Become a Landscape Engineer: Career Roadmap
Learn how to become a landscape engineer (also known as landscape architect). Research the job descriptions, education, and licensing requirements and find out how to start a career in landscape engineering/architecture.
Do I Want to Be a Landscape Engineer?
Landscape engineers, more often called landscape architects or landscape designers, use science, math, and nature to create accommodating outdoor scenery and living areas. Residential, commercial, and government industries each have a need for landscape engineers. These professionals are experts in planning and creating land areas for parks, commercial properties, industrial parks, residential areas, highways, and airports.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), landscape architects earned a median wage of about $63,000 per year as of May 2011. This is higher than average, though it should be taken into consideration that these professionals generally need 4-5 years of schooling before they can get started in the field. Job opportunities for landscape engineers are expected to grow 16% from 2010 to 2020.
Bachelor's degrees are a fairly standard minimum educational requirement in this profession. The following table outlines other common requirements employers look for in their prospective landscape engineers, based on job ads posted in the American Society of Landscape Architects during September and October 2012 (www.asla.org).
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degrees are standard; master's degrees may be preferred|
|Degree Field(s)||Landscape Architecture, Recreation and Park Administration, related fields|
|Licensure and/or Certification||State license for landscape architecture|
|Experience||Minimum 3 years of experience; might need up to 7 years for some positions|
|Key Skills||In-depth knowledge in construction, architecture, horticulture|
|Computer Skills||CAD software, desktop publishing, graphics and photo imaging software, spreadsheet software|
|Technical Skills||Use of digital cameras and camcorders, global positioning system receivers (GPS devices)|
|Additional Requirements||Ability to interpret specifications and contract documents; knowledge of horticulture, plant selection, and plant installation; comfortable with giving presentations|
Step 1: Complete a Degree Program
Bachelor's degree programs in landscape engineering may take 4-5 years to complete. Students in landscape engineering programs learn about ecological design, horticulture, and site planning. Some programs may even cover sustainability, eco-friendly landscaping processes, and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
- Prepare for licensure. In order for an individual to practice as a landscape engineer or landscape architect, one must pass an exam for state licensure. While in school, it is a good idea for students to start preparing for this exam. Students should acquire all the information they need about the licensing examination through their professors and academic advisors.
- Consider a dual program. Some schools offer offer dual programs. Studying two related programs can be beneficial because candidates can show their expertise in a broader way, giving them the edge in competition when looking for employment. Some of the dual programs available include majoring in landscape architecture with a minor in urban planning.
- Participate in an internship program or acquire an entry-level position while in school. According to the BLS, employers prefer to hire candidates who have had entry-level positions in landscape architecture or engineering. While in school, students should inquire about internship programs or on-the-job training opportunities through the school's career services department.
Step 2: Gain Work Experience
License applicants may need a specific number of hours of work experience before sitting for the licensing exam, and this number may vary by state. Additionally, many employers require job candidates to have experience before they can be hired. This experience can be gained through entry-level positions, apprenticeships or internships.
- Sharpen presentation skills. Often, landscape engineers/architects are required to present plans and drawings to their clients as part of their job duties. Individuals who find this uncomfortable should consider joining the 'Toastmasters' group. The group helps its members practice their public speaking, interpersonal speaking, and presentation skills on a weekly basis.
- Be familiar with graphics and design computer programs. While computer-aided design is part of many landscape engineer or landscape architect curricula, job ads show that desktop publishing and presentation programs are also regularly used in this profession. Professionals should check into the different job ads online to find out the most popular or widely used computer programs. Professionals can then study these programs for better marketability.
- Join a professional group. Joining groups like the American Society of Landscape Architects is a good way to get information about the latest products and principles in the industry. The society is also an excellent place to get up-to-date information on licensing requirements, educational requirements, and best practices in the field.
Step 3: Obtain a License
According to the BLS, all states require licensing for landscape architects (www.bls.gov). Candidates must complete an accredited degree program and also have up to 4 years of work experience with another licensed landscape architect. Only then may they sit for the Landscape Architect Registration Exam (L.A.R.E.), which is supervised by the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards (CLARB). This exam is typically a 2-part exam, with multiple-choice questions and a graphic section. Those specifically interested in landscape engineering are encouraged to check her or his local and state licensing requirements.
Step 4: Consider a Graduate Degree
According to the BLS, aspiring landscape engineers and architects may need a master's degree to qualify for some jobs. Earning an advanced degree in this field can take 2-3 years, depending on whether a student as an undergraduate degree in landscape architecture or something else. Students can earn graduate degrees with a focus in multiple areas, for example, in land development along with construction management, or a combination of land development and architecture. When considering a graduate degree, students will often benefit from asking professors and advisors in the school for advice.
- Consider a graduate certificate. Some schools offer post-bachelor's certificate programs or professional certificates. Students can hone in on their specific area of studies such as ecological design, sustainable urbanism, historic preservation, or environmental hazard management.
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