Landscape Design Training Programs and Requirements

Landscape designers, commonly referred to as landscape architects, plan outdoor spaces, including parks, golf courses, urban plazas and residential areas, with both beauty and functionality in mind. In addition to learning about such topics as surveying, site design, urban horticulture, botany and ecology, landscape design training programs include studio elements that allow candidates to complete real-world projects.

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Overview of Landscape Architecture Programs

Aspiring landscape architects should be creative, appreciate nature and have excellent communication skills. Landscape designers are also expected to possess an in-depth understanding of how human interaction affects the outdoor landscape and vice versa. Training programs provide individuals with a foundation in design principles, computer-assisted design, natural resources and urban environments. They are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Formal Education

Formal education in the form of a bachelor's or master's degree program is typically necessary to begin a professional career in landscape design. Degree programs in landscape architecture introduce students to historic and contemporary concepts in landscape design through both lecture and studio courses. Hands-on experiences gained through design studio assignments are a key component of formal education programs. As of 2009, there were 67 colleges and universities throughout the country that offered degree programs accredited by the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Requiring 4-5 years of study, a bachelor's degree program in landscape architecture provides instruction in basic design principles, such as planning and implementation, environmental stewardship and professional practice. Core curriculum is comprised of topics in design, modeling, construction, design theory and professional practice. Studio topics may include planting design, housing design, natural processes and the urban environment. Many undergraduate programs require students to complete a capstone project that demonstrates mastery of the design process from start to finish. Graduates are prepared for entry-level positions in both private and public sectors.

Master's Degree Programs

Master's degree programs are available for those with or without an undergraduate degree in landscape design or architecture. Individuals with a bachelor's degree in another field can expect to take three years to complete a master's program in landscape architecture, while those with an undergraduate degree in the field can complete the program in two years. Graduate-level programs in landscape design focus on developing skills in both the practice and research of design. Advanced courses in ecology, design law, site planning and project management are typically required. Design studios, research seminars and field courses are also a large component of graduate programs. Many master's degree programs require students to complete and present a thesis project prior to graduation.

Job Experience

Employers prefer to hire candidates with some on-the-job experience. Aspiring landscape designers can gain the experience needed for entry-level positions through summer internship opportunities while completing their formal education. More advanced positions in the field, as well as jobs with the more prestigious firms, require several years of work experience and are usually quite competitive.

Licenses and Certifications

Nearly every state requires landscape architects to be licensed. Candidates must pass the Landscape Architect Registration Exam (L.A.R.E.) administered by the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards. Exam eligibility requires candidates to have a degree in landscape architecture from an accredited institution and have 1-4 years of on-the-job experience under the supervision of a licensed landscape designer. Other certification requirements vary by state and can often include an additional state-administered exam that focuses on environmental regulations and land characteristics specific to the region.

The Associate of Professional Landscape Designers Certification

The association offers a voluntary certification to members in good standing who have at least four years of experience in the industry. Certification provides professional recognition to landscape designers that have demonstrated excellence in the field. It is based on the evaluation of the candidate's submitted work. Certification must be renewed every three years by completing 30 hours of continuing education credits.

Workshops and Seminars

The Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) sponsors a number of workshops and seminars throughout the year through local chapters located all across the country. Lectures and 1-day courses are also available through a variety of nursery, landscape and design associations, such as the American Nursery and Landscape Association.

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