How to Become a Landscape Designer in 5 Steps

Landscape designers are trained in horticulture and are responsible for consulting, planning and designing the arrangement of exterior landscapes. Some states do not require a degree or certification to work as a landscape designer. However, without proper schooling, along with field experience, most landscape designers are limited in their design work. Schools offering Landscape Design degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Landscape Designer?

Landscape designers are also known as landscape architects. They work in offices most of the time, and also visit job sites to review the progress of the project, make sure the plans are being followed and keep the project on budget. Prior to this, they meet with clients, architects, engineers and others involved in a development to determine the needs of the space. After that they create a plan to develop the outdoor space for the project. Some of the places they might design outdoor spaces for include school campuses, private homes, businesses and parks. Landscape designers use computer-aided design (CAD) software to generate plans that address the needs and budget of the clients, and they must incorporate any landscape variables or drainage issues in those plans. They are required to have a bachelor's degree in landscape architecture, and many states require landscape designers to be licensed.

Step 1: Research Landscape Designer Career Duties and Education

Landscape designers are professionals who are highly creative and knowledgeable about ecology. They use tools such as computer-aided design and geographic information systems technology to plan designs.

In this profession, you may design backyards for private residences, city walkways, highways and parks. You collaborate with your clients to choose the plants that will grow together over the years in a balanced and aesthetically pleasing manner, typically incorporating principles of sustainability. Landscape designers usually need to earn a bachelor's degree and gain years of work experience to qualify for regular positions. Keep in mind that landscape designers are not landscape architects, who require professional education and licensing.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Find and apply to colleges that have an accredited landscape design program. You might also find a plant and soil science or a horticulture degree program that includes a concentration in landscape design. Most programs last four years and allow for hands-on learning. In landscape design courses, students build their plant vocabulary, learn the history of landscape design and explore topics related to soil, site planning and design.

Courses you may take in this type of program include:

  • Plant biology
  • Plant propagation
  • Turfgrass culture
  • Horticultural pest management
  • Landscape maintenance
  • Landscape contracting business

Step 3: Complete an Internship

While earning an undergraduate degree in landscape design, it is highly recommended that you complete an internship. Prospective landscape designers can work during the summers to gain experience in the field and attract future employers. Check with your school's career services office to find information on internships, or call local landscape firms to see if they accept interns. Some internships are paid, and most provide credit toward your degree.

Step 4: Obtain Employment

As graduation approaches, seek assistance from your college job placement program, or maintain contact with employers with whom you held an internship. Depending upon the amount of experience gained through internships, some recent graduates of landscape design programs may secure jobs at large landscaping companies or start as private consultants. Employers look for candidates who have strong computer skills, knowledge of plants and construction, excellent communication skills and project management ability. Some landscape design positions may require at least three years of experience, and others may require even more.

Step 5: Get Certified

Becoming certified as a landscape designer is beneficial for those seeking self-employment or a job with a respectable company. The Association of Professional Landscape Designers offers certification, requiring membership in good standing, a minimum of four years of experience, an application, a portfolio of three installed projects (including photos, drawings and a plant list), a business statement and a fee. Once certification is obtained, designers may submit their information to professional organizations like the Landscape Design Association to generate business.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Architects and civil engineers perform many tasks that are similar to the work that landscape designers do. They must meet with clients, determine the client needs, use CAD software to develop proposals, address any landscape features that may affect the project and consider issues such as drainage. They also need to have a bachelor's degree in their field. Urban and regional planners need a master's degree, and they focus on developing land and improving existing facilities to meet community needs. Like landscape designers, they may also have to meet with those involved in the projects, assess the needs of the project as well as landscape factors that may affect the project, and address those factors in their proposals. Hydrologists need a bachelor's degree and specialize in water movement. They focus on issues such as poor water quality or availability, and could also be involved in addressing drainage issues.

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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