Commercial Landscape Designer Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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Learn about a commercial landscape designer's job duties, salary, education, and training requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a career as a commercial landscape designer.
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Commercial Landscape Designer Career: Pros and Cons

Commercial landscape designers plan the layout and components of a business' outdoor space. Keep reading to learn more about the pros and cons for this career.

Pros of a Commercial Landscape Design Career
No licensure requirements*
Part of an industry involved in the 'Green Movement', possibly leading to increased work opportunities*
Degree programs in the field may consist of substantial amounts of studio time**
Some work time possibly spent outdoors*

Cons of a Commercial Landscape Design Career
Employers may require a college degree in landscaping or a related field***
Salaries are lower than those of a landscape architect*
Long work hours, averaging 50 hours a week or more*
Few landscape design-specific degree programs available****

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Columbia University, ***Maldonado Nursery & Landscaping, Inc., ****The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture.

Career Information

Job Description

As a commercial landscape designer, you work with businesses and other commercial enterprises to make their exterior spaces inviting, comfortable and ecologically sensible, meaning sustainable in the environment. The field is ecologically focused, and emphasizes the proper planting of plant types, native plants and soil types.

When making choices of what to plant and where, you would consider soil types, climate, regular moisture and light exposures and other environmental elements. You would then select the types of plants and create a blueprint of where to plant each. You could also oversee the landscaper in charge of implementing the creation of your design.

Salary Information

A Payscale.com survey of about 405 landscape designers indicates that, as of December 2014, the salaries of the majority of respondents ranged from approximately $30,000-$63,000. Part of the total pay for some landscape designers included commission.

Education and Training Requirements

There are no set education or training requirements to work as a landscape designer. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most designers have a college degree in horticulture, botany or a related field. The components of a landscape design degree program differ depending on the level; most cover topics such as biology, design drawing and outdoor space maintenance. Advanced programs may also include an internship.

Associate's Degree Program

In an associate's degree program in landscape design, which may be titled 'landscape and environmental design' or something similar, you complete coursework in topics like plant biology, design theory, landscape drawing and presentation techniques, ecology and planting design. You might also complete an internship or senior project.

Bachelor's Degree Program

In a landscape design bachelor's degree program, you study topics such as planting for aesthetics, plant propagation, basic landscape construction, turfgrass management, nursery management and grounds maintenance. You would likely also complete several labs, a practicum and participate in research projects.

Master's Degree and Certificate Programs

The curriculum of a master's degree or graduate certificate program usually includes coursework in plant materials, graphics, and the history and theory of plant design. These programs also include studio work and a supervised internship.

Top Skills for Commercial Landscape Designers

Employers seek landscape designers with a knowledge of plants and the techniques for how to plant them. They might also look for those who know about 'green' policy development and implementation, and who have knowledge of sustainable design. Some additional qualities include:

  • Self-motivated
  • Possesses knowledge of CAD
  • Knowledgeable about basic computer applications
  • Capable of creating design drawings and/or plans
  • Informed about plant types
  • Able to develop cost plans

Job Postings from Real Employers

Job postings for landscape designers vary in the requirements for applicants. Some employers sought applicants with sales and design experience, while others required that applicants have a bachelor's degree or at least two years of experience in the field. Here are real job postings from employers in March 2012:

  • A private architectural firm in New York seeks a landscape designer with sales leads in designing, estimating and managing the development of high end landscapes. Applicants must be able to perform site analysis, create freehand drawings and conduct onsite design consultations. Knowledge of planting techniques and materials is a must. Self-motivated and organized individuals able to work independently and on a team are welcome to apply.
  • A city agency in Michigan seeks a landscape designer able to prepare preliminary designs with specifications and cost estimates for the development of state parks and recreation areas. Applicants must be able to draft master plans and prepare development plans for landscape plantings. Applicants must possess at least a bachelor's degree.
  • A retail garden company in Delaware seeks a full-time landscape designer/salesperson. Applicants must have either a degree in landscape design or horticulture or two years work experience in horticulture. Applicant requirements include knowledge about plant nomenclature and culture, capable of performing design consultations, able to identify necessary materials and create job estimates.

How to Beat the Competition

Earn a Degree

According to Maldonado Nursery & Landscaping, Inc., a landscaping company, having at least a bachelor's degree in horticulture, botany or landscape design is the first step to standing out from other landscape designers. Completing internships to gain experience and developing a portfolio of work to show potential employers will also help you during your job search.

Licensure and Certification

There are no specific licensure or certification requirements to work as a landscape designer. However, the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) offers voluntary professional membership certification to association members who have practiced in the field for at least four years and have at least one year of education in the field. To become certified, you must submit three projects containing a plant list and plan, design statement and photographs. Being certified may increase the number of employment opportunities for which you are eligible.

Alternative Career Paths

If the idea of working with landscaping interests you, but a career in landscape design does not fill every item on your list, there are alternative, related career paths you might consider, such as landscape architect and landscape business owner.

Landscape Architect

A landscape architect is a licensed professional who designs the land areas for residential and commercial spaces, such as homes, parks, and recreation facilities. They differ from landscape designers in that they focus less on the types of plants for the location and more on the structure of the outside space. A minimum of a bachelor's degree in landscape architecture and passing a licensing exam administered by the Landscape Architectural Registration Boards is required to practice as a landscape architect.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), landscape architects make an average of $67,000 per year, as of May 2011. Additionally, the BLS predicts a 16% job growth in the 2010-2020 decade, which is as fast as average for all jobs in the U.S.

Landscape Business Owner

As a landscape business owner, your job would be to construct outdoor areas of commercial buildings or private residences so that they were aesthetically pleasing and suitable for the outdoor space. This may include selecting and planting trees, shrubbery, or flowers.

A benefit to this position is that you would work for yourself, setting your own hours. A drawback to being a landscape business owner, however, is that you are in charge of the business' operations, which means that you spend less time working with plants. Additionally, in this career, you combine being entrepreneurial with landscape design work.

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