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What Does a Landscape Engineer Do?

Landscape engineers help transform flat construction sites into pleasant green spaces with trees, grass, and plants. Keep reading to learn more about the job description and requirements for this career.

Career Overview

Landscape engineering is the practice of manipulating soil through grading, drainage, and other land-form processes. It is an integral part of the process for creating pleasant, functional, and structurally-sound outdoor spaces. Landscape architects employ engineering knowledge when designing and building spaces.

Important Facts About Landscape Engineering

Median Salary (2018) $68,230 (landscape architects)*
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 6% growth (as fast as average; for landscape architects)*
Similar Occupations Civil engineer, cartographer, construction manager, geoscientist
Key Skills Creativity, analytical, communication, and technical skills
Work Environment Commonly in the office or at job sites, full-time, sometimes facing deadlines

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

As a landscape architect, you would work with clients and contractors to design and construct land features for public and private projects. AutoCAD and other computer-aided drafting programs are usually essential tools for these professionals and you need to know how to translate your ideas onto paper using the technology. Some landscape architects specialize in areas like streets and highways, shopping malls, parks, or waterfronts. Government buildings, public spaces, private estates, schools, and national forests all have spaces designed and engineered by landscape architects.

As sustainability and environmentalism become forefront on the public agenda, you could also work to preserve and protect waterways, endangered landscapes, and other natural areas. Landscape architects must consider material selection, water drainage, erosion control, and environmentally-friendly technologies during the engineering phase of the design.

Skills Required

Landscape engineers need to know how to read contour maps and understand how to translate 2-D images, calculate angles and grading requirements for roads and other structures, and figure out the amount of fill needed for particular areas. They also need to know how water runoff and flow will influence their designs.

Employment Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), every state requires landscape architects to be licensed. To qualify, you need to earn a bachelor's degree, such as the Bachelor of Landscape Architecture or Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture, which usually takes four to five years to complete. If you've already earned a degree in another field, you can pursue training through a Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) program. It can take about two years to earn an MLA if your bachelor's degree is in landscape architecture.

Education Information

Landscape architecture programs, which are sometimes offered through university engineering departments, include courses on soil structure, porosity, and flow. You can also learn how these factors play into the work of a landscape architect. Many academic programs feature sustainability in their courses and you could even minor or specialize in the area. The BLS reported that taking internships during your school years could be an important step in launching your career. As an intern or apprentice, you would work under a licensed landscape architect.

Licensure Information

The Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards sponsors the Landscape Architecture Registration Examination (LARE), which you must pass to gain licensure. You usually need one to four years of experience and a landscape architecture degree from an accredited school to qualify, but many states also offer a path to licensure for those without the appropriate degree. This usually requires more work experience and some states require additional testing.