Landscape architects plan and design land areas for parks, recreational facilities, private homes, campuses, and other open spaces.
Landscape architects typically do the following:
- Confer with clients, engineers, and building architects to understand a project
- Prepare site plans, specifications, and cost estimates
- Coordinate the arrangement of existing and proposed land features and structures
- Prepare graphic representations of proposed 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 work to ensure that it adheres to original plans
- Seek new work through marketing or by giving presentations
People enjoy attractively designed gardens, public parks, playgrounds, residential areas, college campuses, and public spaces. Landscape architects design these areas so that they are not only functional but also beautiful and harmonious with the natural environment. Landscape architects also plan the locations of buildings, roads, walkways, flowers, shrubs, and trees within these environments.
Landscape architects use several different technologies in their work. For example, through the use of computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software, landscape architects prepare models of their proposed work. They then present these models to clients for feedback to demonstrate the final look of the project. Many landscape architects also use geographic information systems (GIS), which allow them to present data visually as maps, reports, and charts.
Landscape architects undertake projects that seek to enhance the natural beauty of a space and provide environmental benefits. They may plan the restoration of natural places disturbed by humans, 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. Managing storm water runoff is another important part of many landscape architectural plans because it protects clean water sources and natural ecosystems from pollutants. Landscape architects also play a role in preserving and restoring historic landscapes.
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.
Landscape architects held about 20,100 jobs in 2012, of which 46 percent were employed in the architectural, engineering, and related services industry. Another 15 percent were employed in the landscaping services industry. About 1 in 5 were self-employed.
Landscape architects spend much of their time in offices, creating plans and designs, preparing models and cost estimates, doing research, and attending meetings with clients and workers involved in designing or planning a project. They spend the rest of their worktime at jobsites.
Most landscape architects work full time. Many work long hours, especially when facing deadlines.
All states require landscape architects to be licensed, except for Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, and the District of Columbia. In addition, all 50 states (but not the District of Columbia) require applicants to be licensed before they can use the title “landscape architect” and start soliciting business. Licensing requirements vary among states, but usually include a degree in landscape architecture from an accredited school, internship experience, and a passing score on the Landscape Architect Registration Exam.
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 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 can 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 courses 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.
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 apprentices or intern landscape architects until they become licensed. Although duties vary with the type and size of the employing firm, all interns must work under the supervision of a licensed landscape architect for the experience to count towards licensure. In addition, all drawings and specifications must be signed and sealed by the licensed landscape architect.
Some employers recommend that prospective landscape architects complete an internship with a landscape architecture firm during their educational studies. Interns can improve their technical skills and gain an understanding of the day-to-day operations of the business, including how to win clients, generate fees, and work within a budget.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
All states require landscape architects to be licensed in order to practice except for Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, and the District of Columbia. In addition, all 50 states (but not the District of Columbia) require applicants to be licensed before they can use the title “landscape architect” and start soliciting business. Licensing is based on the Landscape Architect Registration Examination (L.A.R.E.), which is sponsored by the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards. Candidates can take the L.A.R.E. at different times of the year.
Those interested in taking the exam usually need a degree from an accredited school and 1 to 4 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 L.A.R.E., usually requiring more work experience.
Currently, 13 states require landscape architects to pass a state exam, in addition to the L.A.R.E., to satisfy registration requirements. State exams 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 3 years of an internship under the supervision of a registered landscape architect, and passing the L.A.R.E. By meeting national requirements, a landscape architect can also obtain certification from the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards. That certification can be useful in getting a license in another state.
Analytical skills. Landscape architects need to understand the content of designs. When designing a building’s drainage system, for example, landscape architects need to 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. Many landscape architects also give presentations to explain their designs.
Creativity. Landscape architects create the overall look of gardens, parks, and other outdoor areas. 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 the challenge from many perspectives.
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 complete.
The median annual wage for landscape architects was $64,180 in May 2012. 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 $38,450, and the top 10 percent earned more than $101,850.
Most landscape architects work full time. Many work long hours, especially when facing deadlines.
Employment of landscape architects is projected to grow 14 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Planning and development of 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 some form of vegetation and can reduce air and water pollution and reduce the costs of heating and cooling a building. Landscape architects also will be needed to design plans to manage storm-water runoff in order to conserve water resources and avoid polluting waterways.
Good 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 landscape architects who have strong technical and communication skills and an in-depth knowledge of environmental codes and regulations.
For additional information, including a list of colleges and universities offering accredited programs in landscape architecture, visit
For general information on registration or licensing requirements, visit