Land Based, Environmental and Animal Care Apprenticeships

Land based careers is a term that describes careers that relates to farming and industries connected to the land and environment, including horticulture, food production, forestry, conservation, landscaping and equine (horses)…. Careers can also include working with animals, nature conservation and caring for our land and environment.

Land based careers covers a mind boggling wide number of careers in many areas. We are going to take a look at agriculture, horticulture and animal care. If you love the great outdoors, working with plants or caring for animals, there are plenty of options available, and in places you may not suspect! If you love the great outdoors, don’t mind getting your hands dirty and like the idea of working in a permanently evolving global sector, playing a part in keeping food on people’s tables and making sure we do our best to look after Mother Earth, then a career in agriculture could be the one for you!


Feed the world!

Agriculture is one of the oldest industries in the world, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also a rapidly changing one. New innovations in technology, production and engineering make this a fast paced global sector – but still one which is closely bound to the land and the seasons.

People need feeding. Simple. But they need feeding in a way which looks after our environment as well as generating work and income for the millions of people involved in it. 

Some careers require physically hard work, long days spent on the land or looking after livestock. But there are many that don’t! You could find yourself in a lab, testing new ways of protecting crops from pesticides. Or working alongside companies on new solutions to transporting food across the country and beyond. Or conserving rare species of plants. If you have a passion for the land and how we use it, this could be the future for you.

What could you do?

Careers in agriculture include:

What skills do you need?

You need at least two GCSE’s to apply for college courses in agriculture and three A levels for degree courses. Preferred subjects include science, technology, engineering and maths – worth bearing in mind if you’re thinking of GCSE and A level choices. 

Personal skills needed in the sector include:

How do you get into the sector and train?

One of the best ways to gain insight into the industry is keeping an eye on the farming press and social media. The Farmers Weekly for example offers a student discount on its subscription and has a dedicated careers page. Follow hashtags like #teamdairy and #agrichatuk on twitter too and find people to follow.

Get some work experience. Every course or apprenticeship will expect you to have done some. Approach a local farmer and ask. Or go through an organisation like the National Sheep Association – they compile a list of sheep farmers willing to host agriculture and vet students to help at lambing time. 

Apprenticeships are widely available at every level, with some including a management element. Generally they combine 4 days a week at work with one day at college. 

Or you could choose a college or uni based qualification from Level 1, 2 and 3 diplomas to Masters degrees. Most diplomas and degrees have a good dose of land based work included, with work experience built in to the course. Entry requirements depend on the level you are looking at, but a Diploma Level 1 requires four GCSEs including English and maths or science. A typical degree course in agriculture requires three A levels, including a science subject.

Fun facts

17.6 million hectares of land in the UK is used for agriculture – that’s a whopping 72%!**

60% of agricultural careers are based on STEM subjects*

The industry estimates it needs 60,000 new people to work in the sector by 2020*

86% of shoppers in the UK want to buy traceable British food that has been produced on British farms*

If you live and work in the countryside, the Office for National Statistics says you’ll live longer!

A farm workers average salary is £23,920 and managers average salary is £34,320.

Search for more labour market information on our Careerometer.


Imagine a world without plants. Without public and private spaces filled with colour. A world where native plant species disappear. It wouldn’t last long. Then there is the part plants play in local economies and the use of plants not only as food and decoration, but as trading commodities and the source for, or foundation of, many of our modern medicines. 

And there’s just how beautiful a garden can look – adding to our sense of calm and tranquility as we simply take a break from the everyday hubbub.

Horticulture embraces all these areas – from award winning gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show to collecting and conserving the saplings of endangered tree species from the equatorial rainforest. Ultimately, the horticultural sector is one where your passion for plants can really shine through. 

It could take you around the world as a conservation horticulturist or you could be the one to make your local community a better place to live and work by being part of a team maintaining public spaces. Whichever way you go, the job satisfaction in this sector is huge. 

Careers – what can you do?

You could go into:

What skills do you need?

Generally at least 3 GCSEs and a positive tutor reference are the absolute basics. It helps to have the skills and passion specific to horticulture and like working in a team:

Qualifications and Training

There are a number of different routes into horticulture – it’s all about finding what is right for you.


Organisations such as the National Trust and the Eden Project offer apprenticeships in Horticulture. You’ll need a qualification in English and Maths as a minimum. Apprenticeships last at least 12 months, with mentoring and attending courses at college included. You’ll be hands on and part of a team from day one, learning (and earning) while you are involved in projects big and small. 

College courses

Colleges across the country offer a variety of horticulture and related courses, including BTEC Diploma Levels 1-3 and apprenticeships. When you research courses available, you will see that even within Horticulture there are many different paths your career can take. This can include specific courses on elements of horticulture, for instance, arboriculture and conservation.

It’s a good idea to get some kind of experience under your belt, as colleges and companies recruiting students and apprentices like to see that you have explored the area a bit. Think about volunteering with a local organisation like It’s Your Neighbourhood. There is a useful list on the Royal Horticultural Society website with details of organisations near you who are looking for volunteers.

You can progress up the qualification ladder to courses which include management and business training (Level 3), which develop your skills to be a senior worker or manager. And if you choose to do it through an apprenticeship, then you may stay within an organisation and be part of a national team, or decide to go it alone and set up your own horticulture business. But the skills you will develop whilst training will be essential throughout your career.

Fun Facts

The combined area of the UK’s gardens is roughly the same as Somerset!

There are an estimated 2,300 garden centres and retail nurseries in the UK

Ornamental horticulture and landscaping in the UK made an estimated contribution of £24.2 billion to the national GDP in 2017 *

568,700 jobs are supported by ornamental horticulture and landscaping *

Average annual pay in the Horticultural trades – £21,320

43.4% of the workforce is projected to retire between now and 2024, creating over 8,200 openings

Animal Care

Horses are perhaps some of the most beautiful animals in the world and that is why so many people want to work with them.

Animal care is what it says on the tin – looking after animals of all shapes and sizes – from gerbils to rhinos, penguins to orcas. A career in animal care can combine your love of animals with a great job. 

We’ve taken a closer look at one area – Equine care – with the help of the British Horseracing Association.

Thoroughbred racehorses are some of the best cared for horses in our country with many of their stables more like spa hotels. Think massages, solariums (sunbeds), swimming pools and treadmills! Yes that’s right – racehorses are treated to the best of everything and you could work with these beautiful athletes.

If you have never had the chance to learn to ride don’t worry; in the racing industry we have specialist training colleges that can teach you to do that. There are also many jobs caring for horses that don’t require you to be able to ride at all. Take Stud Grooms for example, they care for the mares (the mums) and their foals (the baby horses). To do this job you would need training to know how to handle the horses, groom them and look after them as they grow up. It’s a very rewarding job – one day you might see them win on the racecourse too.

If you do like riding, or fancy giving it a try, working as a Racing Groom could be just the thing for you. A Racing Groom will care for the racehorses on a day to day basis, brushing their coats to keep them clean, feeding them and mucking out their stables. They will also ride up to 4 horses a day, both in riding arenas and on riding tracks, called ‘gallops’. Washing horses down after they have been ridden and putting them under the solarium to dry off and to relax their muscles might be the next job. Horses also go in special swimming pools for exercise, which is amazing to see – for big animals, they are pretty good swimmers and really enjoy it!

So, if you want to work with animals and want to do something a bit out of the ordinary, then you need to take a look at the training available to you when you leave school.  There are two specialist training colleges for you to choose from: The National Horseracing College and the British Racing School. They both offer a residential foundation course in racehorse care, which you can start after your GCSE’s or A Levels. 

If exams have never been your favourite thing (don’t worry, but try and get the best results you can), showing you love animals is the most important qualification for this job. Once you have successfully completed your foundation courses you will go on to complete a Level 2 Apprenticeship whilst working and earning!  Once you have done this training you might want to go onto the National Stud when you are a bit older to learn how to look after mares and foals.

*source – National Farmers Union

**source – Savills Research Defra January 2019

The economic impact of ornamental horticulture in the UK report 2018

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