What Does a Landscape Architect Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image by Melissa Ling. © The Balance 2019

A landscape architect designs residential areas, parks, shopping centers, parkways, golf courses, and school campuses to make them both beautiful and functional. They must ensure that these facilities are compatible with the natural environment. A landscape architect might work with other professionals, including civil engineers, hydrologists, and architects.

This occupation employed approximately 24,700 people in 2016.

Landscape Architect Duties & Responsibilities

This job typically involves performing the following tasks and work:

  • Meet with and cultivate clients, engineers, and architects to outline possible solutions to problems and determine their needs.
  • Consider environmental factors, such as draining and energy availability.
  • Prepare site plans and graphic representations of plans using computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software.
  • Prepare cost estimates and oversee the project's budget.

Landscape architects can be hands-on, periodically visiting job sites to check on the progress of projects and to make sure they're meeting specifications. This isn't necessarily a desk job.

Landscape Architect Salary

This career can cover a wide range of industries, so salaries can range widely. These figures are the medians for all landscape architect professionals.

  • Median Annual Salary: $68,230 ($32.80/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $113,240 ($54.44/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $40,710 ($19.57/hour)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2018

Education, Training & Certification

This is a career that requires formal training, education, and licensing.

  • Education: A landscape architect must earn a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) or a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture (BSLA). You'll spend four to five years taking classes in design, construction techniques, art, history, and natural and social sciences to complete either degree. You can also earn a Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA). It will take you two years to complete your MLA if you already have a BLA or BSLA, but otherwise, you'll spend three years in a master-level program.
  • Training: Training requirements can be state-specific. The Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards (CLARB) offers a searchable database of training requirements based on location.
  • Internships: Entry-level applicants can work as interns under the supervision of licensed architects while completing the licensing process, but this generally isn't required.
  • Licensing: This is a licensed occupation in all states except Massachusetts, Illinois, and Maine. The exact requirements can vary, but each state requires must pass the Landscape Architect Registration Examination (L.A.R.E.) which is administered by the (CLARB). Other requirements can include having a degree from a program that's been accredited by the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board of the American Society of Landscape Architects. CLARB maintains a list of all state licensing requirements.

Landscape Architect Skills & Competencies

These soft skills and personal qualities can be essential to your success as a landscape architect:

  • Active listening: This will allow you to understand your clients' needs and wants.
  • Verbal communication: You must be able to convey information to your clients.
  • Creativity: Your creative side will allow you to design beautiful outdoor spaces that are also functional.
  • Critical thinking: Landscape architects must make decisions and solve problems. Strong critical thinking skills will let you identify possible solutions, then evaluate them before choosing the best one.
  • Reading comprehension: You must be able to understand work-related documents.
  • Computer skills: Technology plays a big part in this job, including software like CADD for model preparation and Geographic Information Systems (GIS), so proficiency is required.

Job Outlook

This occupation's outlook is good. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2026 by about 6%. Continuing environmental concerns should keep these professionals in demand.

Work Environment

Perhaps surprisingly, this is largely a desk job. Landscape architects might beautify outdoor spaces, but they spend most of their time working in offices, creating and modifying plans, preparing cost estimates, and meeting with clients. This isn't to say that landscape architects don't spend time at job sites, but this is not an outdoor profession overall.

Most landscape architects work in the architectural and engineering industry. Some work for landscaping service firms. About 20% of all landscape architects are self-employed.

Work Schedule

Most of these jobs are full time. They can require additional hours at times when big projects are reaching deadlines.

Comparing Similar Jobs

Some similar jobs and their median annual pay include: 

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018