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Environmental Designer: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Environmental designers require a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

An environmental designer works in urban planning, architecture or landscape architecture, where they concentrate on creating structurally sound buildings for commercial and residential purposes that are not only functional but environmentally responsible as well. The education needed for this position usually involves a master's degree, although for some jobs a bachelor's degree may suffice. Earning an additional designation such as the American Institute of Certified Planners' Certified Environmental Planner credential may help set job candidates apart from the competition.

Essential Information

The role of an environmental designer is to build structures and use materials that are environmentally friendly. These designers typically work with commercial buildings and homes - helping develop the right infrastructures. A lot of these careers use high-tech software to design structures and come up with ideas. In order to work as an environmental designer, students need to get their bachelor's and potentially master's in a geography or urban planning field. Individuals with good spatial and creative-thinking skills are great candidates for this type of career. A lot of designers need to get their license, and sometimes even a certification.

Education Requirements Bachelor's or master's degree
Other Requirements Licensure required in many states
Job Growth (2014-24)* 5% for landscape architects
Mean Salary (2015)* $68,600 for landscape architects

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description for Environmental Designers

An interdisciplinary pursuit, environmental design involves professionals in the fields of urban planning, landscape architecture and architecture. These professionals focus on environmentally conscious techniques and materials. They study the relationship between man-made structures and the surrounding environment to develop infrastructure, including commercial buildings and homes by taking into account functional, economic and ecological needs.

An environmental designer working as a planner provides analysis and develops community-growth strategies with an eye toward long-term needs. According to the American Planning Association, sustainable planning focuses on fixing such problems as excessive loss of agricultural land, suburban sprawl and traffic congestion (www.planning.org). Those working within architectural fields develop plans and use construction practices that emphasize waste reduction and resource efficiency.

Duties

Planners consult with local governments and special interest groups on restoration or new construction plans. They collect population and economic data, visit sites, attend civic meetings and prepare reports forecasting a community's needs. They help develop policies and plans that can include resource development, conservation and zoning.

Environmental designers who work as architects or landscape architects begin by drafting schematics, often using computer-aided design software. They approve materials and techniques, survey sites, create specifications and calculate costs. Environmental designers can use strategies developed by the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification system, which measures a structure in terms of water efficiency, air quality, waste reduction and other ecological areas.

Requirements

Completion of a bachelor's degree program may qualify a graduate for some planning positions, but most require the completion of a master's degree program in urban planning or a related field like geography. Professionals who satisfy the education and experience requirements can validate their expertise by testing for the American Institute of Certified Planners' Certified Environmental Planner designation.

Architects generally need to complete at least a bachelor's degree program in architecture that's accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board. All states require architects to be licensed, which calls for work experience supervised by a licensed architect before taking the Architect Registration Examination.

Landscape architects typically complete a bachelor's degree program in landscape architecture. Most states also require licensure for landscape architects, and this process involves up to four years of supervised experience. Applicants can then take the Landscape Architect Registration Examination.

In addition to certifications from professional organizations, architects and landscape architects can verify their environmental design knowledge by acquiring a LEED credential from the Green Building Certification Institute (www.gbci.org). Requirements vary by credential, but generally require experience on a LEED-certified project and a qualifying score on an examination.

Career Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), urban and regional planners can expect to see an increase of 6% in job opportunities during the 2014-2024 decade, while architects and landscape architects are predicted to see increases of 7% and 5%, respectively. Architects earned a mean salary of $82,850 in May 2015, whereas the mean annual pay of landscape architects was $68,600 and $70,680 for urban planners (www.bls.gov).

An environmental designer focuses on the sustainable and long-term needs of a community by considering factors such as heavy traffic, waste reduction and efficient use of resources. To be eligible for professional certification, candidates often have to complete a master's degree or have significant work experience in the field, and for some credentials a combination of these is mandatory.


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