How to Become a Landscape Architect

Wondering how to become a landscape architect? Landscape architects design some beautiful projects, seamlessly blending nature and man-made structures, but the path to this career includes education, hard work and licensing.

What does a landscape architect do, exactly?
Landscape architects work in a variety of capacities; from analyzing potential sites to working with contractors and other professionals to complete projects. Landscape architects often select the materials to use on a site, including plants and occasionally even construction materials. Landscape architects are also expected to be knowledgeable about environmental guidelines, which is a critical point in these environmentally savvy times.

Undergraduate education for landscape architecture.
Education for your career as a landscape architect begins with your undergraduate degree. Many colleges and universities offer accredited programs for landscape architecture, either in the form of a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture or a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture. Depending on your school and program, these degrees may require four or five years for completion. You'll also typically be required to complete an internship in order to finish the program.

Graduate degrees for landscape architects.
Graduate degrees in landscape architecture vary depending on your undergraduate degree. If you have an undergraduate degree in landscape architecture, you can typically get a Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) in two years. For people with undergraduate degrees in other subjects, you may need three or more years to complete your MLA. This graduate degree offers moderate to significant career advancement possibilities over an undergraduate degree alone.

Work requirements for landscape architects.
In most states, you're required to work as a landscape architect for a designated period of time before you can begin the licensing procedure. Since almost all states require licensing, minus Vermont, you're likely to spend some time as an apprentice landscape architect or an intern landscape architect in order to earn your work experience. You cannot legally call yourself a landscape architect unless you've earned the license, so if you're working without one, you can say only that you're educated in the field or use a different title.

Check with your state to find out the work requirements in your area. Many landscape architecture firms hire summer help, and it's possible to work your required time in that manner before obtaining your license. You can also work as an apprentice after you graduate until you meet the licensing requirements.

Licensing and registration requirements.
Most states have work requirements and a mandatory examination in order to earn landscape architect licensing. Check with your state for specifics, and begin compiling the necessary documents early in your career. With smart planning, you can complete much of the work requirement while you're still in school. You may also need references, which you can prepare for by educating yourself on your state's requirements while you're still in school or employed as an apprentice.

If you're licensed in some states, other states may offer reciprocity that involves checking your work history and background. If your work history is found sufficient, you may be able to practice as a landscape architect in additional states without passing an exam and becoming licensed in that state. Only some states offer reciprocity, so if you're thinking of relocating or working in multiple areas, do the research before you begin the licensing procedure. 

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