A landscape architect designs landscaping for public, recreational, commercial and residential properties. To become a landscape architect, you normally need to complete an accredited degree program, complete a registration exam and obtain a state license. Before taking this career path, though, you should understand the advantages and disadvantages of the job and work environment.
Pay can vary depending on whether you work for a landscaping firm or in self-employment. The median 2016 annual pay for all landscape architects was $63,480, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is well above the average household income, so that's one advantage of this profession. The BLS projected job growth of 5 percent from 2016 to 2024. That's the same as overall job growth in the same period, meaning there will be about 1,200 new positions opening – another advantage.
Landscape architects can either specialize in certain types of projects or work in all areas of design. This type of work flexibility is an advantage if you like variety in a job. On one project, you may work with city engineers and land surveyors to determine the best location for roads, trees or other infrastructure components. At the next, you may work with parks and recreation departments to design projects for national or local parks. Renovations of commercial properties and historical landmarks are other types of projects landscape architects get involved with.
Landscape architecture is often very complex work, which can be mentally stimulating, but it can also very demanding and tiring – a potential disadvantage. You may use computer-aided design, or CAD, software tools to set up layouts and designs for projects. Geographic information systems tools are used to plot plants, trees, shrubs and other plants in ideal locations based on sunlight, water sources and other factors of the project location. The practical aspects of positioning all elements in a landscape design in the right place is often stressful and challenging enough. Architects may have to coordinate with environmental scientists, as well, to ensure that natural resources are preserved.
Most landscape architects work full time, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, 50 hour or longer work weeks are common for some. While this bodes well for job security, it is a disadvantage if you want to lead a balanced life. Despite the pleasure that comes with planning and design, much of the time is spent in an office. The process of becoming a senior architect at a firm takes time as well, requiring patience. You usually start out in an internship or apprenticeship and complete routine drafting work, which you may find boring at times.