they have with other students.
Only in exceptional circumstances will cancellation of the agreement be considered and supporting evidence will be required, you can outline your request via our cancellation request form.
For free advice, please call Freephone 0800 083 9191 or 01409 220 777.