HNC Horticulture

Higher National qualifications provide practical skills and theoretical knowledge that meet the needs of employers.

The HNC in Horticulture (SCQF level 7) develops knowledge and skills in areas such as plant growth and development, plant protection and identification, and soil management.

It introduces learners to the breadth of the horticultural industry and to areas of specialism.  As well as developing the practical skills required for the identification, care and maintenance of plants, learners will gain the supervisory and management skills that are sought by employers.

This qualification is available through colleges, training providers and some universities. Typically, an HNC takes one year to complete and an HND takes two years.

This subject will not have alternative assessment guidance for session 2023-24. You should refer to the Group Award/Unit specifications for detailed delivery and assessment information. For general support on delivery and assessment see the HNVQ assessment guidance 2023-24.

Higher National qualifications have been developed by SQA in partnership with colleges, universities and industry ¿ so employers recognise that they provide sound evidence of ability.

The Unit-based structure supports flexibility. A Unit is typically 40 hours of timetabled learning.

There is a wide choice of optional Units, which will enable centres to offer courses tailored to meet local needs.

This HN provides progression routes to further study (see Progression). 

The HNC Horticulture is suitable for a wide range of candidates including:

  • school leavers
  • adult returners to education
  • individuals in employment who wish to enhance their career prospects
  • people who wish to start their own business


As with all SQA qualifications, entry is at the discretion of the centre.

No prior knowledge of Horticulture, Landscape Management or Garden Design will be necessary for entry, but relevant prior experience or qualifications would be of benefit. Examples of formal entry qualifications include:

  • appropriate groupings of National Units
  • an SVQ at Level 3 in a relevant area
  • relevant work experience

Different combinations of relevant National Qualifications, vocational qualifications and equivalent qualifications from other awarding bodies may also be acceptable.

Progression and employment

Learners who achieve an HNC Horticulture can progress to the HND in Horticulture (GJ9P 16) or Horticulture with Plantsmanship (GJ9T 16).

The HNC will provide the knowledge and understanding and practical skills required to work at a junior level in the sector.

HNCs can provide progression to degree-level study. For example, the HNC in Horticulture allows direct entry into the second year of some degree programmes.

Higher National qualifications also provide the knowledge and understanding required for related Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs). For example, SVQ Level 3 in Horticulture. 

What you'll learn?

The HNC Horticulture will introduce you to the breadth of the horticultural industry and develop an understanding of the characteristics, growth and use of plants. You will develop the basic practical skills required for the care and maintenance of plants.

You will study in a student-centred learning environment which will stimulate you to reach your full potential. You will develop the communication, supervisory and management skills that are required in horticulture, and will gain generic knowledge and understanding, competences, skills and abilities in horticulture and landscape that will make you employable at the craft level of the industry.

You will also gain a broad knowledge of horticulture and landscape and an appreciation of the employment sectors within the industries, including becoming familiar the main theoretical concepts and terminology. You will get an outline knowledge of areas of specialism, and a growing appreciation of the evolving nature of knowledge and understanding of horticultural science and practices.

You will be introduced to research processes, and gain a clear understanding of the social relevance of horticulture and landscape. You will develop your skills in problem solving, analysis, synthesis and evaluation, and to develop solutions, some of which will be innovative, to a variety of unpredictable problems.

Centres with devolved authority for approval should use their own internal approval process.

Centres without devolved authority will have to come forward for approval and should contact SQA's Business Development Team for guidance.

Assessors and verifiers must be able to meet SQA's general requirements for technical/occupational competence as outlined in the Guide to Approval.


Each individual Unit specification gives detailed information on the Evidence Requirements and approaches to assessment for each Unit.

Ongoing course assessment will apply.

Assessment support packs are available for this qualification from SQA's secure website.

HNC in Horticulture

Group Award code: GJ9L 15 (96 SCQF credit points)

HNC in Horticulture at SCQF level 7 consists of 6 mandatory Units (56 SCQF credit points) and a number of optional Units (40 SCQF credit points).

For further information on the Units and Structure of this qualification please refer to the Group Award Specification (0.97 MB).