Landscape architects create the landscape around us. They plan, design and manage open spaces including both natural and built environments.
They work to provide innovative and aesthetically pleasing environments for people to enjoy, while ensuring that changes to the natural environment are appropriate, sensitive and sustainable.
The work covers diverse projects - both urban and rural - that range from designing the layout of parks, gardens and housing estates to city-centre design, sporting sites and improving land affected by mining or motorway construction.
A landscape architect collaborates closely with landscape contractors, as well as other professionals, especially architects, town planners, environmentalists and people working in surveying and engineering functions.
Five main areas of practice within landscape architecture have been identified by The Landscape Institute (LI):
- landscape design;
- landscape management;
- landscape planning;
- landscape science;
- urban design.
The role of a landscape architect commonly includes some or all of the following:
- overseeing the design of a variety of projects, including urban regeneration schemes, pedestrian schemes, road or retail schemes, and maintaining the character of sites of natural beauty;
- establishing general landscape requirements with clients;
- conducting preliminary studies of the site (including contours, soil, ecology, buildings, roads);
- assessing a site's potential to meet the client's specifications;
- carrying out environmental impact assessments;
- seeking and taking into account the views of local residents, potential users, and parties with a vested interest in the project;
- accurately preparing and presenting detailed plans and working drawings, including applications, construction details and specifications for the project using computer-aided design (CAD) packages or similar design software;
- presenting proposals to clients, dealing with enquiries and negotiating any amendments to the final design;
- matching the client's wishes with your knowledge of what will work best;
- contacting and coordinating manufacturers and suppliers;
- putting work out to tender, selecting a contractor and manager (mainly for larger projects), and leading cross-functional teams;
- making site visits;
- ensuring deadlines are met;
- liaising with other professionals on the project;
- monitoring and checking work on-site (on large projects, landscape managers may do this type of supervisory work);
- authorising payment once work has been satisfactorily completed;
- attending public inquiries to give evidence if necessary;
- generating new business opportunities.
- The typical starting salary for a graduate landscape architect is around £20,000.
- With three to five years' experience this generally rises to between £23,000 and £28,000.
- Range of typical salaries for fully qualified members of The Landscape Institute (LI) registered as chartered landscape architects is between £25,000 and £45,000+.
- The Landscape Institute (LI) reports that the most common salary band for this profession is £30,000 to £40,000.
Salaries vary depending on the company, the sector and level of experience. Salaries in private practice are generally higher.
For experienced landscape architects, the financial rewards may be higher in the private sector, especially if partner status is obtained.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours may fluctuate. There is a standard 37-hour, five-day week, but evening and sometimes 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.
- 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.
- Jobs are widely available in local authorities nationwide. Private practices tend to be concentrated in centres of large urban population.
- Although women currently only represent about a quarter of landscape architect professionals in the UK the number is steadily rising.
- Attendance may be needed at various project locations and to meet clients so travel is frequently required during the working day and overnight absence from home may occasionally be needed.
- There are increasing opportunities to work overseas, often in Europe and the Middle East.
Landscape architecture is a chartered career and undergraduate degrees which can be completed as the first step towards chartered status are accredited by The Landscape Institute (LI). The degrees typically last four years and are available in topics such as:
- landscape architecture;
- garden design;
- landscape design and ecology;
- landscape planning;
- landscape management and/or restoration;
- environmental conservation.
If you already have an undergraduate degree that isn't accredited by the LI you can still enter the career by completing an LI-accredited postgraduate conversion course. You will need to check with individual institutions offering the courses that you qualify for entry. The courses are usually most relevant for those with a related undergraduate degree such as architecture, horticulture or botany.
The undergraduate and postgraduate courses lead to Licentiate Membership of the LI, which is the first step towards becoming chartered. Some employers will look for landscape architects who are already chartered, while others will be prepared to support you on the path towards qualifying.
Two types of student membership are available with The Landscape Institute:
- full student membership and;
- free online student membership.
All students are eligible to join but students on accredited courses who take up full membership will receive an automatic upgrade to licentiate membership with no further charge in the year in which they graduate. Becoming a member of the institute demonstrates your commitment to the profession.
Search for postgraduate courses in landscape architecture.
When applying for jobs, in addition to your formal qualifications, you will also need to show:
- 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 understanding of conservation issues;
- a practical outlook;
- good observation skills and an eye for detail.
If you are considering self-employment, a sound business sense and cross-functional awareness are essential.
Relevant pre-entry experience is desirable as it shows your interest and commitment to the career area. 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.
Typical employers of landscape architects include:
- local authorities;
- water companies;
- public bodies;
- the construction industry;
- private practices.
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. Private practices tend to be small and most have fewer than ten professional staff.
Landscape architecture is a relatively small profession, but is growing fast. Whether in a greenbelt or brownbelt area, in the countryside or the city, landscape issues today are taken into account whenever any regeneration or development is being considered. With the large amounts of money currently being invested in the landscape, it is a highly charged area to work in and offers many, and increasing, opportunities.
Look for job vacancies at:
- Architects' Journal
- Architecture Jobs
- Building Design Jobs
- Guardian Jobs
- Landscape Institute Jobs
- Local Government Jobs
A number of recruitment agencies specialising in architecture, environment and construction advertise vacancies for landscape architects. These include:
After successfully completing an accredited undergraduate or postgraduate course you will be eligible for Licentiate Membership of The Landscape Institute (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. Mature applicants may gain some exemptions through relevant experience, such as having worked as a technician in:
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 two 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 20 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 progression involves gaining more responsibility, handling and taking charge of projects, and managing a team. The rate of progression generally depends on the individual: the greater your knowledge, skills and ambition, the faster you are likely to move up the ladder.
The most important landmark, demonstrating that you are a fully qualified landscape architect, is obtaining chartered membership of The Landscape Institute (LI). Landscape architects with strong commercial awareness may progress to leading consultancy roles.
Experienced practitioners often move into private practice, where they may aim to become partners or set up their 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.
Work in the public sector, particularly local government, will probably provide a more defined promotion structure than is usual in the private sector. Today's organisations tend to have flatter hierarchies with fewer managers and increased responsibility levels for most individual employees.
A change of employer and/or location may be necessary for promotion. You should note that senior positions may be difficult to achieve in some organisations because of the small numbers employed. Some landscape architects/designers move into urban design.
There are also opportunities to move into lecturing at higher education institutions.