It’s official! After only one year of online study at the Academy for Distance Learning, I have just received my certificate from the RHS. I’ve passed all eight modules and I now hold the Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Horticulture!
The RHS Level 2 qualification is the most recognised certification in the industry, and it’s the mark of a professional gardener. Even elite employers like the National Trust start their job adverts with “RHS Level 2 or equivalent”.
It usually takes a year full time or two years part time to study for the Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Horticulture, so I’ve managed it in very good time, considering I was studying alongside full-time work. I think that has more to do with the method of learning than any great intelligence on my part; the online course let me learn at my own pace. Distance learning meant I could move more quickly through material I found easy and more slowly when I wasn’t sure about something. It also meant I didn’t miss any material when I was feeling poorly, and when I was feeling especially energised, or if one of my plans got cancelled I could do a spontaneous extra study session.
There are a few things which will definitely help if you are studying for the qualification online. If you are working outside, take the time to learn the name and habits of one new plant each week. Don’t neglect the Latin names – they are worth a lot of marks! If you aren’t working outside, make sure you have access to a garden or allotment where you can put the skills you are learning into practice (plan for 90 minutes a lesson, although most lessons won’t take that long). I would recommend downloading and reading through one lesson each study session. Read it slowly and fill in the Revision Workbook as you go through each lesson. There are some books which are very useful for revision. The Principles of Horticulture (Adams et al., 2015) is amazing for the Principles of Plant Growth, Propagation and Development modules and the RHS Essential Gardening Techniques (Beazley, 2002) is one to go back to when revising the propagation of different plants.
There are two opportunities to sit the exams with the RHS each year, one in February and one in June. You can sign up to be examined in any of the eight modules in either session, and you only have to pass each module once. The eight modules actually divide quite nicely into two sets of four, and if you pass either of these sets you get a smaller certificate (the Certificate in the Principles of Plant Growth, Propagation and Development; and the Certificate in the Principles of Garden Planning, Establishment and Maintenance). I would recommend that you take four exams each time, and aim to get one of these smaller certificates. Once you’ve passed both smaller certificates you get the full certificate in the Principles of Horticulture. After that, you can also opt to go on to study practical skills at a local college to upgrade to the full Level 2 Diploma in Horticulture.
The Academy for Distance Learning offers online courses covering the RHS Level 2 and Level 3 certificates. All learning is done in your own time and at your own pace, and every assignment is marked by a professional in the field.