If you are interested in design and the environment around you, consider a career in landscape architecture

Landscape architects create the landscapes and plan, design and manage open spaces including both natural and built environments. Their work provides innovative and aesthetically-pleasing environments for people to enjoy, while ensuring that changes to the natural environment are appropriate, sensitive and sustainable.

Collaborating closely with other professionals, they work on a diverse range of projects in both urban and rural settings. From parks, gardens and housing estates to city-centre design, sporting sites and motorway construction.

Landscape professionals typically work across five main areas:

  • landscape design;
  • landscape management;
  • landscape planning;
  • landscape science;
  • urban design.

Responsibilities

As a landscape architect, you'll need to:

  • oversee the design of a variety of projects, including urban regeneration schemes, pedestrian schemes, road or retail schemes and maintain the character of sites of natural beauty;
  • establish general landscape requirements with clients;
  • conduct preliminary studies of the site (including contours, soil, ecology, buildings, roads, heritage);
  • assess a site's potential to meet the client's specifications;
  • carry out environmental impact assessments;
  • seek and take into account the views of local residents, potential users, and parties with a vested interest in the project;
  • accurately prepare and present detailed plans and working drawings of the re-design of the new site, including applications, construction details and specifications for the project using computer-aided design (CAD) packages or similar design software;
  • present proposals to clients, deal with enquiries and negotiate any amendments to the final design;
  • match the client's wishes with your knowledge of what will work best;
  • contact and coordinate manufacturers and suppliers;
  • put work out to tender, select a contractor and manager (mainly for larger projects), and lead cross-functional teams;
  • carry out site visits;
  • ensure deadlines are met;
  • liaise with other professionals on the project;
  • monitor and check work on-site (on large projects, landscape managers may do this type of supervisory work);
  • authorise payment once work has been satisfactorily completed;
  • attend public inquiries to give evidence if necessary;
  • generate new business opportunities.

Salary

  • The typical starting salary for a graduate landscape architect is £20,000 to £24,000.
  • For landscape architects with some experience and Licentiate Membership (who have achieved their initial professional education), salaries can rise to £29,000.
  • Salaries for fully qualified members of the Landscape Institute (LI), registered as chartered landscape architects, are between £30,000 and £45,000. With further experience it is possible to earn in excess of £100,000.

For experienced landscape architects, the financial rewards may be higher in the private sector, especially if partner status is obtained.

Income data from the LI. Figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours may fluctuate. There is a standard 37-hour, five-day week, but evening and weekend working is not unusual. Hours are likely to be particularly irregular when working to a tight deadline. Shifts are rare.

What to expect

  • Time is usually split between the office and site visits. Site visits inevitably imply the possibility of working in all weather conditions. Protective clothing may also be required for some site visits.
  • A large proportion of landscape architecture jobs are in private practices, with a smaller percentage of professionals working for local authorities.
  • Landscape architecture is one of the few built environment professions made up of an equal number of men and women.
  • There are increasing opportunities to work overseas, often in Europe and the Middle East.
  • There are reasonable opportunities for self-employment for landscape architects who have excellent design and business skills as well as established clients and contacts. A good level of previous experience within an established environment is considered beneficial before setting up an independent business.

Qualifications

Landscape architecture is a chartered profession and the first step towards getting chartered status is to ensure that you have reached Masters level on a higher education course accredited by the LI.

Courses are available in areas such as:

  • environmental conservation;
  • garden design;
  • landscape architecture;
  • landscape design and ecology;
  • landscape management and/or restoration;
  • landscape planning.

Search for postgraduate courses in landscape architecture.

For students looking for an undergraduate degree, courses typically last four years, with an option of taking a year out to undertake paid work experience. If you already have an undergraduate degree that isn't accredited by the LI, you can still enter the profession by completing an LI-accredited postgraduate conversion course. These courses generally last between 18 months and two years full -time, however, there are part-time options available. Applicants to the conversion course do not need to have studied a related undergraduate degree but should have a keen interest in design and the environment.

The undergraduate and postgraduate courses lead to Licentiate Membership of the LI, which is the first step towards becoming chartered. Landscape practices are very supportive of graduates undertaking their pathway to chartership.

All students on LI-accredited courses or those with a particular interest in landscape architecture are encouraged to sign up to be a student member of the LI. As a student member, you will gain access to events and professional networks and receive a Student News quarterly email and industry update. Students on accredited courses who take up student membership will receive an automatic upgrade to licentiate membership when they graduate. Becoming a member of the institute demonstrates your commitment to the profession.

Find a full list of LI accredited courses on the Be a Landscape Architect website.

Skills

You will need to have:

  • good design/drawing skills including computer-aided design (CAD);
  • excellent communication and negotiating skills;
  • creative ability, imagination and enthusiasm;
  • a concern for the environment and an understanding of conservation issues;
  • a practical outlook;
  • good observation skills and an eye for detail.

Work experience

Relevant pre-entry experience is desirable as it shows your interest and commitment to the landscape profession. Some courses include industrial placements but if yours doesn't, consider finding vacation or part-time work.

Anything in a landscape-based area will be useful, as will any work that involves design or creative skills. Volunteering projects linked to the environment can also help.

To organise a work placement or visit to an organisation, use the Landscape Institute's registered practice directory to locate practices in your area and get in touch about work and experience opportunities.

Employers

Typical employers of landscape architects include:

  • the construction industry;
  • local authorities;
  • private practices;
  • public bodies;
  • water companies.

In the public sector, landscape architects tend to work for environmental agencies, local authorities and government agencies. There are also opportunities with voluntary organisations.

In the private sector, landscape architects are largely employed by architect and landscape architect companies, or by companies specialising in landscape engineering.

Look for job vacancies at:

A number of recruitment agencies specialising in architecture, environment and construction advertise vacancies for landscape architects. These include:

Professional development

After successfully completing an accredited undergraduate or postgraduate course you will be eligible for Licentiate Membership of the LI.

This is followed by a period of mentored experience, which is carried out while you work, as part of the Pathway to Chartership (P2C). Successful completion of the P2C leads to chartered status and full membership of the LI.

Once you have full membership, you will be known as a Chartered Member of the Landscape Institute and can use the letters CMLI after your name.

The P2C develops your knowledge, understanding and professionalism in landscape architecture and ensures that you have the required competencies for chartered status.

Most people need between one to three years working on the P2C in professional practice before moving on to the final stage, which is an oral examination, but everyone progresses at their own pace.

When you become chartered you are required to carry out a minimum of 25 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) a year. This can be gained in a variety of ways and the LI has details of CPD days and other useful events on its website. For those at the top of the profession, there is the opportunity to apply for Fellowship level membership with the LI.

Career prospects

The ways in which you can progress your career as a landscape architect include taking on greater responsibility, taking charge of projects, managing a team or becoming a specialist in a certain area. The rate of progression will depend on how ambitious you are and how quickly you acquire additional knowledge and skills.

The most important landmark, demonstrating that you are a fully qualified landscape architect, is obtaining chartered membership of the LI. Landscape architects with strong commercial awareness may progress to leading consultancy roles.

With experience, you could eventually become a partner in a private practice, or set up your own business. To be successful in private practice, you will need a good client and contact base as well as excellent experience, knowledge and skills.

Lecturing at higher education institutions is an alternative career option, or possibly one you could do part time to complement other work.