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Hardscape Designer: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Hardscape designers are primarily landscape designers who plan hardscape features - like patios and decks - and choose related materials. Unlike landscape architects, they don't require licensure. Students could pursue certificate and degree programs in landscape design, which commonly include courses in hardscape design.

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Job Description for Hardscape Designers

A subset of landscape design, hardscape design involves creating the layout for such features as decks, patios, walkways, arbors and fences. Designers can also voice ideas about specialized hardscape features, including ponds and waterfalls. They may take into consideration the types of plants and soil, as well as the amount of light and rainfall an area may receive, when coming up with ideas. Hardscape designers aim to create an outdoor living space that's inviting to clients. They commonly work with small business and residential properties.

Hardscape Designer's Duties

Hardscape designers assess a client's needs before drafting up ideas, beginning with examining the site space. In addition to planning concepts, hardscape designers help choose the materials used in hardscape installations. For example, they might consider brick, wood, stone or aggregate when designing a deck or patio. Their job also involves estimating the cost of necessary materials, and their work as a landscape designer could require selecting appropriate plants.

Since licensing isn't involved in landscape or hardscape design, such professionals aren't allowed to contribute construction drawings or supply construction services. They can work in conjunction with landscape architects and contractors, but their role is limited to generating conceptual ideas and layouts. The Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) says that landscape designers may supervise the aesthetic aspects of installation (www.apldca.org).

Requirements for Hardscape Designers

Set requirements aren't in place for this profession, so individuals may take different educational paths to become a hardscape designer. Industry sources revealed to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that landscape designers hold anywhere from an associate's degree to a master's degree in plant-related subjects (www.bls.gov). Possible fields and concentrations include horticulture and soil science. The APLD reported that landscape architects also receive education in residential design.

Landscape design can be studied at certificate and degree levels. Certificate programs often include introductory courses in the history of landscape design and plant science. Associate's degree programs also include classes in computer-aided design specific to designing landscapes. Some programs include specific hardscape courses in the curricula.

Voluntary Certification

Professional landscape designers can pursue certification from the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. This voluntary, national certification requires applicants to have at least four years of experience. They need to present records of three projects to demonstrate their work. Recertification requires 30 continuing education hours every three years.

Salary and Employment Outlook Information

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't report salary or employment outlook data for hardscape designers or landscape designers, it does report these figures for landscape architects. As of May 2013, the BLS stated that landscape architects had a median salary of $64,790. Employment outlook for landscape architects was 14% growth from 2012 to 2022, which was about as fast as the national average.

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