How Do I Become a Landscape Designer?

Explore the career requirements for landscape designers. Get the facts about education requirements, job skills and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Landscape Design degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Landscape Designer Do?

Landscape designers create outdoor spaces according to a clients' needs and wants. For example, you may design a university campus, city park, or other public space. You may also be employed by individual clients that want you to design their own yards or pools. Some of your responsibilities will include visiting the prospective space, creating and drafting designs, and overseeing the design progress. In the chart below, you can find more information to determine how this career aligns with your goals.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Landscape architecture
Key Skills Creativity, attention to detail, communication, problem-solving
Licensure With the exception of Maine, Illinois, District of Columbia and Massachusetts, all states require landscape architects to be licensed
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 5%
Median Salary (2015)* $63,810

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Landscape Designer?

Landscape designers, or landscape architects, spend their days designing and creating aesthetically appealing and functional outdoor areas. You may work on single homes, residential complexes, parks or business complexes. Typically, you'll consider local climates, pre-existing structures, drainage and terrain. Through this observation, you'll take a client's wants into consideration and design walkways, gardens, fountains, ponds and other outdoor features. Also, you'll decide what vegetation you'll want for a more environmentally-friendly area. As a designer, you'll supervise construction and other workers who'll help to complete your vision.

What Should I Study?

Landscape design programs vary. If you're interested in landscape design but don't wish to pursue a full landscape architecture degree, you may pursue an undergraduate degree in horticulture or agriculture. Some of the subjects you might be required to study include the following:

  • Site surveying
  • Plant genetics
  • Entomology
  • Wooded areas
  • Plant diseases
  • Landscape design
  • Urban and regional planning

Landscape architecture degree programs offer a more intensive program. There are two types of undergraduate 4-year degrees in the field of landscape architecture: a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) and a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture (BSLA). The graduate-level degree, the Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA), takes approximately three years of full-time study, if you majored in another area. With an undergraduate degree in landscape architecture, you may earn your MLA in two years. The following courses might be required for a landscape architecture degree:

  • History of landscape architecture
  • Exterior lighting
  • Modeling and design
  • Computer-aided design (CAD)
  • Construction
  • Site Engineering
  • Plant and soil science
  • Geology

Do I Need Licensure?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that in 2015, licensure was required in 47 states (www.bls.gov), though if you want to use the term 'landscape architect' you must seek licensure in all 50 states. The Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards provides the Landscape Architect Registration Examination (L.A.R.E.), which is typically used as the licensing exam for states (www.clarb.org). This exam is administered on the same day by all testing centers and scored the same way.

Certification is also available for landscape designers. The Association of Professional Landscape Designers provides a certification to landscape designers who've worked for at least four years (www.apld.org). In order to maintain certification, you must seek at least 30 hours of continuing education credit every three years.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Depending on what degree you obtained in university, there are several other jobs you could pursue. With a bachelor's degree in horticulture, you could become a horticulturist or work in farming and agriculture. You also could have chosen a general architecture undergraduate degree and work as a traditional architect, designing homes and buildings.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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