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.
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.
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.