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What Is the Difference Between a Landscape Architect & a Civil Engineer?

Are you interested in the way public spaces and structures are designed or the way natural areas are preserved? Are you trying to decide between careers that seem to perform these types of tasks? If so, you might be interested in learning about the differences between landscape architects and civil engineers.

Career Differences Overview

Although these two career paths are similar in some of their duties and responsibilities, there are important differences between the two. Primarily, your responsibilities as a landscape architect involve improving or restoring a piece of property using vegetation and natural aspects of the environment. A civil engineer is more focused on infrastructural elements, such as buildings and roads, though you might often consider environmental factors during project design and site development.

Important Facts About Landscape Architecture and Civil Engineering

Landscape Architects Civil Engineers
Median Salary (2018) $68,230 $86,640
Required Education Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 6% increase 11% increase
Work Environment Office setting and outdoor landscape sites Office settings or construction sites

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Landscape Architect

As a landscape architect, you might design public areas, like parks, gardens, golf courses, and playgrounds. This includes making decisions about planting or removing vegetation as well as incorporating landscaping elements, such as decorative rocks or fountains. You might also be involved in restoring an area that has been damaged by human development, such as wetlands or mining areas. In your project planning, you'll consider how to improve a site by incorporating the existing landscape features while meeting the needs of your client.

Duties and Responsibilities

Landscape architects are often tasked with designing responsible, sustainable landscapes. This may include understanding site limitations, such as drainage, existing structures, and topographical elements. You might also create 3-D landscape models using computer-aided design (CAD) software or geographic information systems (GIS) technology to help a client envision their landscaping options.

Education and Licensure

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you must complete an accredited bachelor's or master's program in landscape architecture in order to work in this field. In addition, every state except the District of Columbia, Maine, Illinois and Massachusetts requires licensure for landscape architects. To obtain a license after earning a bachelor's or master's degree in the field, you need to complete 1-4 years of professional experience and an exam.

Civil Engineer

As a civil engineer, you're responsible for the design and construction of infrastructural elements, including roads, dams, tunnels, and bridges. You might specialize in an area such as structural engineering, transportation engineering, or geotechnical engineering, which might further determine the types of projects you would oversee. Such projects could include finding practical solutions to problems such as erosion, earthquake damage, or traffic congestion.

Duties and Responsibilities

Your responsibilities as a civil engineer may focus on structural design and environmental factors that could impact structural integrity, such as the likelihood of flooding. You might also be involved in the supervision of site development and construction. Construction costs, choice of materials, and adherence to governmental guidelines might also be a part of your responsibilities.

Education and Licensure

Most civil engineers hold at least a bachelor's degree, according to the BLS. If you plan to offer your services to the public, you'll need to obtain an engineering license. Requirements for professional licensure include completion of an ABET-accredited bachelor's program, about four years of work experience and two exams.