Most people know what architects do, but what is a landscape architect? Where do they work? How do people learn to be landscape architects, and what kind of wages do they earn? This article will answer those and other questions about this profession.
What are they, Exactly?
Landscape architects are educated, licensed professionals. They use their aptitude, knowledge and skills to design and create outdoor areas that improve their surroundings with the least possible negative impact on the environment. They work with both natural and man-made settings, often combining both in design.
How Do They Work?
What does the client want? The first step in a project is consulting with the client to assess their needs. Often, the perceived needs do not consider the environment or the community impact, so the landscape architect also consults with community members and with ecologists to get additional perspectives.
Second, according to the American Association of Landscape Architects website, the landscape architect makes sketches and takes notes of the proposed site, and the possible project. From these sketches, he or she develops detailed drawings and 3-D models.
The professional works closely with the construction company to ensure that the plans are followed and visits the site during the construction phase. He or she also makes repeat visits after the project is completed to see how the design is working.
What Education do They Need?
Landscape architects need degrees. The minimum required to get an entry-level position is a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture. Some of the areas addressed in those programs are design, art history, psychology, and historical preservation among others. They also include construction techniques and natural sciences. In addition to coursework, these professionals need certain aptitudes. For instance, according to the American Society of Landscape Architects, they must be sensitive to “landscape quality” and be able to understand landscape problems in terms of actual design and form.
Often, people who earn their undergraduate degrees work for a firm or undergo a type of apprenticeship. A graduate study is available in three avenues. There is a Master of Landscape Architecture degree that is intended for people who have undergraduate degrees in another field but who want to become landscape architects. It can be earned in about three years of full-time study. A second MLA degree program takes just two years of study and is for people with an undergraduate degree in landscape architecture who want to be a practitioner. The third degree program, the MA or MS in Landscape Architecture, is for people who want to do research or teach in the field, but who do not want to become licensed or certified as a practitioner.
Finally, all landscape architects must be licensed to practice.
Where Do They Work?
They work in the private, public and academic sectors. In the private sector, many of these architects work for firms or have their businesses. They work with other types of land planning and development companies or as consultants.
Public employment comes through governmental or municipal agencies such as the National Park System, the Forest Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, Veterans Administration and others. These professionals design parks, walking trails, housing developments, vacation venues, schools, business “campuses” and other projects. In the academic sector, these professionals work in universities and colleges teaching people to become practitioners.
What Do They Earn
Salary for these professionals varies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for landscape architects was $68,230 in 2018. Of course, salaries are affected by the region where an architect works. The highest concentration of these professionals is found in states such as California, Florida, New York, Texas and Virginia. New York, however, tops the salary scale, and landscape architects there earn from $75,000 to $100,000.
Impact on Culture
Landscape architecture impacts society in many ways. Its ecological impact cannot be overstated. This type of architecture preserves nature, regenerates areas of pollution and decay, helps to manage stormwater and erosion and assists in keeping water and soil clean and purifies the air. Researchgate.com notes that proper landscaping not only adds to the functionality of buildings but increases the livability of housing developments, gives residents a greater sense of energy and well-being and improved health. Economically, landscape architecture accounted for 2.7 billion dollars of revenue in 2015. This comes through the influx of new businesses and residences that projects bring.
Landscape architects are making an impact on conservation and sustainability in recreation and residential settings as well. So, while people may not have realized what effort went into creating special spaces, they certainly have benefitted from the expertise of these professionals. Additionally, with the potential for high salaries and a lot of job satisfaction, landscape architecture is a promising career.