How to Become a Landscape Architect
Getting Started as a Landscape Architect
Many of us go through public spaces without giving too much thought to how they come to be what they are. The benches, trees, sculptures, sidewalks – we take that as a given. However, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people behind the work that goes into designing and creating public spaces, as well as other large outdoor areas. An important part of this team are landscape architects.
These are the professionals who come up with the way a large space is going to look, how it will function and what it will give its user, in terms of comfort, visual pleasure, convenience, etc. It is probably the perfect choice for you, if while wandering through cities you catch yourself thinking about the actual design and details behind a public space, rather than just seeing the bigger picture.
A creative career, landscape architecture is also extremely technical, since the designs and development need to be done in real terms, fitting the engineering behind the creativity. So this is a career suitable for someone who is willing to spend quite some time in school before taking on a professional position. To learn a little bit more about landscape architecture, take a look at the infographic below.
The majority of landscape architects are required to obtain at least a bachelor level degree in landscape architecture, or general architecture with a concentration in landscapes. This being said, a lot of the times, professionals in this field choose to pursue master’s level studies, since they are highly valued by hiring companies. To prepare for this career, you will need to focus your studies on both the technical and creative aspects of architecture, including classes in drawing and sketching, as well as CAD, construction and terrain-related courses.
At the same time, most states will also require you to be licensed as a landscape architect in order to exercise as a field professional. Normally, this involves a 5-part exam, which will vary depending on state regulations and standards.
WHAT IF I WANT A DEGREE TO BECOME A LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT?
- Louisiana State University
The Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture at the College of Art + Design, offers students bachelor’s and master’s level studies in landscape architecture. Besides the academic component, LSU also provides opportunities for internships, international study and work programs and a strong alumni network. Undergraduate tuition here is $8,758 per year for residents and $26,476 for non-residents.
- Pennsylvania State University
The College of Arts and Architecture offers Landscape Architecture programs through the Stuckeman Schoop at Penn State. Students can pursue a BLA (Bachelor of Landscape Architecture) as well as graduate level studies, including an MLA, and MSLA, certification in Geodesign and a PhD. The teaching environment is largely studio-based. Estimated annual tuition for resident undergrads is $16,572 and $29,522 for non-residents.
- Cornell University
The College of Agriculture and Life Science at Cornell University, located in Ithaca, New York, offers an Ivy League education in Landscape Architecture. Students can pursue a BSLA and their studies must include a concentration, including but not limited to subjects such as horticulture, public garden management, landscape history, among others. Various levels of masters are also offered, including a Dual Degree in Landscape Architecture and City and Regional Planning. Tuition here is $47,286 per year.
- Kansas State University
The Landscape Architecture and Regional Community Planning master’s programs are offered at Kansas State University through the College of Architecture, Planning and Design. These have a strong focus on environmental stewardship and creative development. High school students may pursue these degrees through a 5-year integrated program. Graduate tuition here is $4,411 for in-state students and $9,955 for out-of-state, per year.
- Purdue University
Located in West Lafayette, Indiana, Purdue offers programs in Landscape Architecture and Horticulture. The program is currently ranked seventh in the US and offers students a comprehensive internship program to help them get there foot in the door. Indiana residents pay an estimated $10,002 per year, while non-residents pay $28,804.
GETTING MY FOOT IN THE DOOR
Whether you are planning to pursue bachelor’s studies only or combine a first-level degree with a master’s, it is highly advisable to get an early start within the field. While focusing on your studies is extremely important, it is also a good idea to begin doing internships, participating in events and networking, and maybe even taking on relevant jobs during the summer.
While many internships do not pay, you will gain an incredible amount of experience and contacts. Additionally, many companies prefer to hire from their pool of interns, since they already know who you are. If you are able to get a head-start and work internships into your school year, you will graduate with one foot already in the door. On the other hand, you can also create designs on your own time, therefore putting together a portfolio to present to potential employers upon graduation. These don’t have to be completed projects, but a set of ideas that lets hiring teams know how you think and what you are capable of.
Also, don’t forget to network! Join your alumni groups and participate in relevant clubs at the university. If you have the opportunity, go to conferences and events within the landscape architecture (or architecture in general) industry. This will keep you up to date on what is happening in the field and will also generate invaluable contacts.