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Landscape Designer or Landscape Architect?

Posted by forensicmom 7a (My Page) on
Sun, May 15, 11 at 7:20

Can anyone tell me what is the difference? I am considering this field and I'm not sure what I difference in schooling ia either.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Landscape Designer or Landscape Architect?

I forgot to mention that I'm in my early 40's with 4 kids and going to school full time is going to be difficult. I know Landscape design takes less schooling but what is the difference in salary?

I've been gardening for years and am a master gardner. I would like to make this into a second career and be able to make money while working (somewhat) from home). I'm just not sure where to go or what to do.

RE: Landscape Designer or Landscape Architect?

  • Posted by laag z6CapeCod (My Page) on
    Sun, May 15, 11 at 8:55

A landscape architect is a landscape designer who holds a license (in 49 states). The requirements vary from state to state, but most require a minimum of a Bachelor's Degree in Landscape Architecture, two years of internship working full time under the direct supervision of a landscape architect, and the passing of the Landscape Architect Registration Exam (LARE).
There are two types of licensing - each state has either one or the other. There is what is called a "Title Act" which simply limits the use of using the term "landscape architect" (and any variant of it) to those who have a license in that state. The other is a "Practice Act" which not only limits the use of the term, but also limits who is allowed to "practice" landscape architecture.

That is the technical difference.

There will be a multitude of opinions of what the practical difference is based on peoples perspectives. The reality is that landscape design is a diverse field and there are specific niches within it whether or not someone is a landscape architect or not. One can not honestly say that "landscape designers do this" or "landscape architects do that".

There are great people doing great things with and without landscape architecture licenses.

My opinion of what one gets out of licensing often gets other LAs upset with me (I am licensed). The biggest benefit is not the license. It is what is learned in going through the process of getting licensed. It forces one to learn things they had no interest in, to get practical experience doing things they would otherwise avoid, and to deal with issues that also might be avoided. That brings awareness, understanding, and an ability to rectify issues that go beyond what some others would.

The general public has no idea what the difference is (as you know). One of the perceptions that students and recent graduates in landscape architecture is that when they get licensed they expect that everyone wants to hire them over unlicensed designers simply because they have a stamp and letters after their names. While it will add some credibility prior to initial meeting, it always comes down to whomever removes the most doubt from the outcome of the project. Having the education and experience gained through the licensing process should give one the knowledge, portfolio, and communication skills to do that, but many people gain their knowledge, skills, and abilities in other ways which can make them the right choice for the right job.

The education is very broad. A small amount of it is horticulture related and planting design oriented. More of it is design process, planning, and site engineering.

If the intent is to do residential design/build, I would steer the student toward a more focused education in an Ag school because the education is more specific to that end. LA degrees have a great deal of time devoted to regional planning and issues unrelated to residential design. However, the years in studio applying design process changes the way one thinks and addresses issues almost by rote - that is a good thing.

Becoming am LA is a long process and the exam sections are not easy and expensive. Currently, it is very difficult to get internships because of the lull in the economy. Believe it or not, they are having trouble getting free internships because few offices have the resources to manage the intern. There are a ton of recent grads and others who have been laid off sitting on the sidelines waivering on pursuing another career or waiting out the lull because they can't get their internships complete in order to get licensed.

What does the student hope to do as a career?

RE: Landscape Designer or Landscape Architect?

Landscape architecture is a degreed professional program that typically requires a period of apprenticeship and then testing before licensure, similar to attorneys passing the bar exam before they can practice. And while LA's can take on any landscape design project, including smaller residential ones, they generally concentrate on larger scale commercial, public and planning projects that require an LA stamp. Bigger projects typically result in bigger incomes :-)

There are no uniform regulations associated with landscape design. Technically, anyone who wants to call themselves a landscape or garden designer can, formal schooling or not. Local authorities generally require at least a business license but even that is not always a given......many "designers" fly below the radar and get away without any kind of formal training or professional credentials. The field is wide open with respect to training, experience and professional responsibility.

To become an LA, one must graduate from an accredited 4 year college. Landscape design certificates/degrees are most often a two year program and available through technical and community colleges, sometimes agricultural colleges, larger botanical gardens and online. The cost of these types of educational training tend to be significantly less than attending a 4 year college or university. Income from this type of career track is as wide as the folks who follow it - some well-qualified, locally well-known and seriously dedicated individuals can make a very nice living as a landscape designer. Others just barely get by :-) Or use the profession as a supplemental source of income, working from home or in some sort of association with a larger design/build company or retail garden center.

Based just on your brief outline of your situation, I'd guess landscape design is the path most suited to you. This is something you could pursue online or on a part-time basis, as many schools offer the ability to attend classes on an as-needed basis and some have night classes as well. I'd research both the market in your area as well as educational resources before coming to a decision as to which career track makes the most sense for you.

Missed that last post.

  • Posted by laag z6CapeCod (My Page) on
    Sun, May 15, 11 at 9:14

If you are a mother of four kids and full time school is going to be difficult, I would not recommend an LA degree. There are studio classes that meet for two or three hours in the middle of the day with studio projects that require many hours of work outside of the class room. The enrollment is not usually large, so the classes are usually offered once a year, are pre-req's for other classes, and many have additional studio projects that require a lot of time.


  • Posted by laag z6CapeCod (My Page) on
    Sun, May 15, 11 at 9:22

I agree with everything Gardengal just wrote*.

*LAs tend to work on bigger projects simply because design fees are a much smaller percentage of the cost of the overall job and the consequences of design errors outweigh the cost of design. That is not always the case in smaller jobs. ... in other words, they don't get hired to do smaller jobs because people do not want to spend the money (and often rightly so).

why I chose Landscape Design......

Laag, I think we've both entered similar discussions before :-) And we do seem to share a similar understanding of the two fields.

forensicmom, let me give you a just small personal perspective. I have a 5 year BofArch degree. When I made the decision to pursue a landscape design career, it would have been relatively easy for me to go back to the university and pick up the classes necessary for me to get a second degree in Landscape Architecture. I chose not to go that route for several reasons: first, I wanted to focus on residential projects - helping homeowners develop a useful and well-thought out garden (and I use that term, and not 'landscape', intentionally). I was not interested in working on larger scale commercial/public projects. Second, as an avid gardener myself, I wanted a course of study that emphasized the horticultural aspects of the process, which is not always (OK - seldom :-)) the case with the LA route. And finally, potential income from this career path was not an overriding concern - yeah, I wanted to earn money from it, but it was much more a case of doing what I loved to do, working with people and plants to provide value and satisfaction. So I attended a community college and received a 2 year degree in ornamental horticulture and landscape design. I've never regretted this decision and enjoyed every minute of my chosen but not very financially rewarding career. My real payment doesn't come in dollars and cents but rather in client (and personal) satisfaction.

RE: Landscape Designer or Landscape Architect?

Now this is what I call an FAQ!

RE: Landscape Designer or Landscape Architect?

Thank you so much for all of the information. It was HUGE. Yes, I am hoping to stay in the residential field and it's because it's what I love to do. I have drawn many plans for relatives, my church and friends and they've all been very pleased.

I'm going to look at my local community college to see what else they offer.

RE: Landscape Designer or Landscape Architect?

  • Posted by botann z8 SEof Seattle (My Page) on
    Sun, May 15, 11 at 14:12

Some time working for a few Garden Designers and landscapers might help also. Nothing like actual field experience.

Almost all the gardens you design will be for non gardeners.
Low maintenance will among the top priorities. Don't try to put your garden in a non gardeners yard. It's a common mistake made by many.

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