Your Career as a Landscape Designer

Working as a landscape designer can be an extremely profitable and personally rewarding job. It's creative work in any possible sense of the words, and you work with strongly motivated clients, sometimes in truly beautiful settings. The landscape design business is for the real professionals and the true believers in design. It's a very active line of business, usually involving contract work, and there's plenty of scope for designers to compete.

Education and training

Landscape design is also highly technical work. Formal qualifications and practical experience are required. In most cases a certificate in landscape design is the first step, a prerequisite for academic studies followed by a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture, progressing to a Masters.

Landscape design training involves:

Basic horticulture: This is essential training, involving understanding of fundamental environmental issues, botany, plant growth characteristics, pest control and biology.

Plant selection: A major element in design, the plant selection process training is based on the horticultural knowledge base. This involves appropriate selection of correct plants for locations, soil types, climate, drainage, as well as the purely design issues.

Design basics: At certificate level, planning is a very straightforward matter of drafting basic plans manually, using simple measurements. The primary elements in these plans are two dimensional, including designing features and garden beds and basic presentation.  At professional qualification level, the training is intensive, including elements of formal architecture training, and advanced presentation.

The workplace environment

Landscape design has a lot in common with architecture as a working environment. The purely "in the office" design-based part of the job is done on computers, often using highly customized and advanced software for the CAD and presentation. The design process is often a complex job, consulting with clients, taking surveys of the land, dealing with site issues, and working on budgets and contracts.

Site work, however, involves detailed examination of the site. It can be as technically demanding as the CAD work. A landscape design may have to wrestle with any local situation, from bizarre drainage to heavy clay, or acid soils. This site work is extremely important, because the local issues can have major effects on budgets.

The work is very varied, and so is the clientele. Landscape designers can work with major developers of big sites and homeowners trying to remodel their back yards, or county beautification projects, sometimes in the same day. There's no lack of mental exercise, and the professional skills are always in use.

The career environment

Landscape design is a high capital business for designers and clients alike. The wages and salaries are generally high, which reflects the big budget work that creates a thriving landscape design business. Some landscape designers work freelance, doing the design work for contractors. That can be a very profitable arrangement, splitting costs between parties, and improving efficiencies.

Career advancement in landscape design is based on achievements. Budgets involved in professional landscaping projects can be millions of dollars. Competition is intense, and contract budgets can be very tough calls. This work requires experienced experts, and the incentives for designers are based on big money.