A degree is a prerequisite for architecture licensure, so education is more important than work experience. Almost all state registration boards require an accredited degree that has been approved by the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB), which is the only educational agency authorized to accredit degrees in landscape architecture.
LAAB only recognizes two types of degrees: the Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) and the Master of Landscape Architecture. These degrees will prepare graduates to work on a wide range of projects, such as urban design, historic preservation, ecological restoration and stormwater management. The first two years of the BLA degree program will introduce students to the scientific principles and critical thinking skills needed to create cemeteries, golf course and institutional landscapes. The remaining two years will focus on artistic skills, interdisciplinary topics and off-campus projects.
A landscape architecture degree program may include introductory classes to art appreciation, technical graphics, basic design and advanced calculus. Intermediate classes may cover landscape plants, general biology and urban tree management. Advanced classes may include projects and seminars on ecology, horticulture, real estate development and wildlife management. Most degree programs are shifting towards a focus on community participation, social responsibility, environmental sustainability and public stewardship. They usually emphasize an understanding of natural, cultural and humanistic factors in the design and planning processes. There are also degree specializations available in most of the above-mentioned areas.
The Value of Experience
The value of having at least some work experience cannot be underestimated because employers want job applicants who are pre-trained and ready to start. A common entry-level job is a junior landscape designer. They may be responsible for managing property plans, topographic data, construction designs and underground utilities. Familiarity with local and regional permitting process and regulations will look good on a resume. Employers usually want landscape architects who are familiar with common software like Adobe, AutoCAD and Microsoft Office. They also want those who know ASLA approved software like Land F/X, PlanIT Impact and KeySCAPE.
Landscape architecture firms usually want job applicants with similar characteristics. Job applicants will be expected to have a valid driver’s license because they must drive company vehicles to sites where they may work outdoors, walk on uneven terrain and be exposed to the weather. Most hiring managers expect job applicants to submit a portfolio that should include a credible plan, graphic presentations and high-quality design. Landscape architects must demonstrate that they can responsibly work alone as required, while also collaborating within a multi-disciplinary team. Some employers prefer candidates who have sales, presentation and public speaking experience. The familiarity of project management dashboards and terms may impress hiring managers.
The majority of landscape architecture firms will require an accredited degree, knowledge of software and a few years of relevant job experience. Joining the American Society of Landscape Architects, may help with the job hunt as the ASLA offers a useful map tool to find a local chapter.