Landscape Architect Job Description, Education, Training Requirements, Career, Salary, Employment

Job Description: Landscape architects are often involved with the development of a site from its conception. Working with architects, surveyors, and engineers, landscape architects help determine the best arrangement of roads and buildings. They also collaborate with environmental scientists, foresters and other professionals to find the best way to conserve or restore natural resources. Once these decisions are made, landscape architects create detailed plans indicating new topography, vegetation, walkways and other landscaping details, such as fountains and decorative features.

Training and Educational Qualifications: A bachelor’s or master’s degree in landscape architecture usually is necessary for entry into the profession. A bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture takes 4 or 5 years to complete. There are two types of accredited master’s degree programs: a 3 year first professional master’s degree that is designed for students with an undergraduate degree in another discipline, and a 2 year second professional degree program for students who already have a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture.

Job Outlook: Employment of landscape architects is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2016. The expertise of landscape architects will be highly sought after in the planning and development of new residential, commercial and other types of construction in order to meet the needs of a growing population.

Salary: Median annual earnings of landscape architects are $55,140. The middle 50 percent earn between $42,270 and $73,240. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $34,230 and the highest 10 percent earn over $95,420.

Significant Facts:

•    More than 26 percent of all landscape architects are self employed more than 3 times the proportion of all professionals.

•    A bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture is the minimum requirement for entry level jobs; many employers prefer to hire landscape architects who also have completed at least one internship.

•    Landscape architect jobs are expected to increase due to a growing demand for incorporating natural elements into man made environments, along with the need to meet a wide array of environmental restrictions.

CAREER LADDER:

Draftsperson, design draftsperson, designer, directeur d’etudes, architecte paysagiste, dessinateur. Newest: landscape architect/principal landscape architect.

Did you have an internship in this field prior to starting your job?

I had two internships: one in campus planning and another in designing and building a garden at the university arboretum.

Do you know of which companies have the best internships in this field that are known to help launch a successful career?

Smaller companies tend to give broader experience at less (or no) pay, while large companies get you up to speed and allow you to make more contacts for the future. So small companies probably better prepare you to practice on your own, but large firms prepare you to work on big projects as part of a team it depends on what form you want your career to take.

Where are the best cities to live to find jobs like yours?

Judging by membership information in the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), urban areas of California are probably the best place to get a job since California has the most landscape architects of any state. However, you can probably find a job in any major urban area if you possess the necessary skills. You can use the ASLA Web site to research firms and read job postings.

What is your typical day like?

It varies. Sometimes I spend a lot of time on the computer doing technical drawings for construction, compiling data, working with databases, spreadsheets, processing digital images and doing graphic design for presentations. Others times I design, sketch, photograph projects or meet with clients and give the computer a rest.

What are your job responsibilities?

We’re a small firm, so I have to do a bit of everything. Tasks include designing exterior spaces with their associated features and systems, Computer Aided Design (CAD), 3D modeling, accounting, database maintenance, illustration, photography, client relations, equipment maintenance, construction administration and research.

What is your favorite part of your job?

In the office, designing and illustrating new projects is a lot of fun. It’s especially so when I think of something new that works really well for a given situation. Out of the office, walking through things our firm has designed and watching them mature is fun. Nothing beats going to a party in a space that you’ve imagined and seeing everyone enjoying it.

What do you dislike about your job?

Sometimes I have to work long hours doing things like specifications or revisions. Discussing construction costs is difficult because everyone expects landscaping to cost less than it does.

Have you had any turning point or “light bulb” moments in your career that have helped you get to where you are today?

When I was in France and realized that it was time to start my/our own firm. I suppose there were some design “ah-ha’s” that resulted in interesting things being built that led to more work.

How did you know you wanted to pursue this career?

When I was looking for work with an environmental studies degree, I realized that landscape architecture would combine environment, art and a bit of geekiness. It would also make me more employable since people would at least know what I studied. I also hoped it would be less dull and more creative than my other options, like writing Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) and preparing planning documents.

How did you get into this industry?

I got two simultaneous internships in planning and designing/building while doing undergrad studies. I worked at a large landscape architecture firm while pursuing my MLA.

What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment?

Hopefully, it’s still in the future. Just getting this business to work well enough to pay the bills was probably my longest sustained effort. International projects in Monaco, Addis Ababa, Jakarta and Jordan were great adventures, but I don’t know if they were really personal accomplishments.

If you weren’t doing this job, what similar careers might you consider?

Illustrator, writer, photographer, comedian, filmmaker.

To what professional associations do you belong?

American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA).

What do publications do you read?

Landscape Architecture magazine, Scientific American, International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) newsletter, Topos magazine, Wired, Food & Wine, Sunset, Dwell, Fine Homebuilding, Western Interiors & Design. The technology, food and architecture magazines are great places for ideas since they show new spaces and what people are doing in them.

What advice do you have for others who would like to pursue this career?

Swear a vow of poverty and be ready to do a lot of boring, non creative work hunched over a computer before you can begin to steer yourself towards artistic or creative work. There is a pretty nasty licensure test called the LARE to pass before becoming a landscape architect. In California, you must first complete two years of apprenticeship under a licensed landscape architect, unless this has changed since I took the test.

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