Landscape architects

A landscape architect could…

Design walkways in natural parks so that people can visit without harming the environment. Walkway in canyon Plan a rooftop garden that will help cut energy costs while providing residents a pleasant place to spend time. Rooftop garden
Add features, like a skateboard park, to a greenspace to fit the needs of a neighborhood's citizens. Skateboarding Prevent flooding and beautify cities by developing small parks to capture rainwater. Nature park in city
Find out more...

Key Facts & Information

Overview Have you ever visited a new city and marveled at how nice looking it was? Perhaps the streets were wide, the public places were well organized, and the parks and gardens were green and had lots of attractive plants. Well, what you experienced was a well-balanced and designed landscape plan put together by a landscape architect. Landscape architects design everything that is outside of buildings. Their goal is to make a design that is functional, but one that is well balanced with nature and in which people feel happy and comfortable. Landscape architecture is the perfect blend of engineering, art, and nature.
Key Requirements Creativity, love of nature, critical thinking skills, good judgment and decision-making, active listening, visualization, oral and reading comprehension, communication skills
Minimum Degree Bachelor's degree
Subjects to Study in High School Biology, physics, algebra, geometry, calculus; if available, computer science, environmental science
Median Salary
Landscape Architect
U.S. Mean Annual Wage
Min Wage
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) Decline Slowly or Moderately (-3% to -9%)
  • Michelle Pekko-Seymoure is a landscape architect who designs with native plants so that her clients can reduce their water use.
  • In this video compilation of interviews, professional landscape architects talk about what landscape architecture is and what they find so interesting about their careers.
  • Experienced landscape architect Bruce Hendee has a long history with sustainability in Fort Collins. Read about his journey into landscape architecture and his career advice for future architects.
Related Occupations
Source: O*Net

Training, Other Qualifications

Almost every state requires landscape architects to be licensed. While requirements vary among the states, they usually include a degree in landscape architecture from an accredited school; work experience; and a passing score on the Landscape Architect Registration Examination, or LARE.

As of 2009, 49 states required landscape architects to be licensed. Licensing is based on the LARE, sponsored by the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards, and administered in two portions, a graphic portion and a multiple-choice portion. Applicants wishing to take the exam usually need a degree from an accredited school plus one to four years of work experience under the supervision of a licensed landscape architect, although standards vary by state. For those without an accredited landscape architecture degree, most states provide alternative paths to qualify to take the LARE, usually requiring more work experience. Currently, 13 states require that a state examination be passed in addition to the LARE to satisfy registration requirements. State examinations focus on laws, environmental regulations, plants, soils, climate, and any other characteristics unique to the state.

Because requirements for licensure are not uniform, landscape architects may find it difficult to transfer their registration from one state to another. National standards include graduating from an accredited program, serving three years of internship under the supervision of a registered landscape architect, and passing the LARE can satisfy requirements in most states. By meeting national requirements, a landscape architect can also obtain certification from the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards, which can be useful in obtaining reciprocal licensure in other states.

In states where licensure is required, new hires may be called "apprentices" or "intern landscape architects" until they become licensed. Their duties vary depending on the type and size of the employing firm. They may do project research or prepare working drawings, construction documents, or base maps of the area to be designed. Some are allowed to participate in the actual design of a project. However, interns must perform all work under the supervision of a licensed landscape architect. Additionally, all drawings and specifications must be signed and sealed by the licensed landscape architect, who takes legal responsibility for the work. After gaining experience and becoming licensed, landscape architects usually can carry a design through all stages of development.

A majority of states require some form of continuing education to maintain a license. Requirements usually involve the completion of workshops, seminars, formal university classes, conferences, self-study courses, or other classes.

The federal government does not require its landscape architects to be licensed. Candidates for entry positions with the federal government should have a bachelor's or master's degree in landscape architecture.

Education and Training

A bachelor's or master's degree in landscape architecture usually is necessary for entry into the profession. There are two undergraduate professional degrees: a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) and a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture (BSLA). These programs usually require four or five years of study for completion. Those who hold an undergraduate degree in a field other than landscape architecture can enroll in a Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) graduate degree program, which typically takes three years of full-time study to complete. Those who hold undergraduate degrees in landscape architecture can earn their MLA in two years.

Courses required in these programs usually include subjects such as surveying, landscape design and construction, landscape ecology, site design, and urban and regional planning. Other courses include history of landscape architecture, plant and soil science, geology, professional practice, and general management. The design studio is a key component of any curriculum. Whenever possible, students are assigned real projects, providing them with valuable hands-on experience. While working on these projects, students become proficient in the use of computer-aided design, model building, geographic information systems, and video simulation.

Many employers recommend that prospective landscape architects complete a summer internship with a landscape architecture firm during their formal educational studies. Interns are able to hone their technical skills and gain an understanding of the day-to-day operations of the business, including how to win clients, generate fees, and work within a budget.

Other Qualifications

People planning a career in landscape architecture should appreciate nature, enjoy working with their hands, and possess strong analytical skills. Creative vision and artistic talent also are desirable qualities. Good oral and written communication skills are essential. Landscape architects must be able to convey their ideas to other professionals and clients and make presentations before large groups. Landscape architects must also be able to draft and design using CAD software. Knowledge of computer applications of all kinds, including word processing, desktop publishing, and spreadsheets, is also important. Landscape architects use these tools to develop presentations, proposals, reports, and land-impact studies for clients, colleagues, and superiors.

Many landscape architects are self-employed. Self-discipline, business acumen, and good marketing skills are important qualities for those who choose to open their own business. Even with these qualities, however, some may struggle while building a client base.

In this video, a landscape architect gives a quick description of his career, what landscape architecture is, and why the field of landscape architecture needs creative youth to join.

Nature of the Work

People enjoy attractively designed gardens, public parks and playgrounds, residential areas, college campuses, shopping centers, golf courses, and parkways. Landscape architects design these areas so they are not only functional but also beautiful and harmonious with the natural environment. They plan the location of buildings, roads, and walkways, along with the arrangement of flowers, shrubs, and trees. They also design and plan the restoration of natural places disturbed by humans, such as wetlands, stream corridors, mined areas, and forested land.

Working with building 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.

In planning a site, landscape architects first consider the purpose of the project and the funds available. They then analyze the natural elements of the site, such as the climate, soil, slope of the land, drainage, and vegetation. They also assess existing buildings, roads, walkways, and utilities to determine what improvements are necessary. At all stages, they evaluate the project's impact on the local ecosystem.

After studying and analyzing the site, landscape architects prepare a preliminary design. To address the needs of the client, as well as the conditions at the site, they frequently make changes before a final design is approved. They also take into account any local, state, or federal regulations, such as those protecting wetlands or historic resources. In preparing designs, computer-aided design (or CAD) has become an essential tool for most landscape architects. Many landscape architects also use video simulation to help clients envision the proposed ideas and plans. For larger-scale site planning, landscape architects also use geographic information systems (GIS) technology, a computer mapping system.

Throughout all phases of planning and design, landscape architects consult with other professionals, such as civil engineers, hydrologists, or building architects, involved in the project. Once the design is complete, they prepare a proposal for the client. They produce detailed plans of the site, including written reports, sketches, models, photographs, land-use studies, and cost estimates, and then they submit them for approval by the client and by regulatory agencies. When the plans are approved, landscape architects prepare working drawings showing all existing and proposed features. They also outline in detail the methods of construction and draw up a list of necessary materials. Landscape architects then monitor the implementation of their design, while general contractors or landscape contractors usually direct the actual construction of the site and installation of plantings.

Some landscape architects work on a variety of projects. Others specialize in a particular area, such as street and highway beautification, waterfront improvement projects, parks and playgrounds, or shopping centers. Still others work in regional planning and resource management; feasibility, environmental impact, and cost studies; or site construction. Increasingly, landscape architects work in environmental remediation, such as preservation and restoration of wetlands or abatement of storm-water runoff in new developments. Historic landscape preservation and restoration is another area where landscape architects increasingly play a role.

Landscape architects who work for government agencies create site and landscape design for government buildings, parks, and other public lands, as well as park and recreation planning in national parks and forests. In addition, they may prepare environmental impact statements and studies on environmental issues such as public land-use planning.

Work Environment

Landscape architects spend most of their time in offices creating plans and designs, preparing models and cost estimates, doing research, or attending meetings with clients and other professionals involved in a design or planning project. The remainder of their time is spent at the site. During the design and planning stage, landscape architects visit and analyze the site to verify that the design can be incorporated into the landscape. After the plans and specifications are completed, they may spend additional time at the site observing or supervising the construction. Those who work in large national or regional firms can spend considerably more time out of the office traveling to sites.

Although many landscape architects work approximately 40 hours per week, many occasionally put in extra time at night or on weekends to meet deadlines.

On the Job

  • Confer with clients, engineering personnel, and architects on overall program.
  • Prepare site plans, specifications, and cost estimates for land development, coordinating arrangement of existing and proposed land features and structures.
  • Seek new work opportunities through marketing, writing proposals, or giving presentations.
  • Inspect landscape work to ensure compliance with specifications, approve quality of materials and work, and advise client and construction personnel.
  • Prepare graphic representations and drawings of proposed plans and designs.
  • Compile and analyze data on conditions such as location, drainage, and location of structures for environmental reports and landscaping plans.

Companies That Hire Landscape Architects

Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...

Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Soil erosion can cost the world billions of dollars every year by washing pollutants into our streams and rivers and by causing the loss of farmland. What can you do about this problem? Help save the world (and some money!) with nothing more than a few plants! Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Would you like some sky vegetables for dinner? How about some fresh-cut roof flowers to put in vases in your house? Around the world, rooftops are being transformed into living green expanses. Besides beauty, rooftop gardens have a number of advantages, including growing food and taking carbon dioxide out of the air while releasing breathable oxygen. But can rooftop gardens also keep your house cooler and lower your energy bill? Try this science fair project to find out. Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
The wind is a powerful force, enough to erode whole hillsides over time. Building structures in windy environments challenge civil engineers with special safety concerns. A wall in a windy area can either shield you from the cold or fall down on you. Learn a few tricks on how to design walls in windy places. Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon and seen what water can do over millions of years? When you turn on the faucet, do you see water come out, or mud? In this experiment you'll find out how engineers help prevent erosion, which keeps dirt out of our water. Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Some plants use a lot of water, and some are very drought-tolerant. Drought-tolerant grasses are good for water conservation because they require less water to grow and stay green. How much less water do they need? Which types of grass are drought-tolerant? You can buy different types or brands of grass seed at your nursery that claim to be drought-tolerant. Grow them in a container and then starve for water after they are established. Which brands die out first? You can conduct a similar… Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Do your parents like to garden? Then you might have a beautiful lawn surrounded by flowers, or a vegetable garden. Humans have been introducing plants to our landscapes for centuries, which has dramatically altered the natural habitat of many environments. Chances are, the landscape you live in is not a natural landscape. One movement is to restore these habitats by re-introducing native plants. Conduct a survey in your area looking for native and non-native plant species. You can take… Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Trees grow more during the early spring than they do the rest of the year. Because of this period of dormancy, or lack of growth, each year of growth is marked by a line called a tree ring. You can count the number of rings in the cross section of a tree trunk to show how old the tree is. You can also count the number of rings in a stem to see the age of a stem or branch. One way to measure the rate of growth of a tree is to count the number of rings per inch. Trees with high numbers of… Read more

Ask Questions

Do you have a specific question about a career as a Landscape Architect that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.

Additional Information

If you would like additional information on this career, check out the following website:


Free science fair projects.