Landscape Architects Overview

Close to 21 percent of landscape architects are self-employed, which is three times the proportion for all occupations. A degree in landscape architecture from an accredited school, work experience and completing the Landscape Architect Registration Exam are mandatory in order to become licensed, which is required in all States. New graduated may face competition for jobs, though good opportunities should be expected overall.

Nature of the Work for Landscape Architects

Landscape Architects

Landscape architects design public parks and playgrounds, gardens, college campuses, residential areas, shopping centers, parkways and golf courses. It is their responsibility to create a balance between beauty and functionality. It is their job to plan building locations, and the arrangement of shrubs, trees and flowers. It is common for landscape architects to design and plan the restoration of natural places that have been disturbed by humans, including steam corridors, mined areas, wetlands and forested land.

Landscape architects work with engineers, surveyors and building architects in order to distinguish the best arrangement of buildings and roads. To find the best way to conserve or restore natural resources, they also collaborate with foresters, environmental scientists and other professionals. Next, they will draw up detailed plans describing the new vegetation, topography, walkways or other details like decorative features and fountains.

The first step in planning a site for landscape architects is to consider the goal of the project and the available funds. Next, they analyze the natural elements of the site, including soil, climate, drainage, vegetation and the scope of the land. Assessing existing roads, buildings, walkways and utilities help them to determine what improvements need to be made. Their main concern is evaluating the projects impact on the ecosystem.

In order for landscape architects to prepare a preliminary design, they must address the needs of the client and take all local, State or Federal regulations into consideration. The use a computer-aided design (CAD) is essential and is often used in combination with video simulation. For larger projects, landscape architects use geographic information systems (GIS) technology, which is a computer mapping system.

Once the design is complete, landscape architects must prepare written reports, sketches, photographs, models, cost estimates and land-use studies for the client. After the plans have been approved, they prepare the working drawings to demonstrate all the proposed and existing features. Detailed drawings of the method of construction are the next step. Finally, they often oversee the implementation of their design while contractors direct the construction crew.

Some landscape architects specialize in a particular area, while others work on a variety of projects. Others work in resource management, environmental impact, feasibility, site construction or cost studies. More and more, landscape artists work in environmental remediation and historic landscape preservation.

Landscape architects spend the majority of their time in offices, creating plans and designs, creating models and cost estimates, attending meetings or doing research. Travel is required in order to monitor the site. It is common for the architect to visit the site during the design and planning stages to ensure that they will be well incorporated into the structure. Those working in large regional or national firms spend less time in the office, and more time on site.

One in five landscape architects work more than a 50-hour work week, though many work the standard 40-hour work week. Long hours on nights and weekends are often mandatory in order to meet deadlines.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Landscape Architects

There are currently 67 colleges and universities offering undergraduate or graduate programs in landscape architecture that are accredited by Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Two separate undergraduate professional degrees exist: a bachelor of science in landscape architecture (BSLA) and a bachelor of landscape architecture (BLA). Both of these programs generally last four to five years. A 3-year master of landscape architecture (MLA) program is provided for those who have a bachelors degree in another field.

Key courses for landscape architects include landscape design and construction, site design, landscape ecology and urban and regional planning. The design studio is the most important aspect of the program, as students are often assigned real projects to gain valuable professional experience.

Employers recommend a summer internship with a landscape architecture firm during their studies. During their internship, they will gain an understanding of the daily operations of the business and allow them to hone their technical skills.

There are currently 49 States that require landscape architects to be licensed. The Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Board offers the Landscape Architect Registration Examination (L.A.R.E). Candidates who wish to complete the exam must hold a degree from an accredited school in addition to having one to four years of work experience. If an applicant does not have an accredited degree, longer related experience is required. In addition to passing the L.A.R.E., 13 States require that landscape architects complete State examinations.

Examinations are not uniform, and landscape architects may find it difficult to transfer their license from one State to another. The Federal government does not require landscape architects to be licensed and they may enter a position with a bachelors or masters degree in landscape architecture.

Most states require some form of continuing education to maintain a license, usually involving the completion of seminars, workshops, formal university classes, self-study courses, conferences or other classes.

Desirable skills for a landscape architect are an appreciation of nature, strong analytical skills and working with their hands. Good oral and written communication skills. as well as interpersonal skills are essential qualities because landscape architects must be able to convey their vision to clients and builders. Knowledge of draft and design using the CAD software is also mandatory. The ability to use word processors, spreadsheets and desktop publishing is also important as landscape architects use these tools to develop proposals, reports, presentations and land impact studies for colleagues, clients and superiors.

For landscape architects who are self-employed, business acumen, good marketing skills and self-discipline will help attract business. However, even with these qualities, it may be difficult to build a client base.

Landscape architects may become project managers after years of experience. The duties of a project manager include overseeing the project design and taking on the responsibility for meeting schedules and budgets.

Top 10 Most Popular Landscape Architecture Schools

1. University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
2. California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Pomona, California)
3. SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (Syracuse, New York)
4. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (San Luis Obispo, California)
5. Cornell University (Ithaca, New York)
6. Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
7. Pennsylvania State University, Main Campus (University Park, Pennsylvania)
8. Texas A & M University (College Station, Texas)
9. Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
10. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Blacksburg, Virginia)

See All Landscape Architecture Schools

Employment and Job Outlook for Landscape Architects

Number of People in Profession

18,940

Changing Employment (2008-2018)

Employment is projected to grow much faster than average (increase 20% or more).

Landscape architects hold about 26,700 jobs. The majority of landscape architects, 51 percent, are employed in architectural, engineering and related services. State and local government employ approximately 6 percent, while about 21 percent are self-employed.

Some landscape architects work in rural areas, while most work in urban and suburban areas throughout the country.

Employment of landscape architects is expected to increase faster than average, 20 percent, during the next decade. The development of new construction coupled with the continued redevelopment of existing buildings, creates greater job prospectives for landscape architects.

Increased demand for sustainably designed construction projects driven by environmental concerns will lead to a demand for the service of landscape architects. They will also be needed to design plans that help manage storm water run-off to avoid polluting waterways and conserve water resources.

New graduates should expect competition for jobs in the largest and most prestigious landscape architecture firms. However, it is projected that landscape architects will have good job opportunities overall. Employers prefer applicants who have internship experience, strong technical skills, knowledge of environmental codes and regulations as well as communication skills.

Employment opportunities vary by geographic region and year. When real estate sales are down during a recession, construction will slow, which leads landscape architects to face greater competition for jobs and sometimes layoffs.

Job openings will also come from the need to replace those who have retired or moved on to a different career.

Earnings and Salary for Landscape Architects

The median annual wages for landscape architects is $58,960. The highest 10 percents earn over $97,370, while the lowest 10 percent earn less than $36,520. The middle 50 percent earn between $45,840 and $77,610. The largest group that employs landscape architects is architectural, engineering and related services, which has a median annual wage of $59,610.

Annual Salary for Landscape Architects

On average, Landscape Architects earn $60,560 per year.

10% 25% 75% 90% $36,740/yr $46,760/yr $79,940/yr $100,530/yr

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook