Career Information: How To Become A Landscape Architect

Considering a career in landscape architecture? Here is an outline of suggestions to help you on your way.

If you have a love of horticulture and the desire to create spaces that will forever enhance the relationship between built and natural environments, then Landscape Architecture might just be for you. Landscape architecture is a combination of art and science and a profession that helps manage the land. It is a profession that is more than knowing the common and botanical names of plants. Landscape architecture is designing with sensitivity toward the character of the land and the environment and the ability to analyze problems in terms of design and physical form.

Landscape architecture requires formal education and most states require landscape architects to be registered in that particular state. Once you've decided that landscape architecture is for you, your first stop should be at the guidance office of your high school or the college catalog section of your local library. Find colleges that have accredited programs in landscape architecture and decide what school you would like to attend. Most landscape programs are 4 years, but some are 5, and award an undergraduate degree upon completion. If you plan to pursue state registration after college, check with your local board of registration for landscape architects for the requirements for taking the registration exam. In addition to a formal degree, some if not most states require a certain amount of work experience to qualify to take the exam.

Once you have been accepted to the school of your choice, it is time to begin gaining practical work experience. If you are in high school and looking for a job for the summer and during vacations perhaps working with a landscaping contractor is possible. You will gain very valuable hands on experience that will enhance your education and add to your "in the field" work experience. Another possibility is to apply to work in the office of a landscape architect. The local Yellow Pages are a good place to find companies in your area. Check with your state association of Landscape Architects for companies that hire part time summer help. Even if you are the office helper, just being in the office will expose you to the everyday workings of a landscape architecture office and will give you a good idea of what landscape architecture is all about.



Part of your educational program may require an internship at a landscape architects office. As an intern, you typically don't get paid but gain very valuable work experience as well as a grade for part of your class work. If you are in a "work/study" program, typically you will attend school for several semesters than work for a semester at a landscape architects office or a landscaping contractor approved by the school. A great number of landscaping companies, either a design office or contractor will hire students for paid summer employment.

Once you have completed your undergraduate degree, you may want to shoot for a master's degree. If you have completed an accredited landscape program, a masters degree is usually a year or two away. If you have a non design degree, a master's degree program is usually a 3 or 4 year program. Another option is to get into the work force and work on a master's degree part time.

Whatever you decide to do with your education, you will eventually head out to join the work force. Most colleges and universities have a placement program. Usually, companies will visit campuses in the spring and interview graduating seniors for entry level jobs. It doesn't hurt to interview with the interested companies even if they aren't in your part of the world. You never know what they will have to offer.

Now that you have employment and a degree, be it an undergrad or grad degree, you are well on your way to completing the qualifications for taking the state exam for registration in the field of landscape architecture. It is not mandatory to be registered, but without registration you cannot legally call yourself a landscape architect, you can only define yourself as being educated in the field of landscape architecture.

Registration tests are usually conducted in the fall and the spring. The application can be involved so it would be to your advantage to have a file with all the information necessary to document your schooling and work experience. As soon as you decide you want to be a landscape architect, set up this file. Some states require personal recommendations as part of the application process. Some of those recommendations must come from a registered landscape architect with whom you have worked. Once your application has been processed and approved, the applicant may have to go before the board of landscape registration for a personal interview before being allowed to take the exam.

Before taking the exam, you may want to consider taking a refresher, test prep type of class. Your local Landscape Society can tell you what programs are worthwhile in your area.

Once you have passed the test in your state, you may want to decide to become registered in other states. Especially if you are working on projects or wish to pursue work in other states. Check with that states registration requirements. Some states offer reciprocity, which is a mutual exchange of privileges. With reciprocity, the applicant does not have to take the exam in that state. They must provide, through an application process, the necessary documentation to prove you have the proper back ground, education and work experience, to work in that state. States that do not offer reciprocity require the applicant to take the state exam and sometimes additional class work.

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