Landscape architects design public spaces, such as parks, shopping plazas and gardens. They create designs with an eye towards functionality, environmental concerns and beauty. Landscape architects must be licensed in nearly all states, and completing an accredited bachelor's or master's degree program is one of the qualifications for sitting for the licensure exam.
Associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctorate programs are available in landscape architecture. Prerequisites for 2-year associate's and 4-year bachelor's degree programs include a high school diploma or GED, SAT or ACT scores. The 3-year master's degree programs require a bachelor's degree with related coursework, GRE scores as well as a portfolio of work. For Ph.D. programs, which can take 2-3 years, a professional degree in a related field is needed as well as a portfolio of work and GRE scores. Internship completion, studio work, and dissertation at Ph.D. level are also required.
Associate Degree in Landscape Architecture
Landscape architecture college programs at the associate degree level are intended for students looking to transfer to a 4-year degree program or find entry-level positions in the field. Students study the foundational concepts of landscape architecture, including instruction in design. However, practical, hands-on experience is often limited. Some associate degree programs in landscape architecture may focus on a specific subfield, like botany or sustainability, as opposed to providing a broad foundation.
Landscape architecture courses at the associate degree level are focused on introducing students to the concepts of the field, such as plant design and construction methods. Common courses include the following:
- Fundamentals of landscape design and horticulture
- Cost estimating in landscape architecture
- Construction methods
- Computer-aided design for landscape architecture
Bachelor's Degree in Landscape Architecture
A bachelor's degree in landscape architecture, often referred to as a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA), is a comprehensive degree requiring extensive classroom study and studio work. Students study history and theory of landscape design, including plant design and environmental issues. In the studio, students are trained in hand-drawn and computer-based architectural techniques. Landscape architecture bachelor's degree programs typically require a minimum of five years to complete. Accredited bachelor's degree programs can prepare students for licensure as landscape architects.
Students at landscape architecture colleges take classroom-based courses in the concepts of the field and then apply those concepts in studio courses and internship experiences. Common courses include the following:
- History of landscape architecture
- Principles of landscape design
- Environmental issues in landscape architecture
- Park design
- Botany and geology in landscape architecture
- Urban site design
Master's Degree in Landscape Architecture
Master's degree programs in landscape architecture typically require three years of study. Time is split between classroom study and studio work; through both of these, students are provided with career-oriented training on topics such as sustainable construction, urban infrastructure design and landscape architecture technology. The Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has accredited approximately 70 colleges and universities offering landscape architecture master's degree programs. Courses in landscape architecture master's degree programs prepare students for the workforce through extensive studio work, supplemented by classroom study, in areas such as the following:
- Environmental design
- Landscape planning theory
- Plant and garden design
- Urban design
- Legal issues in landscape architecture
- Landscape restoration
Ph.D. in Landscape Architecture
Landscape architecture Ph.D. programs are primarily intended for students seeking advanced research and teaching opportunities in the field. These programs, which are not commonly available, are often highly specialized. Students may concentrate their studies in an area of academic and professional interest, like environmental design and cultural factors in landscape architecture. A majority of the student's time is devoted to research and dissertation writing, rather than the significant studio and classroom work in less advanced degree programs.
Prior to beginning work on a dissertation, the Ph.D. student in landscape architecture takes a brief series of courses. These may delve into an area of specialization or fill in gaps in a student's previous education through courses such as the following:
- Landscape architecture theory
- Advanced plant design
- History of landscape architecture
- Advanced design theory
- Research methods in landscape architecture
Popular Career Options
An associate degree program in landscape architecture doesn't prepare graduates for licensure as landscape architects. However, graduates of associate degree programs in landscape architecture are qualified for entry-level positions related to the field, and they may find work in the following:
- Landscape architecture firms
- Building and design agencies
- Construction companies
- Local, state or federal government parks departments
Graduates of bachelor's degree programs in landscape architecture are prepared to work in a variety of contexts, planning and designing different types of sites, in careers such as the following:
- Suburban community planner
- Sustainability analyst
- Cultural preservationist
- Golf course designer
- Landscape architecture modeler
In addition to working as a landscape architect in a private practice or with a firm, graduates of Ph.D. programs often pursue teaching, researching or consulting roles. The most popular career options include the following:
- Landscape architect
- Landscape architecture college or university professor
- Researcher in landscape architecture
- Environmental policy consultant
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
There were approximately 22,500 employed landscape architects in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Though some landscape architects work in rural areas, most of these jobs are concentrated in urban and suburban areas. Between 2014 and 2024, employment for landscape architects was expected to grow 5%. This growth was expected as a result of new construction, increased focus on sustainable design and rising concern for resource conservation. The median annual wage for landscape architects was $63,810 in 2015.
Sitting for the Landscape Architect Registration Exam (LARE) requires candidates to possess a combination of education and work experience in landscape architecture; specific requirements vary by state. The LARE is a computerized, multiple-choice exam that covers topics such as vegetation analysis, stormwater management and design creation. Candidates may also need to pass a state exam in certain locations, in addition to the LARE, before they can gain licensure.
In landscape architecture programs at the undergraduate level, students may study the foundational concepts of landscape architecture. At the master's and doctorate levels, students may gain greater research and teaching opportunities in addition to specialized training.