Landscape architects design parks and the outdoor spaces of campuses, recreational facilities, businesses, private homes, and other open spaces.

Duties

Landscape architects typically do the following:

  • Meet with clients, engineers, and building architects to understand the requirements of a project
  • Prepare site plans, specifications, and cost estimates
  • Coordinate the arrangement of existing and proposed land features and structures
  • Prepare graphic representations of plans using computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software
  • Select appropriate landscaping materials
  • Analyze environmental reports on land conditions, such as drainage and energy usage
  • Inspect landscape project progress to ensure that it adheres to plans
  • Seek new work through marketing activities or by giving presentations

Landscape architects design attractive and functional public parks, gardens, playgrounds, residential areas, college campuses, and public spaces. They also plan the locations of buildings, roads, walkways, flowers, shrubs, and trees within these environments. Landscape architects design these areas so that they are not only easy to use but also harmonious with the natural environment.

Landscape architects use various technologies in their work. For example, using CADD software, landscape architects prepare models of their proposed work. They present these models to clients for feedback and then prepare the final look of the project. Many landscape architects also use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) which offer GPS coordinates of different geographical features. This helps landscape architects design different environments by providing clues on where to start planning and how to anticipate future effects of the landscape, such as rainfall running into a valley.

The goals of landscape architects are to enhance the natural beauty of a space and foster environmental benefits. Landscape architects may plan the restoration of natural places that were changed by humans or nature, such as wetlands, streams, and mined areas. They also may design green roofs (roofs that are covered in soil and plants) or rooftop gardens that can retain storm water, absorb air pollution, and cool buildings while also providing pleasant scenery.

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Work Environment

Landscape architects

Landscape architects may design gardens for resorts.

Landscape architects held about 23,500 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of landscape architects were as follows:

Architectural, engineering, and related services       54%
Self-employed workers       19
Landscaping services       13
Government        7
Construction        1

Landscape architects spend much of their time in offices, where they create plans and designs, prepare models and preliminary cost estimates, and meet with clients and workers involved in designing or planning a project. They spend the rest of their time at jobsites.

Education and Training

Landscape architects usually need at least a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture and a state-issued license, which typically requires completion of an internship.

Education

A bachelor's or master's degree in landscape architecture is usually necessary for entry into the profession. There are two undergraduate landscape architect degrees: a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) and a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture (BSLA). These programs usually require 4 to 5 years of study.

Accredited programs are approved by the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB). Prospective landscape architects whose undergraduate degree is in another field may enroll in a Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) graduate degree program, which typically takes 3 years of full-time study.

Courses typically include landscape design and construction, landscape ecology, and site design. Other relevant coursework may include history of landscape architecture, plant and soil science, and professional practice.

The design studio is a key component of any curriculum. When possible, students are assigned projects that offer hands-on experience. These projects allow students to work with computer-aided design and drafting (CADD), model building, and other design software.

Training

To become licensed, candidates must meet experience requirements determined by each state. A list of training requirements is available from the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards.

New hires awaiting licensure may be called intern landscape architects. Although duties vary with the type and size of the employing firm, interns typically must work under the supervision of a licensed landscape architect for the experience to count toward licensure. Potential landscape architects may benefit by completing an internship with a landscape architecture firm during educational studies. Interns may improve their technical skills and gain an understanding of the day-to-day operations of the business, including learning how to recruit clients, generate fees, and work within a budget.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states require landscape architects to be licensed. Candidates for licensure must pass the Landscape Architect Registration Examination (LARE), which is sponsored by the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards.

Candidates who are interested in taking the exam usually need a degree from an accredited school and experience working under the supervision of a licensed landscape architect, although standards vary by state. For candidates without a degree in landscape architecture, many states offer alternative paths—which usually require more work experience—to qualify to take the LARE.

In addition to the LARE, some states have their own registration exam to test for competency on state-specific issues, such as earthquakes in California or hurricanes in Florida. State-specific exams may focus on laws, environmental regulations, plants, soils, climate, and other characteristics unique to the state.

Licensed landscape architects also may obtain voluntary certification from the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards, which might make it easier to get licensed in another state.

Personality and Interests

Landscape architects typically have an interest in the Building, Thinking and Creating interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Creating interest area indicates a focus on being original and imaginative, and working with artistic media.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Thinking or Creating interest which might fit with a career as a landscape architect, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Landscape architects should also possess the following specific qualities:

Analytical skills. Landscape architects need to understand the content of designs. When designing a building’s drainage system, for example, landscape architects need to understand how the building’s location and surrounding land affect each other.

Communication skills. Landscape architects share their ideas, both orally and in writing, with clients, other architects, and workers who help prepare drawings. Many landscape architects also give presentations to explain their designs.

Creativity. Landscape architects create the overall look of gardens, parks, and other outdoor areas. Designs should be both pleasing to the eye and functional.

Problem-solving skills. When designing outdoor spaces, landscape architects must be able to provide solutions to unanticipated challenges. These solutions often involve looking at the challenge from many perspectives.

Technical skills. Landscape architects use computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) programs to create representations of their projects. Some also must use geographic information systems (GIS) for their designs.

Visualization skills. Landscape architects must be able to imagine how an overall outdoor space will look once complete.

Pay

The median annual wage for landscape architects was $69,360 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $42,320, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $112,290.

 

In May 2019, the median annual wages for landscape architects in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Government         $88,490
Construction       71,270
Architectural, engineering, and related services              70,130
Landscaping services       60,740
Job Outlook

Employment of landscape architects is projected to grow 4 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

The need for planning and developing new and existing landscapes for commercial, industrial, and residential construction projects is expected to drive employment growth. In addition, environmental concerns and increased demand for sustainably designed buildings and open spaces should spur demand for the services of landscape architects. For example, landscape architects are involved in the design of green roofs, which are covered with vegetation and help reduce air and water pollution as well as decrease the costs of heating and cooling a building.

Efforts to conserve water and prevent waterway pollution are expected to continue, especially in areas prone to drought. Landscape architects will be needed to design plans for managing storm-water runoff in these efforts.

Job Prospects

There may be strong competition for the relatively small number of jobs in this occupation. Job opportunities may fluctuate with the overall state of the economy, as the number of landscape architecture projects is often tied to increases or decreases in business and consumer spending.  

For More Information

For more information, including a list of colleges and universities offering accredited programs in landscape architecture, visit  

American Society of Landscape Architects

For information on registration or licensing requirements, visit  

Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards

 

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