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Landscape Architect Training and 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 Exam.

Education and training. A bachelor's or master's degree in landscape architecture usually is necessary for entry into the profession. 67 colleges and universities offered undergraduate or graduate programs in landscape architecture that were accredited by the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 2009. 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 4 or 5 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 3 years of full-time study to complete. Those who hold undergraduate degrees in landscape architecture can earn their MLA in 2 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.

Licensure and certification. As of 2009, there were 49 States that required landscape architects to be licensed. Licensing is based on the Landscape Architect Registration Examination (L.A.R.E.), 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 1 to 4 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 L.A.R.E., usually requiring more work experience. Currently, 13 States require that a State examination be passed in addition to the L.A.R.E. 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 3 years of internship under the supervision of a registered landscape architect, and passing the L.A.R.E. 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.

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 to 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.

Advancement. After several years, landscape architects may become project managers, taking on the responsibility for meeting schedules and budgets, in addition to overseeing the project design. Later, they may become associates or partners of a firm, with a proprietary interest in the business.

Those with landscape architecture training also qualify for jobs closely related to landscape architecture, and may, after gaining some experience, become construction supervisors, land or environmental planners, or landscape consultants.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition

Find related resources below:



Landscape Architect Job Outlook     Landscape Architect Income

 

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