How to Become a Landscape Architect
Interns are often supervised by more experienced landscape architects.
All states except for Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, and Washington, D.C. require landscape architects to have a license. In addition, all 50 states (but not Washington, D.C.) require applicants to be licensed before they can use the title “landscape architect” while soliciting business. Licensing requirements vary among states, but usually include a degree in landscape architecture from an accredited school, internship experience, and passing the Landscape Architect Registration Examination.
A bachelor's or master's degree in landscape architecture usually is necessary for entry into the profession. There are two undergraduate landscape architect professional degrees: a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) and a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture (BSLA). These programs usually require 4 to 5 years of study.
Accredited programs are approved by the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB). Those with an undergraduate degree in a field other than landscape architecture may enroll in a Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) graduate degree program, which typically takes 3 years of full-time study.
Courses typically include surveying, landscape design and construction, landscape ecology, site design, and urban and regional planning. Other relevant coursework may 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 and drafting (CADD), model building, and other design software.
In order to become licensed, candidates must meet experience requirements determined by each state. A list of training requirements can be found at the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards.
New hires are called intern landscape architects until they become licensed. Although duties vary with the type and size of the employing firm, interns typically must work under the supervision of a licensed landscape architect for the experience to count toward licensure. In addition, all drawings and specifications must be signed and sealed by the licensed landscape architect.
Potential prospects may benefit by completing an internship with a landscape architecture firm during educational studies. Interns may improve their technical skills and gain an understanding of the day-to-day operations of the business, including learning how to recruit clients, generate fees, and work within a budget.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
All states, except for Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, and Washington, D.C., require landscape architects to be licensed in order to practice. In addition, all 50 states (but not Washington, D.C.) require applicants to be licensed before they can use the title “landscape architect” while soliciting business. Licensing is based on candidates passing the Landscape Architect Registration Examination (LARE), which is sponsored by the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards.
Candidates who are interested in taking the exam usually need a degree from an accredited school and several 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, many states provide alternative paths to qualify to take the LARE, which usually require more work experience.
In addition to the LARE, some states have their own registration exam to test for competency on state-specific issues, such as earthquakes in California or hurricanes in Florida. State-specific exams may focus on laws, environmental regulations, plants, soils, climate, and other characteristics unique to the state.
Because requirements for licensure vary, landscape architects may find it difficult to transfer their registration from one state to another. Common requirements include graduating from an accredited program, completing several years of an internship under the supervision of a licensed landscape architect, and passing the LARE. By meeting national requirements, a landscape architect may also obtain certification from the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards, which may be useful in getting a license in another state.
Analytical skills. Landscape architects must understand the content of designs. When designing a building’s drainage system, for example, landscape architects must understand how the building’s location and surrounding land affect each other.
Communication skills. Landscape architects share their ideas, both orally and in writing, with clients, other architects, and workers who help prepare drawings. Effective communication is essential to ensuring that the vision for a project gets translated into reality.
Creativity. Landscape architects create the overall look of gardens, parks, and other outdoor areas. Their designs should be both pleasing to the eye and functional.
Problem-solving skills. When designing outdoor spaces, landscape architects must be able to provide solutions to unanticipated challenges. These solutions often involve looking at challenges from different perspectives and providing the best recommendations.
Technical skills. Landscape architects use computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) programs to create representations of their projects. Some also must use geographic information systems (GIS) for their designs.
Visualization skills. Landscape architects must be able to imagine how an overall outdoor space will look once completed.