A landscape architect is an individual who designs, plans, restores or manages the creation of a landscape, garden or other specifically defined and generally outdoor space. Spaces which are designed or restored by a landscape architect include both man made areas such as parks, golf courses and residential locales and existing natural areas including wetlands and forest areas which may have been disturbed by human interference. Other, more practical spaces are also designed by landscape architects; roadsides, walkways even building placements. The areas are designed by the landscape architects with decorative features and landscape details in order to appeal to the public’s appreciation of beautiful spaces. The landscape architect endeavors to create spaces which are both functional and beautiful without interfering in the natural ecology of the area.
Though the explanation of the profession sounds simple, the process requires substantial knowledge and skill in a variety of fields. The individual must evaluate the space to determine what must be done to accomplish the desired aesthetic, ecological and/or environmental result. To achieve this undertaking, the landscape architect will need to examine various ecological, geological and social processes and may have to collaborate with various other professionals including architects, surveyors, environmental scientists and foresters. Consideration must be given to drainage, climate, soil even the slope of the land. The desired outcome must be analyzed to determine feasibility. And a detailed design must be developed which addresses all of these factors based on the characteristics of the area. Landscape architects utilize a wide range of technological and cognitive tools to perform the multitude of tasks associated with their profession. These individuals must have an aptitude in creative design, written and oral communications, multifaceted problem solving and scientific and mathematical studies.
According to the United States Department of Labor, the field of landscape architecture will experience a twenty percent increase in job growth over the next eight years. The increase in employment opportunities is attributable to a range of factors. With the expanding population and congestion in urban and regional areas, the need for landscape architects to assist with the designs of development projects will be necessary. Increasing populations require additional roadways, infrastructures, services and ultimately buildings to house the services. Landscape architects will be needed to help design aesthetically pleasing sites which balance with the practical needs of the development. Concerns for the environment and sustainable resources will also propel the field. Landscape architects will be required to develop plans which will sustain both the environment and natural resources while maintaining a cost effective strategy.
Landscape architects must obtain a college degree. High school students will need to complete a college preparatory curriculum. Most colleges require prospective students to have completed a specific number of years in the core educational courses; at least 3 years in English, mathematics and science and two years in social studies and a foreign language. Additional courses are required in technology and computers. Most college preparatory curriculums allow students to select courses from a listing of electives. Students intending to pursue careers in landscape architecture should consider courses in business, law, art and supplemental computer courses. If the high school offers additional earth science courses studying geology or plant and soil science, these courses would also be recommended. Drafting courses would prove beneficial also. Studies in these areas will prove advantageous in college and when performing the tasks of the profession.
Participation in extra curricular activities is advisable. Colleges give admission preference to students who contribute and show commitment to their high school through involvement. Colleges want students who will be active on campus; enriching the school as opposed to solely attending. Extra curricular activities also serve to benefit the student. Students are able to develop fundamental skills in areas essential to future success in the individuals chosen profession. Students pursuing a career as a landscape architect would benefit from participation in a computer club where they will learn to become proficient with the use of software. The use of Computer aided drafting (CAD) software is prevalent in the field. Debate clubs will improve the individuals abilities in oral presentation; useful for individuals who will be expected to present their ideas and field spontaneous questions without the benefit of preparation time.
After school and summer employment should also be considered. Seek positions at a landscape company, on a farm or even at an office. Students who obtain employment with a company which specializes in landscaping will have the opportunity to learn the profession from those employed in the field. Working at a farm will provide the same opportunity but from a different perspective. Landscapers are concerned with aesthetic value while farms concentrate on productivity and functionality. Time spent at either job will allow students to determine if this is a career they would enjoy. In order to be successful as a landscape architect, it is important to enjoy working outdoors and to have an interest in the various ecological systems with which you will be working. It is vital to success in the field to enjoy learning about the minute details as well as the major aspects. An office position will provide experience in the business facet of the industry.
There are nearly seventy colleges which offer degrees in the field of landscape architecture that are accredited by the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Students can pursue either a bachelor of Landscape architecture or a bachelor of science in landscape architecture. Landscape architecture is a field which requires expertise in a variety of areas. Both degrees provide students with the skills and knowledge necessary to attain entry level positions in the field. The curriculum includes courses in plan and soil science, geology, surveying, landscape design, site design, urban planning and landscape ecology. Students are trained using the most current and popular computer software programs and tools commonly employed by landscape architects; geographic information systems, CAD and model building. Students often participate in projects designed to provide hands on experience in the field.
Colleges offer Master degree programs in Landscape Architecture also. Students who choose to pursue an undergraduate degree in a field other than landscape architecture but intend to work in the industry may want to consider the advanced degree. Students who elected to pursue a major in an alternative field will not necessarily be at a disadvantage if the major has relevance to the landscape architecture industry such as urban and regional planning, geology, environmental sciences. Expertise in these areas will prove advantageous; providing an in depth comprehension of a particular aspect affecting the landscape architect industry. The Master of landscape architecture will generally take three years to complete for those without an undergraduate degree in the major and two years for those who posses the undergraduate in the field. With the extensive knowledge required of a landscape architect, an advanced degree could prove beneficial. The additional academic and experiential training will serve to advance the graduates understanding of the field.
Internships are a required segment of the college curriculum, commonly at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students must generally observe professionals in the landscape architecture field to gain an understanding of the extensive responsibilities of the field. The immense responsibilities assumed by the landscape architect include a range of large tasks of which most people intending to enter the field are aware, but the overwhelming number of smaller tasks associated with the completion of each assignment are not always common knowledge. Time spent observing and working alongside a landscape architect and the many members of the collaborative team will provide a better insight into the responsibilities, expectations and knowledge required of individuals working within this field. Since many landscape architects select an area of specialization in which to focus their careers, an internship will also provide the opportunity for the intern to experience a particular segment of the field and determine if that is the area in which they may or may not prefer to work.
The majority of states require that landscape architects be licensed. Licensing requirements are dictated and regulated by the state in which the individual chooses to work. The specific requirements for the state in which an individual intends to work can be checked at the state website. The national requirements generally include graduation from a program accredited by the American Society of Landscape Architects, fulfillment of a three year internship or apprenticeship with a registered landscape architect and the successful completion of the landscape architect registration exam or LARE. All of the states also require landscape architects to successfully complete the registration exam administered by the American Society of Landscape Architects. Before sitting for the exam, licensure applicants should first research their state requirements to ensure the testing conditions prescribed by the state are met.
The Landscape Architect registration exam is comprised of two main segments; the multiple choice and graphic exam sections. The three multiple choice test sections are given twice a year, in March and in September. Testing centers are located throughout the country. The testing applicant can choose to take the three multiple choice parts all at once or throughout an allotted two week window. However, the applicant must preregister for the available testing days to ensure one of the limited seats will be reserved. The majority of states require testing candidates to apply for approval to sit for the test before registering for the multiple choice portion. These states require that candidates meet all of their licensing conditions prior to applying; Arkansas, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. Registration can be completed online at the Council of landscape Architectural Registration Boards website: www.clarb.org . Each section has a fee associated with it along with a registration fee of $75 for non-council record holders and $10 for council record holders.
The second segment of the exam is the graphic exams. The two graphic exam sections are given twice a year in June and December either by the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards or, if the state doesn’t have a local CLARB office, through the state licensing board. The graphic sections test the candidate on site design and on grading, drainage and storm water management. For the graphic segment, candidates are provided with a vignette of a region and are expected to provide design solutions based on the information and the project details provided. The testing candidates should prepare for both segments of the exam. The CLARB website offers substantial test preparation resources. Candidates have the opportunity to review practice multiple choice test sections and to print out practice vignettes for the graphic segment of the exam. Orientation guides, pre-orientation booklets and step-by-step guides are all provided at the website and/or candidates are referred to other reliable resources to assist with test preparations. Prep courses are another effective option to help prepare for the exams.
The landscape architect profession has emerged as one of the best career options. The demand for spaces with aesthetic appeal is substantial and is equaled by the demand for ecologically and environmentally balanced spaces. Employment settings for landscape architects are vast and varied. They can work in a firm, for the federal, state or local governments, or independently as self employed contractors or in their own firms. The federal government does not have a licensing requirement for the landscape architects they employ. Though the majority of a landscape architects time is spent in an office setting drawing up plans, presentations and contracts, some time is spent out on the planned sites. Landscape architects may specialize in a particular aspect of the business; concentrating on parks and recreation, shopping centers, waterfronts or environmental restorations. These professionals may even choose to work within one specific segment of the process; site construction, feasibility or cost studies.
License renewal is a requirement in most states. A condition of license renewal is the completion of the continuing education requirements as set forth by each of the individual states. Currently, twenty nine states have continuing education requirements. Several other states have legislation pending regarding continuing education requirements. And some are in the process of implementing legislation to develop statutory authority to enforce and regulate requirements. Continuing education isn’t limited to the completion of course credits. Many states include provisions for certain activities also. In order to determine the continuing education requirements for the state in which you work, check the state’s licensure website for the profession.
The general requirements for the activities to be considered qualified for continuing education are that there is a stated objective which serves to improve, expand the existing skills or to develop new skills and knowledge of the participant. Making presentations, publishing papers, attending seminars or tutorials are all activities which may be approved for continuing education requirements. The number of continuing education hours varies by state. Some require the completion of seven to fifteen hours per year. Others require sixteen to twenty four hours completed in two years. The record keeping requirements for tracking the completion of the continuing education hours also varies.
The American Society of Landscape Architects is the premier professional society for the profession. Though it is not a requirement, membership in the ASLA provides many benefits. The members are permitted to use the professional designation credential only allowable for members. The designation is highly regarded as an indication of professionalism and commitment. Members are afforded the opportunity to contribute to the development of state and federal legislation and regulations and to impact public policy. Extensive networking opportunities through local chapters, state chapters and various monthly and annual events are presented. Career opportunities are advertised on the searchable job database and member’s firms are promoted for their services. Career enhancement and professional resources are offered to members; providing services which will assist with productivity and efficiency. Members are provided with news on the latest trends and advancements in the landscape architecture industry through email communications, the award winning Landscape Architecture Magazine and various other outreach mailings to members. Reduced fees for the various continuing education courses and various other services are another benefit of membership.