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According to the American Society of Landscape Architects, Landscape Architecture is "the art and science of analysis, planning, design, management, preservation and rehabilitation of the land." Graduate programs in Landscape Architecture focus on all of these aspects, though some programs may stress preservation more than design or analysis and vice versa.

Without landscape architects, parks wouldn’t be our respite from urban clamor, roadways could be flooded by rivers, and golf courses wouldn’t roll so nicely. Today’s landscape architects are just as concerned with function and ensuring that their work is compatible with the natural environment as they are with wrangling the placement of shrubs and flower borders. In order to beautify without disrupting the natural environments, they must have not only an eye for design and a talent for problem-solving, but also knowledge of plant life and the ability to analyze diverse elements of their site, from climate, soil and drainage to where sunlight falls on the site at different times of the day. A comprehensive knowledge of the ways in which the community has used an environment or space is also crucial.

Graduate work is often done out-of-doors—students learn about environments as diverse as botanical gardens, playgrounds, cemeteries, and plazas. Studio and classroom work is reserved for theory, history, applied ecology, and construction technology—everything a professional needs to know to make rivers thrive and trees grow tall while people live their lives.

Degree Information

A Master’s in Landscape Architecture (M.L.A.) can take anywhere from two to three years to complete, depending on the undergraduate degree and professional experience of the student. Some programs allow sufficient professional experience to stand-in for formal pre-requisites. The degree will involve a thesis in addition (usually) to oral and written exams.

A Ph.D. in Landscape Architecture (sometimes a subset of Regional Planning) will usually take between four and six years to complete and will require comprehensive exams, a dissertation, and oral defense.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • Will the program’s geographic location provide me with access to the environments that interest me?
  • Who are the faculty members and what are their interests? What sort of access do you have to faculty members?
  • What’s the intellectual tone of the department?
  • What about the students? Where are they from? What were they doing before school?
  • What about the alumni? Have they stayed local? Do they support the school once they've left?
  • With which other departments does the landscape architecture program cooperate?
  • What sort of assistantships, grants, and other financial aid opportunities are available?

Career Overview

Landscape architects are as responsible for the built environment of hamlets, towns and cities as they are for managing and protecting the natural environment—from its forests and fields to rivers and coasts. Landscape architects can as often be found working for the forestry department, or office builders as they can be found working for the parks department.

Many will work in architectural firms, urban planning firms, or state, federal and local government agencies. Some will end up in zoning agencies, doling out permission to their colleagues. Much of the time of any landscape architect is spent inside drafting plans and designs, preparing models and cost estimates or doing research. The rest is spent on location. During the initial stages of planning and design, landscape architects analyze the site to ensure that their idea can be integrated into the landscape. When work begins, a landscape architect will often remain on-site to supervise construction.

Members of the profession, wherever they work, are committed to improving the quality of life for people, plants and animals through superior design.

Career/Licensing Requirements

Licensing varies by state, and only 45 states currently require a license for practice. The agency that administers most of the tests is the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards (CLARB) and though each state sets the eligibility requirements to take the exam, CLARB usually requires applicants to be a graduate of an accredited program with three years of practical experience.

Salary Information

The median salary for all landscape architects was about $44,000 in 2000, though someone just out of school could probably expect to make closer to $28,000.

Related Links

Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture
The Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture provides information on accredited institutions, seminars and conferences.

American Society of Landscape Architects
The American Society of Landscape Architects provides information on seminars, jobs and history of the profession.

Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards
Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards provides resources for students, for continuing education, information on the exams, and information for consumers looking to hire a landscape architect.


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