A landscape designer, also called a landscape architect, designs gardens and green spaces to be visually pleasing and to work harmoniously with the natural environment. A landscape architect can work on projects such as parks, golf courses, residential roadsides, college campuses and private home gardens. They will not only plan the location of plants and trees, but other elements such as roads or paths, lighting and any structures.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most landscape architects have at least a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture. There are a number of colleges that offer a professional program, and students can graduate with a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture or a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture. Both programs typically require between four and five years of study. Additionally, the Master of Landscape Architecture can be achieved after two to three years of full-time study after achieving a bachelor’s degree.
According to the BLS, most states require landscape architects to be licensed by the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards. A candidate must take an examination called the Landscape Architect Registration Examination, which has a multiple-choice section as well as a graphic portion. Candidates for the examination are typically required to have a degree plus experience with a licensed landscape architect. Additionally, some states require an additional examination, which may focus on local issues such as environmental law and local climates.
Many landscape design employers hire undergraduate students in landscape architecture as interns before the student graduates. The BLS notes that these internships can help improve a student’s skills, and allow greater understanding of how the business works. Once a student has graduated, they may be hired at a landscape architecture firm as an apprentice or intern until they pass the licensing examination. When they have the necessary experience to become licensed, a landscape designer is able to work on projects individually. After a landscape architect has gained sufficient experience and clients, he may decide to open his own firm. According to the BLS, 21 percent of landscape architects are self-employed as of 2009.
According to the BLS, the mean annual wage for a landscape architect was $65,910 as of May 2009. The mean hourly wage was $31.69. Earning can vary greatly based on experience and location, and the top 10 percent of landscape architects earned $100,530 in May 2009. The top-paying states are Alabama, with an annual mean wage of $87,490, and Massachusetts at $76,770. The top-paying metropolitan area in May 2009 was Bridgeport, Connecticut, with an annual mean wage of $97,610. San Diego, California landscape architects earned $95,280.