How to Become a Landscape Architect

Landscape architecture combines the aesthetics of gardening with the elegance of architecture. It's effectively an art form, as much as a career. Not only can a career in landscape architecture provide you with great jobs, it can also produce a truly impressive income.

Landscape architecture, in its technical definition, is as demanding as architecture. You do need to be highly qualified, as well as highly motivated. Landscape contracts can be worth millions, so you also need to be competitive, and a competent business person.

Education and training

Because this is a true technical profession, the baseline undergraduate professional qualification starts at Bachelor level in the US and most Western nations. There are two degrees at this level in the US, the BLA (Bachelor of Landscape Architecture) and the BSLA (Bachelor of Science Landscape Architecture). The Masters of Landscape Architecture is the accepted professional graduate level.

The studies for the degrees are good indicators of the technical aspects of landscape architecture. Studies include surveying, landscape ecology, urban planning, site design, ecology, soil science and botany. In the course of preparing any site plan, a landscape architect will use all these skills to some extent.

The work environment

Landscape architecture is a true design career. It involves extensive use of data, design media and software, presentation, and detailed planning, often including creating or working with architectural features. There is scope for creativity on a large scale, sometimes designing the whole public areas of cities, or major developments.

The work involves a lot of different commercial interests and issues. Landscape architects are effectively consultants, as well as design professionals. The landscape architect is by definition a problem solver, working from scratch with each new design job. Just bidding for a landscape design contract may require intensive research and costing, and competition in the industry can be ferocious for bigger contracts.

The career environment

Careers in this profession work on a combination of skills and experience, with each landscape architect creating a personal portfolio as a resume of their work. Career advancement is based on achievements. This is a big money industry, very much commercial business, and it's all contract work. Landscape architects have to start from the bottom and learn, as much as earn, their way up the ladder.

The learning process can start earning big money, however, for talented designers and good planners. Expertise is always in demand in this industry. Landscape architecture can involve many different tasks, and those tasks create good career options. Some landscape architects specialize in particular areas of design, like water features, or particular technical aspects, and create their businesses in those fields. Specialization can be a very lucrative area, with these specializations being used for sub contract work or in some cases for consultation on particular design issues with other firms.

At the top of the profession, some landscape architecture businesses are themselves specialists in areas like urban landscaping, working with big city contracts worth millions.