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Course CodeVHT026
Fee CodeAD
Duration (approx)2500 hours
QualificationAdvanced Diploma

Distance Education Course -Become a Landscape Designer, Consultant or Landscape Architect

How do you become a leading Landscape Designer?

Landscape Design is part art, part science, and for most who are successful in this industry, also business. The best starting point for most successful landscapers will be a sound education that involves learning all aspects (art, science and business). Some of the top landscape designers have started with little more than a certificate, then built their knowledge and experience on the job. Others have started with a much more substantial course like this one. Success tends to come faster and surer if you begin with a more substantial course like this; but passing a course is never alone going to be a guarantee of a successful career. Education can provide a foundation; but success also requires a mind that can cross between artistic inspiration and practical application of scientific principles.  Artistic flair alone is not enough; and the ability to build structurally sound landscapes is not enough either.

We strongly recommend you talk to us before enrolling. Staff here at ACS have decades of experience in the industry and we can help you sort out whether this is the right career for you.

Course Structure

This course is made of 25 modules. These modules are best undertaken in the order outlined below.

  • Students studying more than ten hours a week however are advised to take two or more modules at a time (In for every 10 hours per week or part thereof).
  • Exams should be taken after submitting the final assignment for each module. Exams can be undertaken anywhere in the world. Exam fees are an additional cost, payable each time you apply to sit an exam. The Industry Meetings and Workshop modules do not require exams. As such, you need to sit a total of 22 exams. If an exam is failed, you have unlimited options to reapply and resit exams until they are passed (but a new exam fee applies with each application).
Course Duration: 2500 hours
This Diploma incorporates the Diploma in Landscaping VHT025 (Which equates with modules 1 to 21).
As such, an alternative is to undertake the Diploma first, then upgrade to the Advanced Diploma by completing modules 22 to 25 later on.
Upon completing this Advanced Diploma, it is possible to upgrade to further qualifications through our UK school. For these options contact our UK office



Core ModulesThese modules provide foundation knowledge for the ADVANCED DIPLOMA IN LANDSCAPING VHT026.
 LANDSCAPING III - BHT235 (Gardening Styles) BHT235
Elective ModulesIn addition to the core modules, students study any 3 of the following 19 modules.

Note that each module in the ADVANCED DIPLOMA IN LANDSCAPING VHT026 is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.


Garden Design is a unique profession that blends science with art.

Designing a garden involves:

  1. Communicating with the client to determine their needs and desires.
  2. Surveying the site, and creating a base plan (drawing)
  3. Determining potentials and limitations (What is and is not feasible)
  4. Systematically working through a logical design process, to develop, step by step, a concept that is physically achievable, as well as being functional and aesthetically appropriate.

The amount of work available in garden design has increased in recent decades, particularly in more affluent parts of the developed world. In situations where both husband and wife work, and money is relatively available, all home services including garden design have become growth industries.

Some garden designers work full time doing nothing but garden design.
Others combine garden design with another job, such as landscape contracting, garden consultancy, garden writing or retail nursery.
Garden centres sometimes offer a garden design service to entice people to buy plants from them. They may employ, or do a deal with a designer; or the owner or staff may even go and learn design themselves.

Most landscape designers are self employed. Some other employment opportunities for landscape designers include being employed by:

  • Horticultural businesses (eg. garden centres; landscape contractors).
  • Planning or design firms (eg. Architects, engineers, Town planners)
  • Developers or construction companies 
  • Government (eg. Parks departments)

Consultants may charge anything from low to extremely high rates for their design work. A garden design for a 500 to 1000 sq. metre property (home) may cost as much as a person’s weekly wage; or much more if designed by a well known and prestigious designer. The ability to command high fees will depend upon reputation and that will only develop over time, and if you are able to develop a unique and popular flair to your work.
Designers who are able to obtain employment (part time or full time) with others should be able to earn a professional level salary.

Advancement in this industry is most dependent upon reputation. If your work becomes famous, you will also, and your ability to charge more will increase. In some places, a good way of advancing your career as a designer is to create display gardens in a major garden show. Designers who win medals at Chelsea Flower Show (London) or MIFGIS (Melbourne) for instance, will find it easier to get work; and often be able to command higher fees.

Risks and challenges
Every job has certain risks associated with it; and even something that seems as easy going as garden design can still bring worries from time to time.
Self employed garden designers face the same problems as any other small business person (eg. Dissatisfied clients refusing to pay, not having an income when you are ill, too much work at times and too little at other times, people being slow to pay, etc).
While being your own boss can be a negative for some, others see it as a big bonus in this career. If your personality fits not only the job, but also the way of life, this could be a career you are well suited to.
Before you have developed a reputation in this industry you may initially find it difficult to get work.

How to become a Landscape Designer
A garden design career commonly starts by either:

  • Designing your own garden, and discovering you love the experience
  • Drifting into it from working in a related field such as gardening or architecture
  • Studying a garden design course because you just love gardens or gardening.

Landscape contractors often seek to develop design skills to broaden the services they can offer a client; or to give them a less physically demanding income source they can move into as they get older. Garden writers or consultants may offer a design service, to broaden their income opportunities.
Many of the most successful garden designers are those who have specialised in a particular garden style. For a self employed designer, this is an obvious way of making yourself stand out from the competition. Consider for instance, becoming a specialist in designing modern gardens, cottage gardens, formal gardens, tropical gardens or Japanese gardens.

Some designers focus on residential designs, and others on commercial work, public parks, or even children’s playgrounds. Just think of the number of schools and pre schools that need playgrounds designed.

If you are seeking employment with someone else as a designer, you should consider the courses you study and the skills you develop. Different skills will be attractive to different types of firms (or organisations).

 Professional institutes and associations in both the landscape and horticulture industries are useful to join. Many will require you to hold some type of qualification (or be a student) before joining.

Becoming active within such an association or institute will help you develop valuable contacts within the industry; and remain current with trends and developments.
 If you establish your own consultancy, you should investigate Professional Indemnity Insurance and any other necessary insurances. The situation does vary from country to country (and time to time), but the issue of insurance should not be neglected.

Other related jobs

  • Landscape Contractor
  • Landscape Architect
  • Landscape Consultant
  • Landscape Manager
  • Gardener
  • Groundsman
  • Handyman
  • Landscape Designer


Studies are undertaken in the following order:

Module 1. Landscaping I
Module 2. Horticulture I
Module 3. Landscaping II
Module 4. Landscaping III (Landscape Styles)
Module 5. Plant Establishment and Selection
Module 6. Landscape Construction
Module 7. Horticulture II
Module 8. Horticulture & Research I
Module 9. Water Gardening
Module 10. Playground Design
Module 11. Planning Layout and Construction of Ornamental Gardens
Module 12. Cottage Garden Design
Module 13. Permaculture Systems
Module 14. Horticultural Management
Module 15. Natural Garden Design
Module 16. Project Management
Module 17. Restoring Established Ornamental Gardens
Module 18. Horticulture & Research II
Module 19. Workshop I
Modules 20 and 21. Two relevant electives from horticulture or another area of study of value to people working in landscaping. For example … Advanced Permaculture; Irrigation – gardens; Trees for Rehabilitation; Horticultural Marketing; Plant Ecology; Conifers; Roses; Perennials; Australian Natives I; Tropical Plants; Photoshop; Starting a Small Business, Amenity Horticulture I.
Module 22 Workshop 2
Module 23 Industry Meetings 100 hrs
Modules 24 Professional Practice for Consultants
Module 25 One module elective eg; Operational Business Management I or Water Conservation & Management or Photoshop

  -Written by our Principal and founder, John Mason

Buy, download and rad immediately on your computer, i pad or reader  ... or download a sample extract for free.

Garden Design Volume 1 (e book with around 300 colour photos)

Garden Design  Volume 2 (e book with around 300 colour photos)

Starting a Garden or Landscape Business (e book)



ACS was founded by John Mason in 1979 as Australian Horticultural Correspondence School.

Right from these very early times, we've always believed that the best education only comes when the student is learning from the experience of a whole range of industry experts (rather than just a single teacher).

Every ACS course is a work in progress, continually evolving, with new information being added and old information being updated by our team of internationally renowned professional horticulturists.

Over the decades more than 100 horticulture experts from across the world have contributed to these courses, bringing their individual knowledge and experiences from as wide afield as England and Spain to Australia and America.

While may colleges and universities focus on providing courses that relate only to the country where they are based, ACS has always strived to make it's courses relevant to all parts of the world; any climate, economic or cultural situation. This has been achieved by involving a large number of professionals in the course development.

When it comes to tutoring, marking papers and mentoring students, the team approach is just as strong as with our writing. ACS students have the ability to obtain advice and support from staff across the world, with horticulture tutors located in the UK, Australia (both the north and south) and New Zealand.

The ACS team approach and global focus to both course content and student support, ensures our graduates have a unique and "real world" skills set. This unique approach is highly regarded by our colleagues in horticulture.

Contributors to ACS Courses over the years have included:

John Mason -former parks director (Melton, Essendon and Heidelberg), Landscape Designer (Playgrounds and recreation Association of Victoria), Nurseryman, President Australian Institute of Horticulture (Victoria), Committee International Year of the Child (Australia), Author ove over 40 books, Editor Garden Guide Magazine, Editor Your Backyard Magazine.

Maggi Brown - Education officer, Henry Doubleday Research Association (UK), gold medal winner Chelsea Flower Show, Garden consultant.

Adriana Fraser - Horticultural Consultant, TAFE Lecturer, Project Manager - Parks and Gardens, Horticultural writer.

Iain Harrison -Garden Manager Fibremakers, Garden Consultant, Lecturer Swinburn TAFE

Katie Freeth - Manager Commonwealth War Graves (France), Horticultural Consultant (France & UK), Board member Institute of Horticulture, and International Federation Parks & Recreation Administration

Tony Bundock -Horticulture Businessman, Consultant, Head of Horticulture Dept. TAFE

Jim Davis -Horticulture Businessman, Lecturer TAFE (NSW), Principal VCAH Burnley College

Dr Lyn Morgan -author and internationally renowned hydroponics consultant (New Zealand)

Dr Valeria Astorga -horticultural consultant, lecturer (Spain, Peru, Australia)

Alison Bundock -Editor (Kangaroo Press; Southern Cross University), Technical Writer (APM), Consultant

Rosemary Davies -Horticultural concultant, journalist, media personality (Victoria)


If you want to truly get ahead in this industry then a diploma or advanced diploma is a good option – however it takes a lot of commitment and study to finish a diploma level qualification, but it is a lot easier (especially when you are studying online) if you are supported by your education provider.

When choosing a course the most important things to consider are:

  • Choose a course of study that best suits you and your future aspirations.
  • Choose a course of study that will be broad enough for you to enable you to move across industry sectors should you want or need to.
  • Choose a course of study that can be tailored to your needs and ambitions.
  • Choose a course of study with a school that will encourage and support you and also give you practical along with theoretical skills.

ACS prides itself on all these things – our learning system ensures that students not only gather information but they absorb, retain and recall it (even years later). Problem Based Learning and Experiential Learning beats Competency based Training hands-down in producing quality graduates. Our courses are based on developing problem solving skills.

Will Studying Help me to be a Professional in Horticulture?
Many people study just to get a qualification, they rush their studies and just manage to scrape through their exams. In the workplace these people are found wanting as they just have not taken the time to gather the theoretical and practical ability to be true professionals. Advancing in a career or becoming a professional horticulturist isn’t just about horticultural skills and knowledge though - the industry needs graduates with:

  • Sound demonstrable knowledge and skills across horticulture industry sectors but also pertinent to the job; A qualification is just one part of that, many people have qualifications but it is how you are able to apply and demonstrate your knowledge that will count most to your potential employer.
  • Good communication skills: verbal, written and IT skills are the very basis of a professional in any industry and horticulture is no exception. You need to be able to communicate effectively at all levels – with workers, your peers, your employers and importantly your clients.
  • Problem solving skills: this is so lacking in many graduates from competency based courses as their range of skills is limited to what is on the ‘list’ of competencies for that course, rather than expanded through the development of problem solving skills like ACS courses. In the work place, and as a professional, you will need to problem solve all the time – you need to be able to think on your feet, come up with quick solutions and make sure that those solutions are carried through and actually work.
  • Efficiency: Being efficient doesn’t necessarily mean doing things quickly – efficiency is more linked to being a good organiser, a good planner, performing tasks in the correct, logical order and applying skills with adeptness and expertise.
  • Professional attitude: be well presented and a team player, most employers are looking for people who can work with others effectively and work as a team. They prefer people with a demonstrable passion for the industry and those that network in within industry; volunteering to get experience, memberships to clubs, societies, associations; reading literature all help you gain a good profile and make you stand out from others applying for the same positions.

What Can You do to Improve Your Career Prospects?
When you study do it for the right reasons; open yourself up to learning, rushing through a course won’t give you a sound basis of knowledge and skills you need to succeed. When you study know that this is the first step – these days you need to continue learning throughout your entire career to advance.

  • Technology also changes rapidly so being open to learning also keeps you abreast of new industry developments. Read, attend conferences, check the news in your industry, read industry papers, network and so on.
  • Learn from a variety of sources: reading and learning from a variety of perspectives expands your knowledge, building a mix of skills that will make you stand out from the crowd.
  • Make sure your C.V. is well written and presented and set out to current preferences –get help if you need it (tutors at this school will help our students with their C.V.'s if you ask - no cost. Resume writing services can also be used, but they charge).
  • Recognise your weaknesses, and work on improving them - not just academically.
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Meet some of our academics

John Mason Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant. Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 70 books and editor for 4 different gardening magazines. John has been recognised by his peers being made a fellow of the Institute of Horticulture in the UK, as well as by the Australian Institute of Horticulture.
Diana Cole Dip. Horticulture, BTEC Dip. Garden Design, Permaculture Design Certificate, B.A. (Hons)-Geography, Diploma Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development Diana has been an enthusiastic volunteer with community garden and land conservation projects since the 1980's. She has worked full time in horticulture since 2001, as a nursery manager, landscape and garden consultant, and a horticultural teacher (both with ACS and in the classroom with a local college where she lives in England).
Gavin Cole Gavin started his career studying building and construction in the early 80's. Those experiences have provided a very solid foundation for his later work in landscaping. In 1988 he completed a B.Sc. and a few years later a Certificate in Garden Design. In the mid 90's he worked as a manager and garden designer with the well respected UK company -The Chelsea Gardener. A few years later he formed his own garden design business, at first in the UK, and later operating in Queensland Australia. He has since moved to, and works from Adelaide. Apart from his work in landscaping, Gavin has been a prolific garden writer and a tutor with ACS Distance Education since 2001. He is currently part of the team of garden experts that produce Home Grown magazine.

Check out our eBooks

Garden Design Part 1This stunning full colour Garden Design ebook is full of useful tips, information and inspiration. It contains around 300 colour illustrations! It is comprised of three parts: Design, How a Garden Functions and Aesthetics (making it look good).
Garden Design Part 2Part 2 of the Garden Design Series is an inspiring accompaniment to the first book, but works equally well in its own right. It's brimming with ideas and practical advice for designing a wide variety of different gardens. You will learn about different styles of gardens and how to create a style to suit a site or client. It contains around 300 colour photos! Written by John Mason over several decades of visiting and photographing gardens, writing, teaching and creating gardens.
The Environment of PlayFull of inspiring colour images of playgrounds around the world, this book is ideal for designers, park managers, schools and parents! First published in the USA in 1982. Used in the past as a university text (in landscaping and education degrees). Completely revised in 2012. Full of inspiring colour images of playgrounds around the world, this book is ideal for designers, park managers, schools and parents! Play is the most important and effective method of learning for adults as well as children. It can be active or passive, planned or spontaneous. If you want to learn about the relationship between PLAY and the ENVIRONMENT, this is the ebook for you.
Tropical LandscapingTropical Landscaping is a style that may be used more in tropical places, but can still be created in cooler climates. This book provides practical advice and inspiration over 8 chapters: “Garden Design”, “Components of a Tropical Garden”, “Building the Garden”, “Outdoor Living Areas”, “Pools, Ponds and Water Features”, “Lawns”. “Plants (to use), and “Caring for Plants”. 103 pages 69 colour photos