Landscape Architect

Landscape Architect

About the Job

A landscape architect and designer designs attractive and functional parks, gardens, playgrounds, campuses, and public spaces. They also plan the locations of buildings, walkways, trees, shrubs, and flowers within the environment. Their goal is to create spaces that are easy to use but blend well with the natural environment.

What You’ll Do

Landscape architects use different types of technologies for their work. They use computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software, and may also prepare 3D models of their work to present to clients. In addition, they use geographic information systems (GIS), which provide the coordinates of different geographical features. This software helps them locate specific geographic points on the environment they are designing. For example, rainfall on a nearby hill could cause flooding at the building site, which can be reduced by design.

The main goal of a landscape architect is to enhance the natural beauty of a space and provide environmental benefits. The restoration of streams, wetlands, and other places altered by human use may also be part of their design work, as well as green roofs or rooftop gardens. In addition, landscape architects may work on historical restorations or memorials, such as the World War II memorial in Washington, DC.

Those who work for government agencies design sites and landscapes for government buildings, parks, and other public lands, as well as plan for landscapes and recreation areas in national parks and forests. In addition, they prepare environmental-impact assessments based on proposed construction.

Qualities and Skills Needed

Analytical skills
Communication skills
Problem-solving skills
Technical skills
Visualization skills

Education Required

A bachelor’s or master’s degree is required to become a landscape architect. There are two undergraduate professional degrees: a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) and a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture (BSLA). These programs usually require four to five years of study. However, those who receive an associate degree or certification can work under the title landscape designer.

Accredited programs are approved by the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB). Those with an undergraduate degree in a field other than landscape architecture may enroll in a Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) graduate degree program, which typically takes three years of full-time study.

In order to become licensed, candidates must meet experience requirements determined by each state. A list of training requirements can be found at the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards.

New hires are usually referred to as intern landscape architects until they become licensed. Although duties vary with the type and size of the employing firm, interns must work under the supervision of a licensed landscape architect for the experience to count toward licensure. In addition, all drawings and specifications must be signed and sealed by the licensed landscape architect.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states, except for Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, and Washington, DC, require landscape architects to be licensed in order to practice. In addition, every state (but not Washington, DC) requires applicants to be licensed before they can use the title landscape architect when soliciting business. Licensing is based on candidates passing the Landscape Architect Registration Examination (LARE), which is sponsored by the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards. If a person is not licensed, he or she can use the title landscape designer.

Potential landscape architects usually need a degree from an accredited school and several years of work experience under the supervision of a licensed landscape architect, although standards vary. For those without an accredited degree, some states provide alternative paths to qualify to take the LARE; this usually requires more work experience. In addition, several states have their own registration exam to test for competency on state-specific issues, such as earthquakes in California or hurricanes in Florida.

Because requirements for licensing vary by state, it is difficult to transfer registration from one state to another. By meeting national requirements, a landscape architect may also obtain certification from the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards, which might be useful in getting a license in another state.

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The average salary is $64,251 but will vary depending on experience and training.