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Career: Landscape Architect

A Day in the life of a Landscape Architect

If you are thinking about becoming a landscape architect, you should have an appreciation for nature, a creative flair, and a passion for working with your hands. You should also have strong writing and researching skills and an affinity for engineering and environmental sciences. All of these skills will be useful for mastering the art and science of the analysis, planning, design, management, preservation, and rehabilitation of land. Landscape architects apply their skills to site planning, garden design, environmental restoration, town and urban planning, park and recreation planning, regional planning, and even historic preservation. The growing popularity of this profession is understandable. Where else could consecutive job assignments find you planning a site for corporate office buildings, then have you managing a large wilderness area, and next creating public parks that won’t interfere with the natural environment? Even though landscape architects appear to keep average hours, project deadlines can create a lot of overtime. Working through weekends is very likely. A major job, like planning a corporate site, can take more than a year to complete. A landscape architect must work with all the other professionals involved in a project. The list includes architects, engineers, and construction contractors, and a landscape architect must see that their design concepts will work with the overall project. Surveys of the land at the site itself must often be made, taking into consideration complex factors such as drainage, slope of the land, and even how sunlight falls on the site. Once this is done, they spend the majority of the remainder of the project in the office, preparing presentations for clients that include cost estimates, sketches, and models. After a project is approved, landscape architects prepare even more detailed working drawings and outline explicitly the methods of construction and lists of construction materials. Some landscape architects even supervise the installation of their designs, although this is often left to a developer or separate contractor. Landscape architects can also choose to specialize in areas such as residential development, parks and playgrounds, restoration, or even shopping malls. Only a few, however, are exclusively devoted to individual residential designing because the income is too small compared to the earnings from larger, commercial projects. Most of the profession is centered in urban or suburban areas, and while the majority of landscape architects work for landscape architecture services and firms, a full 20 percent of people in the profession are self-employed.

Paying Your Dues

Entrance into the profession requires a bachelor’s or master’s degree in landscape architecture (from an accredited school), training, licensure (in all but five states), and specialized skills. It is a long road to becoming a licensed and professional landscape architect. The bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture takes between four and five years to complete; a master’s can take two to three years. During and after school, prospective landscape architects serve as interns to professionals in the field for a period of at least two years. Finally, they will have to pass the L.A.R.E. (Landscape Architect Registration Examination) to obtain their licenses to practice landscape architecture as certified professionals. However, if they choose to take jobs with the government, the process can be somewhat shorter; the federal government doesn’t require its landscape architects to be licensed.

Associated Careers

Because of the numerous skills involved in landscape architecture, there are many related careers that landscape architects can move into. The most closely related field is, of course, architecture itself, but a career switch to straight architecture will require even more time and education. Many landscape architects find satisfying careers as landscape supervisors, landscape designers or consultants, drafters, environmental planners, or golf course designers. Civil engineering and urban planning are also fields of interest to landscape architects, as is the field of botany.

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