Certificate Course FAQs


  1. When does the course start?
  2. How much is it and are there easy payment options?
  3. What are the entry requirements?
  4. What is the difference between the standard and PLUS courses?
  5. What will I get at the end of the course?
  6. What skills and knowledge will I acquire if I do this course?
  7. How will the course improve my employment possibilities?
  8. What if I have already completed some courses with Acorn Ecology?
  9. Where will the course be held?
  10. What equipment will I need?
  11. How do I book onto the course?
  12. What will I receive before the course starts?
  13. What will I be expected to do in my own time?
  14. How is the Certificate PLUS work experience organized?
  15. Do you have a cancellation policy?
  16. What happens if I cannot attend one of the additional courses?
  17. Are there any hidden or additional costs?
  18. What will the time commitment be?
  19. I understand that there are marked assignments. What are they and how are they marked?
  20. What happens about accommodation and meals when I am on a course?
  21. Who will be teaching the course?
  22. What learning support will I get during the course?
  23. Who will I contact if I have a problem during the course?
  24. Why choose Acorn Ecology for my training?
  25. Have you got any testimonials?
  26. What other benefits will I get from being on this course?


    Answer: 1. When does the course start?

    There will be an initial course of 5 days which will be held on 9th to 13th April 2018 and will include the three compulsory courses – Phase 1 Habitat Surveying, Preliminary Ecological Appraisal, and Survey Techniques for Protected Species. During the core week you will also attend tutorials about Plant ID and Wildlife Law. Other sessions during the week will cover health and safety, CIEEM membership, career planning, goal-setting, guidance on background reading, getting experience and working on your CV.

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Answer: 2. How much is it and are there easy payment options?

The following prices apply if you are making a single up-front payment:

Course Standard Price
Certificate in Ecological Consultancy (standard) £1800 (£2000 by instalments)
Certificate in Ecological Consultancy (PLUS) £2200 (£2400 by instalments)

Easy payment options:
If you would rather spread the payments, you can pay an initial deposit followed by 10 monthly instalments. The amounts of the deposits and monthly instalments are outlined in the table below. In order to take this easy payment option a contract will need to be
signed and a guarantor will be required.

Course Deposit Monthy payments for 10 months Total
Standard £335 £166.50 £2000
Plus £400 £200 £2400

If you wish to attend further courses outside this package then these will be charged at our student course rate and can be booked on-line on the ‘Introductory Short Courses’ page.

If you want to book multiple extra courses we give our Certificate students a special offer of ‘buy 3 courses and get a 4th course half price’ (cheapest half price). You will need to arrange this via e-mail.

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Answer: 3. What are the entry requirements?

This course is aimed at people who might typically have a relevant degree (e.g. ecology, biology, zoology or similar) or a good level of background knowledge gained from volunteering or work experience. New graduates who have a degree, but no experience and lack the knowledge and experience to get onto the ecological consultancy career ladder will find this really beneficial to their employment prospects.

If you do not have a relevant degree, please contact us (01392 366512 or training@acornecology.co.uk) to discuss whether your other experience meets the necessary entry requirements. We want you to have the best possible chance of getting onto the career ladder and there may be other options that you can explore.

Please note that a fair level of fitness is required and ecology work can be quite physical. You should be able to walk for around 5km on rough terrain for the field courses and also be able to carry equipment around sites.

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Answer: 4. What is the difference between the standard and PLUS courses?

The Certificate in Ecological Consultancy (standard) includes the first intensive week of core courses, the three additional courses, the self-study tutorials, the Invasive Species on-line course, an optional CV check and marked assignments.The Certificate in Ecological Consultancy –PLUS, includes all of these features as well as:

A four week long work placement at Acorn Ecology. This unpaid placement will involve on the job training, where students will be able to shadow a team of ecologists in their day to day work, assisting with surveys, report writing and numerous other tasks. People who have undertaken work experience in the past have found it immensely useful at increasing their skills and improving their employability.

A one to one personalised goal setting and career planning session with our Principal Ecologist and Managing Director, Sue Searle. This is an opportunity to create a career action plan which should motivate and guide you into taking positive steps towards achieving your career aspirations.

We will probably be happy to provide a work reference (as required) or a reference for CIEEM membership once the month long placement has been completed.

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Answer: 5. What will I get at the end of the course?

All students will gain an Acorn Ecology Certificate in Ecological Consultancy (standard or PLUS), and this will outline for prospective employers your learning, skills and experience. Our Principal Ecologists will also be happy to provide references for professional body membership and jobs (PLUS students only). In addition where appropriate training and courses have been undertaken, we may be able to provide you with a reference for a protected species licence application.

By the end of the course all students should have a great CV and Certificate PLUS students should also have a career plan.

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Answer: 6. What skills and knowledge will I acquire if I do this course?

You will acquire a range of skills including ID (e.g. plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies, and animal tracks and signs), survey techniques for various species and habitats, Phase 1 habitat mapping, how to undertake a protected species assessment, report-writing, desk studies, wildlife legislation, animal handling (depending on course choices) and health and safety. This suite of skills is designed to be those that you would be required to have as a professional ecologist.

If you are on the Certificate PLUS course, your placement is likely to give you other skills and heightened experience in report writing, Anabat sound analysis, conducting surveys (especially bat emergence/activity surveys) and the business side of consultancy. Certificate PLUS students will also acquire more personal development skills such as goal-setting, CV preparation and career planning.

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Answer: 7. How will the course improve my employment possibilities?

You will have gained a range of field skills, survey techniques, and identification skills that are vital to your progression in the ecological consultancy field. You will have a sound background of other knowledge and have gained confidence in your own abilities. You will also know that your CV is going to attract employers.

For those students on the Certificate PLUS course, you will also have a month’s work experience to add to your CV as well as a work reference from our Principal Ecologists. You will also have a career plan and know which jobs to go for to benefit you the most.

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Answer: 8. What if I have already completed some courses with Acorn Ecology?

We will look at your application on a case by case basis and suggest other courses that you might want to take instead, if appropriate. We want to ensure that you get the maximum benefit from this course.

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Answer: 9. Where will the course be held?

The core week, exam and some of the optional courses will be held at Westpoint, Sidmouth Road, Exeter, Devon, EX5 1DJ (where our Head Office is based). However, a variety of locations are used for specific optional courses Surrey (near Godalming), Bristol, Dorset (near Swanage) and Hampshire (near Winchester).

You will be given directions to the relevant course venues and we will also provide an accommodation list with options from campsites to hotels.

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Answer: 10. What equipment will I need?

You will require a Phase 1 Handbook to complete the Phase 1 course and the related assignment.

It is important that you have good outdoor gear such as walking boots/wellies, waterproof coat and over-trousers, and fleece jacket. Other items that you will find useful will include clipboard and paper, pens/pencils, ID books (e.g. plants, birds, mammals – all available from our book shop on our website), binoculars, bat detector (optional), GPS (optional), compass, torch and hand lens. We will provide a suggested equipment list and reading list when you sign up for the course. Field Studies Council ID charts will be available to purchase on courses as well as various other useful publications.

If you are doing the PLUS course, it will also be beneficial (and in some cases essential) to have a car for the placement.

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Answer: 11. How do I book onto the course?

Please ensure you meet the booking criteria of relevant degree in ecology/zoology/biology or similar. If you do not, then please contact us with your CV at training@acornecology.co.uk in the first instance, prior to booking.

If you are paying in full you just need to complete a single booking form and send a payment (either via BACS, phone or cheque) to Acorn Ecology Ltd. Payment details are included on the booking form.

If you prefer the monthly easy payment option then there will be an application form and a standing order form, and you will also need to provide evidence of a guarantor. You can find these forms by clicking here, or by e-mailing us at training@acornecology.co.uk. Students should also include a CV with their application.

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Answer: 12. What will I receive before the course starts?

When you book on to the course you will receive a Welcome Pack that will include a reading list; information about your self-study tutorials; an equipment and kit list; a CV checklist; some information sheets about consultancy; details of the assignments that you will need to complete during the course; and key dates for the course.

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Answer: 13. What will I be expected to do in my own time?

The more you do in your spare time the more you will get out of this course. We recommend certain books for you to read as well as directing you to websites packed with useful information. Consolidating your ID skills is probably the most vital thing that you will need to spend time on. We will direct you to resources and give you field experience and knowledge to give you confidence to get started. You will also need to complete the four self-study tutorials, the on-line invasive species course and some specific marked assignments linked to your field courses and tutorials.

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Answer: 14. How is the Certificate PLUS work experience organized?

The work experience placement is only available to those students who sign up to the Certificate PLUS course.

We have been offering work experience placements for some years now. They will last for 4 weeks and you will have the opportunity to work (as a volunteer) alongside ecologists carrying out field surveys, writing reports and preparing equipment. This experience is invaluable in getting you a job in consultancy as there is no substitute for work experience!

The placements will typically be between April and October, as these are the best times to gain survey experience. Placements are available at the Exeter, Bristol and Guildford offices. We only like to have two students at the Exeter office and one student at the Bristol and Guildford offices at any one time. Placement dates will be allocated on a first come first served basis, so be sure to book early if you want to choose dates and office locations that will suit you. There is a separate form to fill in to book your work placement, which will be sent to you after you have booked onto the course.

There will be a formal induction on the first day to establish working practices and to help us find out what you want out of the experience. This placement is VOLUNTARY and you may need to find accommodation if you do not live locally to the office in which your placement is taking place.

Please note that we expect our work experience students to be enthusiastic and dedicated. We are likely to be doing a lot of evening bat surveys whilst you are on placement, so it is best to leave your diary nice and free so that you can cram in as much as experience as possible!

Please note that you will gain more from this placement if you have the use of a car (if you don’t have a car, please talk to us before booking on to the PLUS course as a car is essential in some circumstances). Previous students have found that they have missed out on some opportunities because they have been unable to get themselves to meeting points/sites, particularly at unsocial hours. Mileage expenses will be paid if you are required to drive between the office and survey sites.

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Answer: 15. Do you have a cancellation policy?

In the event of insufficient numbers the course will be cancelled and your money returned. Minimum number 6.

We also reserve the right to cancel the course at any time in the event of unforeseen circumstances and your money will be returned in full.

If you have to cancel before starting the course for any reason then the following refunds will be made:

  • Up to one month before start date: 60% refund,
  • 2 – 4 weeks before: 30% refund.
  • Less than 2 weeks before or during the course: no refund will be due.

Please note that if you are paying by installments, the deposit is non-refundable.

As there are limited places on the course we will not be able to refund fees once you have started the course, however, in exceptional circumstances we would allow you to defer. If you do not complete the required elements of the course, you will not be entitled to the final certificate.

If you have booked on to the PLUS element of the course and due to unforeseen circumstances are unable to complete the 4 week work placement, we may be able to give you the option of undertaking a shorter placement instead. If you are unable to undertake the placement at all, 6 weeks’ notice before the start of the placement must be given in order to downgrade to the standard package.

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Answer: 16. What happens if I cannot attend one of the additional courses?

Once you have signed onto your chosen additional courses, you will be expected to attend those courses on the agreed dates. However, we will remain flexible about changing course options until after the core week has been completed in case you discover specific skill gaps during that week.

If you are unable to attend one of your additional course, we will try and transfer you to the next available course date. However, the following fees will apply. The reason we need to apply these fees is because we will be unable to fill your place if we are given insufficient notice.

  • If you cancel 2- 4 weeks before the start of the course = 50% of course price (student rate)
  • If you cancel < 2 weeks before the start of the course = Full price of course (student rate)

Please note that if you have to cancel at the last minute due to issues such as bereavement or illness, we will treat your case sympathetically at our discretion. However we may require evidence (e.g. a doctor’s note).

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Answer: 17. Are there any hidden or additional costs?

The fee does not cover accommodation, travel costs, meals, equipment or books. These will need to be covered by you. On your work placement you will be a VOLUNTEER but travel expenses will be paid for if you have to travel on business for us. Whilst on the field courses transport will be by fellow students who are happy to drive and you may wish to contribute petrol money to the driver.

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Answer: 18. What will the time commitment be?

You will need to attend the compulsory core week and three optional field courses so that will be 8-10 days in total, 5 days of which make up the initial compulsory course on Monday 9th to Friday 13th April 2018.

If you are on the Certificate PLUS course, you will also need to attend a four week work placement during the summer months (April to October), as well as an hour long one-to-one career planning session which can be carried out at any point during your placement.

There will also be a final exam and graduation party on 12th November 2018. You will come to Exeter and complete your exam, followed by a lunch and graduation when we hand out certificates and formally celebrate your achievements throughout the course.

Other tasks will need to be completed in your own time, including:

  • Four self-study tutorials which will each take around 1-1.5 hours to complete (not including background reading).
  • Invasive species online self study course – 9 modules (each taking 2+ hours, with background reading).
  • Marked assignments that are linked to consolidating your learning from the field courses, and it is anticipated that these would take a maximum of 4 days to complete.
  • Background reading. We will provide a list of background reading and we recommend that you read as many of these as possible so that your learning gain is maximised.

We anticipate that you will be able to complete the course in 8 months.

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Answer: 19. I understand that there are marked assignments. What are they and how are they marked?

All course participants will need to complete the following assignments in their own time:

  • Protected species factsheet
  • Planning phase 2 surveys for a proposed development
  • Preliminary Ecological Appraisal report including desk study and phase 1 habitat map

There is also an end of course assignment, carried out in Exeter at the end of the course. This will be an exam style quiz relating to ID, legislation and survey techniques

Deadlines for each assignment will be staggered throughout the course and these dates will be provided in your Welcome Pack. You will receive a mark and feedback on each assignment prior to having to complete the next assignment.

The assignments will be marked based on the University standard marking criteria.

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Answer: 20. What happens about accommodation and meals when I am on a course?

If you are coming a long way, we will provide an accommodation list and you will need to find your own accommodation. You need to provide your own meals and typically a packed lunch will be required for field courses. In the evening we usually book a table in the local pub and it is a great time for getting to know the other students and tutors. However, if you are local you are welcome to go home if you prefer.

We will provide refreshments such as hot and cold drinks when we are in the classroom, but not whilst out in the field. During the core week there is a snack box in the classroom where you can buy crisps, chocolate bars and cereal bars; and there is a village shop about 1 mile away.

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Answer: 21. Who will be teaching the course?

One of our Principal Ecologists, Sue Searle BSc, PGDip(Ecology), MCIEEM, will oversee the teaching side of the Certificate course and will be one of the tutors during the core week and on some of the optional courses. Other tutors that will be involved in the core week and/or the optional courses will be experienced ecologists from Acorn Ecology or external tutors that are experts in their field. The tutors are friendly and you will find that they are very easy to get on with, open to any questions you have, and supportive of your career aspirations. Sue will be your main point of contact for the courses part of the Certificate and Sally Blower (Admin and Finance Manager) will handle any admin or payment queries about courses.

Sue and the other tutors are very knowledgeable about all aspects of ecological consultancy. The main tutor Sue has been working as a consultant since 2003, is a licensed bat worker and dormouse worker as well as a bat licence trainer. Sue has been a guest lecturer at Exeter, Bristol and Greenwich Universities and has also run courses for CIEEM, Field Studies Council and The Mammal Society.

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Answer: 22. What learning support will I get during the course?

If you have any problems or questions about the taught part of the course then do not hesitate to call our head office at Exeter and Sue, or one of the other tutors will be happy to help. Whilst you are actually on courses then you will find the tutors very helpful. They are there to answer any questions and help where they can. Your assignments will be marked gradually and you will receive feedback on those to help you improve. We will also provide guidance on useful reading and websites, career planning and setting goals to move you forward.

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Answer: 23. Who will I contact if I have a problem during the course?

If you are attending a course then speak directly to your tutor otherwise you can call the office any time. Sally Blower (Admin and Finance Manager) will be your point of contact about any administrative aspects of the course. During the initial induction you will have a chance to meet all of Acorn Ecology’s head office staff so you will know who you are speaking to if you need to call us.

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Answer: 24. Why choose Acorn Ecology for my training?

Acorn Ecology Ltd is now recognised as one of the top training centres in the UK for ecologists. We provide both introductory courses and more advanced courses. We have been running courses since 2007 and have many regular clients including big organisations such as BTCV, National Trust and Councils. On feedback we score 85% ‘Excellent’.

The Acorn Ecology training team work as ecological consultants when they are not teaching courses and therefore have up to date knowledge and experience in this subject. Sue, who is the senior tutor for the Certificate course, has been a guest lecturer at Exeter, Bristol and Greenwich Universities and has also run courses for CIEEM, Field Studies Council and The Mammal Society. Sue takes particular interest in the Certificate course students as relationships develop over the duration of the course. She is very supportive and gives excellent advice on career progression, personal development and setting goals.

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Answer: 25. Have you got any testimonials?

Many of our previous students on the Certificate course have given us testimonials – here are some examples:

‘The last seven months have really changed my life, I am now focused on something that I really enjoy…and I would recommend this [ certificate course] one hundred percent to anyone looking to start a career in ecology or even just wanting to gain in depth knowledge of wildlife and conservation.’

‘I just want to say thank you to everyone at Acorn for being so supportive and inspiring! It has been one of the most rewarding things I have done, and I have loved every minute!’

‘I have learned more than I could ever have imagined by doing this course. It has not only been massively challenging and rewarding but also lots of fun… I absolutely recommend the course to anyone wanting to break into the profession of ecology; it is definitely worth every penny!’

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Answer: 26. What other benefits will I get from being on this course?

Previous Certificate students found that they all made new friends, supported each other and enjoyed meeting up at the various additional courses. Many swapped addresses and shared rooms or lifts when attending courses. Getting to know the staff at Acorn Ecology has also benefitted some of the more local students who have been out on bat surveys and some have been sub-contracted to do surveys (once trained). The work experience is particularly valuable because you really find out what it is like working for a consultancy, and everyone enjoys working in the friendly atmosphere at Acorn Ecology where they are part of the team for the 4 weeks of the placement.

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