Become a Residential Landscape Architect: Career Information

Learn how to become a residential landscape architect. Research the education requirements, licensure information, and experience needed for starting a career in residential landscape architecture.

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Should I Become a Residential Landscape Architect?

Residential landscape architects create designs for natural land areas in and around neighborhoods, apartments, houses and other residential areas. While some landscape architects are self-employed, others are employed at architectural and engineering companies, or landscape services firms. Residential landscape architects work in offices and on-site, and they their job is deadline oriented.

The job market for residential landscape architects is highly competitive. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that candidates with relevant experience and demonstrated environmental awareness within the context of landscape design may fare best in job searches.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's or master's
Degree Field Landscape architecture
Experience Depends on the state, ranges from no experience to four years
Key Skills Attention to detail, ability to problem-solve, communication skills and creativity, proficiency with design programs like CAD
Salary (2015) $63,810 per year (Median salary for all landscape architects)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Georgia Board of Landscape Architects

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Professional programs at the bachelor's level include the Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (B.L.A.) and the Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture (B.S.L.A.). Professional programs are an option for students who know before they begin their undergraduate education that they want to be landscape architects. Professional programs last four to five years, and include a mix of classroom and studio classes to qualify graduates to enter the workforce. A practicum or internship is also required.

Students who don't have the option of completing a professional program may want to complete a preprofessional B.S.L.A. program. With a broader and more general curriculum, a preprofessional program prepares graduates to enter an advanced-standing master's program in order to complete the remainder of the professional education requirements. Students may also graduate with a bachelor's degree in an unrelated field. These students commonly go on to a longer master's degree program.

Step 2: Complete a Master's Degree Program

Students with a preprofessional degree, or a bachelor's degree in an unrelated subject will need to complete a Master of Landscape Architecture (M.L.A.) program. Students with some architecture background can apply for two-year advanced-standing programs. For students completing their first design-oriented program, courses will emphasize design fundamentals and the basics of landscape architecture in the first year, with an emphasis on studio coursework. The curriculum is similar to that of a professional B.L.A., but without general education requirements.

Students who hold a professional bachelor's degree could consider a Master of Science or M.L.A. program catered to an advanced level of study. These programs may be one to two years long and allow students to study the theory of landscape architecture, develop a specialty, or prepare for an academic career.

Step 3: Get Professional Experience

Before seeking licensure, most states require landscape architects to participate in an internship or apprenticeship, with licensed landscape architects. While apprentice architects may assist the architects they work under with landscape design, they also learn other skills, such as bidding, working within a budget and managing a business. The number of years required before being eligible for licensure varies depending on the individual's level of education. More experience is required for individuals with only a bachelor's degree, than for graduates of master's degree programs.

Step 4: Take the L.A.R.E.

Taking the L.A.R.E., or similar state-administered exam is a requirement for licensure in most states. Some individuals will register directly with the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards (CLARB) to take the exam and others will have to register through their state. In the latter case, the state will recommend approved applicants to the CLARB. The route an individual takes depends on the particular state and the student's educational background.

Step 5: Obtain Licensure

Obtaining licensure requires submitting an application to the state that documents all education, experience and exam requirements. Applicants are also required to pay a fee. Most states mandate landscape architects complete a minimum number of continuing education hours for every year they want to maintain their license. Specific requirements vary by state.

Step 6: Acquire CLARB Certification for Career Advancement

CLARB Certification is an optional professional certification open to landscape architects with at least three years of experience. An additional exam is required to earn this credential. Becoming certified gives landscape architects an advantage when seeking employment, and makes it easier to transfer their licensure from state to state.

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