Landscape architects conceptualize and design public and private outdoor spaces such as parks, college campuses, businesses, recreational facilities as well as homes and gardens. They are often involved in planning real estate developments and large commercial and urban spaces. They may also be involved in reclaiming neglected land and creating useful, sustainable landscapes that can support a habitat for animals or become a beautiful park.
A Day in the Life of a Landscape Architect
Since landscape architects are so involved in the outdoor aspects of planning buildings and open spaces, they often have a say in where buildings and other features are placed. Not only do they want to make sure the entire project is functional, but they strive to create spaces that are beautiful and in tune with the natural environment.
Landscape architects often split their time working in an office and out in the field. Because the job duties of landscape architects are so diverse, their workday can vary dramatically from day to day or week to week. Common tasks for these professionals include:
- Meeting with clients to determine what type of landscaping plans they want and need
- Collaborating with engineers and other architects to work out the unique issues of a job site
- Preparing site plans and specifications for jobs
- Putting together cost estimates that accurately portray the costs to complete a job
- Coordinating the arrangement of landscaping features in and around existing structures or natural elements
- Selecting landscaping materials, including rock or stone along with flowers, greenery and plants
- Preparing graphic presentations of landscape plans using design software
- Analyzing environmental reports to make sure drainage and energy usage are considered
- Overseeing landscape projects as they are completed
- Designing "green roofs" and other environmentally friendly landscape projects that increase energy efficiency
Important Characteristics for Landscape Architects
Landscape architects design how outdoor materials work with building materials. An appreciation for nature and understanding of plant life can provide a good foundation for this profession. To tackle design challenges, landscape architects depend on their creativity and ability to visualize how an outdoor space should look and function. Good analytical skills can help them understand architectural drawings so they can design appropriate drainage systems into the landscape, for example. The ability to solve problems quickly is also useful to help them resolve issues as plans progress.
Landscape architects rely heavily on technical skills in their daily work. They use computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) programs to make a visual rendering of their designs. They may also use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in their design projects.
Still, much of the work of a landscape architect is hands-on and may require good leadership skills as they oversee other landscape workers who are charged with following their plans. They also interact and collaborate with architects, engineers, construction workers and clients regularly, so good communication skills are necessary to help ensure that their vision for the space is realized.
Typical Steps for Becoming a Landscape Architect
Becoming a landscape architect requires hands-on experience and time spent learning in landscape architecture programs. Here are the typical steps you can take to get started in this career field:
1) Earn a high school diploma. Since landscape architects require a degree to work in their field, they must first earn a high school diploma.
2) Earn a landscape architecture bachelor's degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), landscape architects need to complete an undergraduate degree for entry-level work. Popular degree programs offered by landscape architecture schools include:
- Bachelor of Landscape Architecture
- Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture
During these programs, which typically require 4-5 years of study, students commonly take landscape design courses in design communications, history, environmental systems, site engineering and construction, plant materials and planting design.
3) Complete an internship. Beyond completing landscape design courses, many landscape architects work as interns until they become licensed. They typically work under the supervision of a licensed landscape architect to gain hands-on experience. While some internships are performed after landscape architect programs are completed, some students may complete an internship while they are in school.
4) Become licensed in your field. All states except for Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maine require licensure in order to work as a landscape architect. Licensure may increase a landscape architect's job prospects or possibly provide higher pay, even in states that don't require it. A full list of state-based licensing and training requirements can be found at the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards.
5) Earn a landscape architecture master's degree. While an undergraduate landscape architecture degree can help you find entry-level work, many seek graduate degrees in order to hone their skills and increase their job prospects. As a result, many students who start with undergraduate landscape architecture programs go on to pursue a Master of Landscape Architecture degree as well. These programs typically take three years to complete.
- Bachelor of Landscape Architecture, Ball State University, Accessed December 2017, http://cms.bsu.edu/academics/collegesanddepartments/landscape-architecture/academic-programs/bachelors
- Master of Landscape Architecture, The University of Arizona, Accessed December 2017, http://capla.arizona.edu/landscape-architecture-program
- Landscape Architects, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-24 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accessed December 2017, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/landscape-architects.htm#tab-1