Becoming qualified as a landscape architect
In general, you'll need to be qualified to get landscape architecture jobs, such that you will usually need to be licensed as a landscape architect. You'll usually need a degree in landscape architecture from an accredited school, and requisite work experience. You'll also need to have a passing score on the Landscape Architect Registration Exam.
Before you do that, though, you need a bachelors or Masters degree in landscape architecture for one of the accredited schools. Currently, 67 universities and colleges offer this type of accreditation, as of 2009.
You can attain one of two professional undergraduate degrees, either a bachelor of landscape architecture, or a bachelor of science in landscape architecture. To get these degrees, you'll need four to five years of study. You can also pursue landscape architecture jobs even if you've pursued another course of study previously by getting a master of landscape architecture degree from an accredited university. If you already have a bachelor's degree in landscape architecture, a masters of landscape architecture degree will usually take about two years to complete.
When you study to earn a degree in landscape architecture, you will need courses in landscape design and construction, ecology, urban and regional planning, site design, and surveying. As much as possible, as a student, you'll be assigned real life projects, so that you get hands-on learning and model building, computer-aided design, video simulation, geographic information systems, and other tools of the trade.
It's also recommended, by the way, that you undertake an internship with a landscape architecture firm at some point during your course of study. With this type of hands on experience, you can further hone your technical skills, understand what it means to be a landscape architect from day to day, and how to get and keep clients, work within a budget, and generate income.
49 of the 50 states require that you obtain a landscape architect license. For that, you'll take the Landscape Architect Registration Examination, which is sponsored by the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards. The examination is broken down into two sections, multiple-choice and graphics. Before you can take the exam, you'll generally need a degree from an accredited school, and then one to four years of work experience, working under a landscape architect who's been licensed. These standards do vary from state to state, such that this may not be entirely necessary. If you don't have a landscape architecture degree, you may still be able to take the Landscape Architectural Registration Boards, providing you have enough work experience. 13 states also require that you have passed that particular state's exam in addition to the Landscape Architectural Registration Boards, in order to get your license. State examinations usually focus on environmental regulations, soils, plants, laws, climate, and any other characteristics specific to that particular state.
It can be difficult to transfer registration from one state to another, because of the differing requirements from state to state. However, passing basic requirements including acquiring a four- to five-year degree from an accredited university, having three years of work experience, and taking and passing the LARE usually do meet most state requirements, so that you can often get a reciprocal licensure if you do want to gain employment in another state besides the one you are currently licensed in.
Enjoying the work
It's particularly important that you enjoy nature, have had good communication skills, have good analytical and creative skills, and enjoy working with your hands and in teams with other people if you want to succeed in landscape architecture jobs. You also need to be able to draft and design with CAD software and to utilize other computer applications as necessary. You will need to be able to communicate your ideas clearly to other people, including clients, other non-architecture people on your team, and superiors.
Many landscape architects go into self-employment after they've spent several years on the job. This can be lucrative, as long as you've got the self-discipline to keep at it during what may be relatively lean years in the beginning.
Job outlook and compensation
This is one particular sector that's in good shape as of 2008. New prospects on the horizon, such as developing new or redesigning "green" architecture that already exists, mean that landscape architecture jobs are going to be in demand for the foreseeable future. On average, landscape architects made about $59,000 a year as of 2008 across all sectors and at all levels of experience.