Training/Jobs in Landscape Design

wigardenerwannabe(Z5 WI)November 5, 2011

My son is exploring landscape design as a career. What are the options for education (Associate degree...bachelors...other)? And what is the market like in today' economy? Are opportunities greater in specific areas of the country...big cities vs. small, etc. As he explores this are there any recommendations for him on how to best get an idea of what it involves? Shadowing, etc?

Thanks in advance for any feedback.


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There's no one true path, but some are shorter than others. Why landscape design? And does he want to be on the commercial or residential side of things?

Being a designer in a small town is a tough way to make a living. I live in a town of 14,000 people and I drive 60-90 minutes to service clients in civilization.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2011 at 1:40PM
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My suggestion is that he get a job--any job to start--working on the install crew of a reputable company that performs landscape installations... hopefully one that does some construction, too. Maybe there's one that does commercial and residential installations in your area. This would put him in a position to observe and evaluate the actual work of one or more professional designers and give him a feel for how things work out in landscape installation in the real world. If he has the affinity, aptitude and interest for design, a year of working thus would wet his appetite and give him greater incentive to move on. And a greater focus. In addition, he'd have an opportunity to learn a tremendous amount of technical information and would consequently be way ahead of peers in an educational environment, if that's the direction he ends up taking. In addition to the landscape job experience, he'd make some contacts and obtain exposure to other facets of the industry. There's also the possibility that he might like the "hands on" of installation better than design. It might prevent him from deciding on a major educational commitment that may be more than he truly wants or needs. In addition to this he will be making $ while he's figuring out his goals. He'll also have the opportunity along the way to get answers to questions that he does not yet know he has.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2011 at 2:56PM
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Landscape design is a tough field at the best of times. At the worst of times, more and more people turn toit as something that they feel competent doing. The problem is that before the market dried up, lots and lots of people got into it, are established, known, and very experienced. All are trying to get those much fewer jobs that are out there.

Look at landscape architecture discussion forums to hear what the current state of affairs is (land8lounge is a big one). Some people who got their Masters Degrees recently are trying to figure what to go back to school for.

Aside from those little inconveniences, it is an enjoyable profession.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2011 at 6:28PM
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wigardenerwannabe(Z5 WI)

Thanks for the feedback. He has already put in 3 years toward Industrial Design, which he decided wasn't for him. Now he's trying to figure out what would fit his creativity, and love of plants!

    Bookmark   November 8, 2011 at 7:03PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

I worked many years as a garden designer and installation contractor. I can't remember once if any customers asked me for my formal educational accomplishments. Satisfied customers are far more important than a degree if you're designing residential gardens. My credentials were only as good as my last few jobs and references.
My advice to your son is to get a starting level job and work up the ladder while taking relevant courses at a local college. Sooner or later he will focus on the path he wants to take as Yardviser says.
Laag and Yardviser's posts are right on. It's tough out there. I had people with degrees begging for a job swinging a shovel and pushing a wheelbarrow. That's where they should have started. There's something to be said for the school of hard knocks.
He should also have a garden of his own so he knows firsthand what it takes to grow different plants in his area.
Mike.....retired....except for working in my my own garden.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 9:38AM
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I'll agree with mike and his my my garden.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 10:40AM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

Ink, I once in awhile.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2011 at 11:21AM
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Mike I realised after I posted my remark that it might be considered insensitive but I actually meant it in the sense of "My my! now that's what I call a garden."

    Bookmark   November 10, 2011 at 12:50PM
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I recently graduated with a Bachelor degree in Landscape Architecture, so here's my perspective:

The job market, as Laag has mentioned, is rough. I hear that in the US it's a lot worse than it is here in Canada. However, plenty of my classmates are still looking for work. Plenty of the students in the year AFTER me are still looking for work.

I would also like to mention that a number of people came into the program not knowing what Landscape Architecture was. A few people dropped out or switched to different programs. And then there are the people who stayed in, but for reasons I can't quite understood as their passions clearly lied elsewhere.

It is 100% true that a 4-year University degree is an expensive commitment to make if you don't know what you're getting into, or what you want to get out of it.

My recommendation would be for your son to look at the work that Landscape Architecture and Landscape Design firms are doing. If he can get excited about that, then at least you can feel somewhat assured that he's heading in the right direction.

Here's a suggested "reading list" of some LA firms whose projects may be enticing.

- worked on a fair number of urban design projects in Downtown Ottawa, downtown Toronto. Well-known and well-loved project are the Wave Decks by the waterfront, Toronto.

- False Creek - Athlete's village for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver

Janet Rosenberg and Associates
- Started off with high-end residential, but "made it big" with some highly publicized public projects and display gardens.

Claude Cormier
- LA firm in Quebec that has always pushed the boundaries. Famous for the controversial "Blue Stick Garden" in the Jardins des Metis Garden Festival.

West 8
- Dutch design firm with some very interesting concepts to urban design - worked on the Toronto Waterfront Masterplan

Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg
- They've done a lot in the Vancouver area and Downtown Ottawa. 'Nough said.

Oehme van Sweden
- Pseudo-legends of the Landscape Architecture world (Pls. correct me if I'm wrong, anyone).

Cao-Perrot Studio
- Beautiful, boutique-style landscape design/architecture with always-evocative designs/projects.

Hopefully that is enough to get your son started. If you're looking for more suggestions, just let me know.

- Audric

    Bookmark   November 10, 2011 at 10:18PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

Ink, I took it as very humorous. Not insensitive at all.
I enjoy some levity....especially at my expense. :-)

    Bookmark   November 10, 2011 at 10:42PM
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