Landscape architects are the professionals who work to make outdoor spaces both functional and aesthetically appealing. The develop design plans for landscaping projects in a wide range of environments, from private homes and business properties to public parks, college campuses, gardens and recreational spaces.
Success in a career as a landscape architect requires a number of skills, from the creativity and visualization ability needed to conceive of a landscape design to the technical skills to use computer software to model their ideas. Landscape architects must also be able to decide on materials, prepare and follow budgets and market their skills, especially since 20 percent of landscape architects are self-employed, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Professionals in the field of landscape architecture must have the people skills to interact with others during the course of their work, such as the clients they work for and any engineers and architects involved in the project. They need to understand land features and conditions and incorporate those features into their designs to make sure that a space is as functional as it is beautiful.
How do aspiring landscape architects learn the many skills they will need for their intended careers? They go to college and earn either a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) degree or a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture (BSLA) degree. Like undergraduate degree programs in most other subjects of study, both of these degree programs typically require four years of full-time study. Students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree in another field can pursue a Master of Landscape Architecture degree.
At both the bachelor’s and the master’s degree level, college landscape architecture programs should be accredited by the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board. In any landscape architecture program, students should expect to spend a good deal of their time working on projects in the design studio, where they will use computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software and gain hands-on experience building models of their landscape plans. Throughout the course of their education, students will study important subjects such as:
- Landscape ecology
- Plant and soil science
- Landscape design and construction
- Urban and regional planning
- Business management
- Professional practice
Earning a college degree is just the first step to becoming a landscape architect. In most states, landscape architects must hold a license. Graduates of college landscape architecture programs can seek out jobs as apprentices or intern landscape architects, where they will work with experienced landscape architects for one to four years to meet state licensing requirements. Candidates must also pass the Landscape Architect Registration Examination administered by the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards, and in some instances, a separate state exam. Once licensed, experienced landscape architects can seek national certification from the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards.
Landscape architects earned a median salary of $64,180 per year as of 2012, according to the BLS. Professionals in or entering this career can expect job opportunities to increase by 14 percent over a decade, slightly but not significantly more than the 11 percent job growth expected for all occupations. Certain qualifications, like good communication and technical skills and familiarity with environmental regulations, will help landscape architects find their desired jobs.
Landscape architects combine an understanding of land features and functionality with an eye for aesthetic design to create attractive and purposeful outdoor spaces.