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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘Horticulture degree graduates qualify for the Green Cert’

That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, spoke to Dr Cara Daly and Yvonne Grace, the two programme leaders of the SETU BSc in Horticulture. We discuss its range of courses, obtaining your Green Cert and opportunities for graduates. 

“The BSc in Horticulture is a 3-year level 7 programme which includes 15 weeks of work placement in year 2.

This means that students are off on paid work placements in Ireland and abroad from January to late August of year 2 because their work hosts often employ them for the summer once they complete their 15-week stint.

We have a cohort of students who study exclusively in the Teagasc College of Amenity Horticulture in the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin in Dublin and another student cohort who study in SETU Waterford and Teagasc’s Kildalton College in Piltown, Co. Kilkenny.

Horticulture courses 

If students do not achieve the CAO points to join year 1 of the horticulture degree (~220-240 points), my advice to them would be to enrol on one of the many level 5 certificate in horticulture courses around the country.

Performing well in their level 5 studies and then reapplying to the CAO for a place in year 1 stands them in a good position to be offered a place with us.

Alternatively, many level 5 students go on to complete the 1-year level 6 advanced certificate in horticulture run by the Teagasc colleges.

Once they get the level 6, they are eligible to apply (via the CAO) for an advanced entry place in year 2 of the BSc in horticulture in either Kildalton College or the Botanic Gardens in Dublin.

Each year, many students join the degree using this entry route.

They are often mature students who, through their level 5 and 6 studies, come to realise that there are many diverse areas of horticulture in which to find happy and fulfilling careers.

Scenic route 

The scenic route into our degree in horticulture is becoming increasingly attractive to learners, and we are well organised for it.

For example, in recent years, we have welcomed new students with older horticulture training who want to upgrade their qualifications to seek internal promotions, and novel job opportunities.

Then there are those who are simply keen to equip themselves with the latest horticultural knowledge and experience innovation in the sector.

For instance, the older ACOT/Teagasc/FETAC Diploma in Horticulture (the last of these students finished in January 2004), allows entry to the final year of our degree, meaning that these students can upgrade their qualification after only nine months of study with SETU (September-May).

Graduates of a slightly older course called the Senior Certificate in Horticulture also allows entry to the final year of our degree.

Depending on the module timetables suiting the students’ work and family commitments, these students joining year 2 or 3 of the degree often sign up for flexible learning (by taking a few modules at a time alongside our full-time students), thus earning their degree over a slightly longer period.

The new level 6 apprenticeships in horticulture coming on stream in the next few years will likely allow entry to year 2 of our degree.


While this is possible, transferring to UCD for the level 8 qualification requires 2 years of study in UCD on top of the 3 years students have already done with us.

Instead, many of our degree students ‘top up’ their degree to honours level 8 by joining the SETU Waterford 1-year Add-on Land Management in Horticulture.

After that, there is the option to go to level 9 by joining the newly established MSc/Postgraduate Diploma in Organic and Biological Agriculture, and we also offer level 9 and level  10 qualifications by research.

Given the cost of living crisis, it is worth noting that our own SETU Horticulture students have the option of changing their registration between the Dublin and Kildalton College location.

One benefit might be to reduce accommodation or commuting costs.

However, students also get to take advantage of Teagasc’s exceptional horticulture facilities, equipment and plant collections in both locations.

Climbing the career ladder

For people who have already attained a level 6 in horticulture but cannot commit to the full-time degree, we also offer individual level 7 certificates in:

  • Landscape Design;
  • Nursery Stock Production;
  • Sustainable Food Production;
  • Sportsturf Science;
  • Garden Management and Plant Selection.

Certificate students study alongside our full-time students, and they run from early September to December each year – providing a time-efficient way to upskill in certain areas of horticulture.

From experience, we can see that graduates of our degree in horticulture tend to climb the career ladder and get supervisor and manager positions much sooner than people without degrees.

The SETU degree was designed with this in mind; we know we are educating graduates to be leaders in the horticulture sector.

Therefore, as well as very important horticulture and law knowledge, students develop business acumen and people management skills throughout the programme but especially in the final year.

Green Cert

It is often a surprise to people that graduates of the SETU horticulture degree qualify for the ‘Green Cert’.

In fact, with a horticulture degree, you have the knowledge to make a small holding pay.

This means that many of Ireland’s traditionally smaller family farms not large enough for animal or tillage farming can be run as profitable horticultural enterprises.

Horticulture really suits go-getters who appreciate a biodiverse, clean world and like to work and grow with the seasons and with nature.

But of course, success requires specific horticulture knowledge, which, beyond root crop cultivation, is not generally available on agriculture programmes.

Many of our horticulture degree graduates are self-employed landscapers, gardeners, and landscape designers, who also have tree/plant nurseries on their small family farms.

Some run their own market gardens producing fruit and other sustainably-produced food.

Because they leave the course with two major streams of study, our graduates are already ideally placed to set up, develop and diversify their own home-grown businesses.

Farms of only a few acres can be highly profitable with the diverse horticulture knowledge and the business acumen provided by the SETU horticulture degree.

We welcome anyone who wants to chat about future prospects in horticulture to get in touch with us.

Often there is a lack of awareness of the types of jobs a horticulture graduate can walk into.

However, we have put together some job profiles of past graduates that can be seen on our one-stop-shop link

At the moment, there are plenty of jobs in the horticulture industry and not near enough degree-level graduates to fill them. The sector is literally and figuratively blooming.”

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