Landscape Architects

Career, Salary and Education Information

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  • Architect - Herman Kittle Properties, Inc. - Indianapolis, IN

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What Landscape Architects Do[About this section] [To Top]

Landscape architects design parks and the outdoor spaces of campuses, recreational facilities, private homes, and other open spaces.

Duties of Landscape Architects

Landscape architects typically do the following:

  • Meet with clients, engineers, and building architects to understand the requirements of a project
  • Prepare site plans, specifications, and cost estimates
  • Coordinate the arrangement of existing and proposed land features and structures
  • Prepare graphic representations of plans using computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software
  • Select appropriate materials for use in landscape designs
  • Analyze environmental reports on land conditions, such as drainage and energy usage
  • Inspect landscape project progress to ensure that it adheres to plans
  • Seek new work through marketing activities or by giving presentations

Landscape architects design attractive and functional public parks, gardens, playgrounds, residential areas, college campuses, and public spaces. They also plan the locations of buildings, roads, walkways, flowers, shrubs, and trees within these environments. Landscape architects design these areas so that they are not only easy to use but also harmonious with the natural environment.

Landscape architects use several different technologies in their work. For example, using computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software, landscape architects prepare models of their proposed work. They present these models to clients for feedback and then prepare the final look of the project. Many landscape architects also use geographic information systems (GIS) which offer GPS coordinates of different geographical features. This helps landscape architects design different environments by giving them clues on where to start planning and how to anticipate future effects of the landscape, such as rainfall running into a valley.

The goals of landscape architects are to enhance the natural beauty of a space and provide environmental benefits. They may plan the restoration of natural places that were changed by humans or nature, such as wetlands, streams, and mined areas. They may also design “green roofs” or rooftop gardens that can retain storm water, absorb air pollution, and cool buildings while also providing pleasant scenery. Landscape architects also play a role in preserving and restoring historic landscapes. Landscape architects and architects sometimes work together to create historic memorials, such as the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.

Landscape architects 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.

Work Environment for Landscape Architects[About this section] [To Top]

Landscape architects hold about 22,500 jobs. Of this total, about 49 percent are employed in the architectural, engineering, and related services industry, and another 15 percent are employed in the landscaping services industry. About 1 in 5 are self-employed.

Landscape architects spend much of their time in offices, creating plans and designs, preparing models and preliminary cost estimates, doing research, and attending meetings with clients and workers involved in designing or planning a project. They spend the rest of their time at jobsites.

Landscape Architect Work Schedules

Most landscape architects work full time.

How to Become a Landscape Architect[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Landscape Architects near you!

All states except for Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, and Washington, D.C. require landscape architects to have a license. In addition, all 50 states (but not Washington, D.C.) require applicants to be licensed before they can use the title “landscape architect” while soliciting business. Licensing requirements vary among states, but usually include a degree in landscape architecture from an accredited school, internship experience, and passing the Landscape Architect Registration Examination.

Landscape Architect Education

A bachelor's or master's degree in landscape architecture usually is necessary for entry into the profession. There are two undergraduate landscape architect professional degrees: a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) and a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture (BSLA). These programs usually require 4 to 5 years of study.

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 3 years of full-time study.

Courses typically include surveying, landscape design and construction, landscape ecology, site design, and urban and regional planning. Other relevant coursework may include history of landscape architecture, plant and soil science, geology, professional practice, and general management.

The design studio is a key component of any curriculum. Whenever possible, students are assigned real projects, providing them with valuable hands-on experience. While working on these projects, students become proficient in the use of computer-aided design and drafting (CADD), model building, and other design software.

Landscape Architect Training

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 called intern landscape architects until they become licensed. Although duties vary with the type and size of the employing firm, interns typically 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.

Potential prospects may benefit by completing an internship with a landscape architecture firm during educational studies. Interns may improve their technical skills and gain an understanding of the day-to-day operations of the business, including learning how to recruit clients, generate fees, and work within a budget.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states, except for Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, and Washington, D.C., require landscape architects to be licensed in order to practice. In addition, all 50 states (but not Washington, D.C.) require applicants to be licensed before they can use the title “landscape architect” while 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.

Candidates who are interested in taking the exam 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 by state. For those without an accredited landscape architecture degree, many states provide alternative paths to qualify to take the LARE, which usually require more work experience.

In addition to the LARE, some states have their own registration exam to test for competency on state-specific issues, such as earthquakes in California or hurricanes in Florida. State-specific exams may focus on laws, environmental regulations, plants, soils, climate, and other characteristics unique to the state.

Because requirements for licensure vary, landscape architects may find it difficult to transfer their registration from one state to another. Common requirements include graduating from an accredited program, completing several years of an internship under the supervision of a licensed landscape architect, and passing the LARE. By meeting national requirements, a landscape architect may also obtain certification from the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards, which may be useful in getting a license in another state.

Important Qualities for Landscape Architects

Analytical skills. Landscape architects must understand the content of designs. When designing a building’s drainage system, for example, landscape architects must understand how the building’s location and surrounding land affect each other.

Communication skills. Landscape architects share their ideas, both orally and in writing, with clients, other architects, and workers who help prepare drawings. Effective communication is essential to ensuring that the vision for a project gets translated into reality.

Creativity. Landscape architects create the overall look of gardens, parks, and other outdoor areas. Their designs should be both pleasing to the eye and functional.

Problem-solving skills. When designing outdoor spaces, landscape architects must be able to provide solutions to unanticipated challenges. These solutions often involve looking at challenges from different perspectives and providing the best recommendations.

Technical skills. Landscape architects use computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) programs to create representations of their projects. Some also must use geographic information systems (GIS) for their designs.

Visualization skills. Landscape architects must be able to imagine how an overall outdoor space will look once completed.

Landscape Architect Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for landscape architects is $64,570. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $40,690, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $106,120.

Job Outlook for Landscape Architects[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of landscape architects is projected to grow 5 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Planning and developing new and existing commercial, industrial, and residential construction projects’ landscapes will drive employment growth. The public’s desire for beautiful and functional spaces will continue to require good site planning and landscape design.

In addition, environmental concerns and increased demand for sustainably designed buildings and open spaces will spur demand for the services of landscape architects. For example, landscape architects are involved in the design of green roofs, which are covered with vegetation and help reduce air and water pollution, as well as reduce the costs of heating and cooling a building.

Landscape architects will also be needed to design plans to manage storm-water runoff in order to conserve water resources and avoid polluting waterways. This is especially useful in areas prone to drought.

Landscape Architects Job Prospects

Decent job opportunities are expected overall. However, competition for jobs in the largest and most prestigious landscape architecture firms is expected to be strong.

Many employers prefer to hire entry-level landscape architects who already have internship experience. Having experience significantly reduces the amount of on-the-job training required.

Job opportunities will be best for candidates with strong technical and communication skills and thorough knowledge of environmental codes and regulations. Familiarity with geographic information systems (GIS) may also be helpful.

Employment projections data for Landscape Architects, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Landscape architects 22,500 23,700 5 1,200

*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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