The Permaculture Design Course (PDC) is the most widely recognised and offered type of permaculture education. PDC courses follow a syllabus established by Bill Mollison – most PDCs worldwide will cover the same fundamentals, but details will vary under the influence of both the bioregion and the individual tutor. Some people undertake more than one PDC during their lives in order to learn from different tutors. There are three flavours of PDC course, equivalent in content, but arranged to suit the time availability of students. In all cases the formal tuition time amounts to at least 72 hours.

PiNZ recommends you ensure the course you are following is PiNZ approved as only these will allow you to receive a certificate endorsed by PiNZ and recognised internationally.

The Residential (or block) PDC

A two-week intensive course, usually residential on a permaculture property with a group of around a dozen students. There are usually one or two lead tutors and there may be guest tutors for some topics. Many people describe a residential PDC as a life-changing experience, and enduring friendships are often formed with fellow students.

The Modular PDC

A series of weekly or monthly courses, designed for people who are unable to set aside a block of time to attend a residential course. There are usually one or two lead tutors and there may be guest tutors for some modules. A PDC is awarded for completion of 90% of the modules, with the first (Introductory) and last (design project) modules being compulsory.
Many courses are also open to people taking a limited number of modules (and not gaining a PDC) or obtaining a PDC over two programs if the student cannot attend some modules in the first year. While it can lack the feeling of a tight-knit group found in a residential PDC course, the modular approach allows time for practice, reflection and homework between modules, as well as the building of long term relationships. Because there are no (or fewer) accommodation costs, a modular PDC is usually cheaper than a residential one.

PDC Farm Internship

A six to ten-week residential programme on a working permaculture farm, designed for people who want an immersion learning experience and/or to learn rural skills. The PDC curriculum is covered through both formal and informal lessons and can include local field trips and other tutors. In most cases, tuition fees are lower than a Residential PDC because interns help out on the farm to cover some or most of the costs associated with running the course.

Correspondence PDC

Lastly, it is possible to undertake a PDC by Distance Learning. Practical aspects of training are obviously limited and a course originating overseas will lack local content, or maybe specific to a climate not experienced here. Currently, there is only one New Zealand based, PiNZ-accredited correspondence course on offer, through Regenpreneur.