Landscape architecture, the profession that includes landscape engineering, integrates site planning, visual design and environmental engineering to create aesthetically pleasing and functional outdoor landscapes and facilities in communities, cities and regional areas. Landscape architecture encompasses numerous professions, including landscape architects, city planners and hydrologists. Some jobs require an associate, bachelor's or master's degree from an accredited school. Featuring seminars, internships and/or studio practice, such programs might focus on topics like horticulture, landscape drafting and urban community planning. Landscape architects may be required to pass an examination that leads to state licensure.
A high school diploma or its equivalent is required for admission to associate and bachelor's degree programs; a bachelor's degree is required for entry to master's degree programs.
Associate Degree in Landscape Architecture
Associate degree programs in landscape architecture train individuals for landscape technician jobs in a variety of settings, such as residences, community parks and commercial buildings. These 2-year programs provide foundational knowledge in environmental organization and computer-aided design. Many associate degree programs offer internship or work co-op opportunities to introduce practical application of learned theories and techniques. Introductory courses may include:
- Site planning
- Landscape drafting
- Graphic design
- Horticulture science principles
- Methods in landscape construction
Bachelor of Landscape Architecture
A Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) is a professional undergraduate degree that prepares students for landscape engineering jobs and takes four years to complete. Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees also exist in the major; however, these programs typically focus on research and analysis. A bachelor's degree in landscape architecture often qualifies graduates for entry-level positions and meets eligibility requirements for state licensing exams. Applicants to an undergraduate program may need to submit a professional portfolio showcasing their visual design experience and creative abilities.
Undergraduate programs in landscape architecture introduce students to the broad scope of the field, including various natural sciences, mathematics, computer design, architectural planning and environmental topics. A typical bachelor's degree program includes courses and studio work in:
- Landscape design
- Computer and visual design
- Regional planning
- Landscape construction and engineering
- Ecology, geology and topography
Master of Landscape Architecture
Like undergraduate degrees, master's-level programs in landscape architecture also include professional Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) and research degree options. These programs take two to three years to complete. Graduate-level study trains students in advanced design and planning skills and may yield higher job opportunities. Those with previous education and experience in the field may decrease the length of time necessary to complete an MLA program.
An MLA degree program provides students with studio practice, seminar lectures and hands-on experience. Training, exposure and experience in the profession is often found through internships with affiliated landscape architecture firms. Course topics may include:
- Plant and soil science
- Geology, geography and hydrology
- Computer design, 3D modeling and video simulation
- Urban community design and planning
- History and theory of landscape engineering
Graduates with associate degrees in landscape architecture often qualify for jobs as landscape architect technicians for contractors, city planners, surveyors, architects and hydrologists. Examples of landscape architect technician professions include outdoor landscape construction and residential site design.
Many career possibilities exist for graduates with a BLA, including regional planning, historical preservation and urban revitalization. Landscape architects work in private firms and nonprofit organizations, as well as public, municipal and government agencies. Many landscape architects are self-employed.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipated a 4% increase in opportunities for landscape architects from 2018-2028, especially for those with internships under their belts. The average salary for landscape architects in 2018 was $68,230. The majority of these individuals worked in architectural, engineering and related services. The BLS warned that competition for jobs with distinguished, well-known companies may be aggressive.
Continuing Education and Licensure Information
Some states that require licensure for landscape architects may allow an associate degree paired with supervised experience as an apprentice in the field to meet educational requirements. Graduates may find that associate degree credits transfer to professional certificate or bachelor's degree programs for states that mandate additional academic instruction.
Graduates of a BLA program may choose to continue studies to earn a Master of Landscape Architecture. Alternately, a bachelor's degree and sufficient work experience may qualify professionals to apply for state licensing as a landscape architect, if applicable. Some states may mandate additional testing, though all candidates must pass the Landscape Architect Registration Examination for licensure.
An individual's particular interests and career goals in the field of landscape engineering will help them determine whether to enroll in an associate degree program for aspiring landscape architecture technicians or complete a bachelor's or master's degree program in pursuit of professional licensure as landscape architects.