Landscape Designer Careers: Salary Information & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a landscape design career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects, and salary info to see if becoming a landscape designer is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in Landscape Design

Landscape designers create plans to develop outdoor spaces with the use of plants and landscape modification. Read the following pros and cons to see if a career as a landscape designer is a good fit for you.

Pros of a Landscape Design Career
Opportunity to earn bonuses and commissions*
Potential to operate your own business**
Opportunity to create beautiful surroundings and raise aesthetic, environmental, and functional value of a place***
Chance to advance to higher-level positions with more responsibilities to carry out complex projects****

Cons of a Landscape Design Career
Possibility of disagreements with clients***
May have to negotiate rugged territory****
Must work outside in adverse weather conditions****
Travel back-and-forth to meet with clients may be necessary*****

Sources: *PayScale.com, **Brigham Young University, ***Alabama Cooperative Extension System, ****Michigan Civil Service Commission, *****Online job postings from March 2012.

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Landscape designers plan gardens, ponds, walkways, patios, irrigation systems, and other features that beautify land around residential and commercial structures, such as homes, apartment buildings, hospitals, airports, and businesses. Your duties typically include creating drawings, estimating project costs, reviewing permits, and ensuring that all elements of the design conform to codes. You must have knowledge of horticulture and landscape materials. Some jobs require computer skills and knowledge of geographic information systems (GIS).

Career Opportunities

You could work for plant nurseries, garden centers, and landscaping companies, or you could opt to open your own business. Additionally, you might land a job working for local governments, designing gardens and recreational areas for parks and planning the gardens outside public buildings. You might also design the landscaping along highways or work on private estates.

Salary Information

As reported by PayScale.com in July 2015, the majority of landscape designers earned salaries ranging between $38,000 and $78,000 a year. Their salaries depend on the job's location, their education level, and their experience. Some landscape designers earn commissions, and some receive bonuses.

Requirements

Employment as a landscape designer generally requires experience. Some employers will accept a college degree in landscape design or an associated field such as forestry, plant science, or horticulture as a substitute for experience. No federal or state regulations have been established for landscape designers.

Skills essential to success in a landscape design career include:

  • Decision making
  • Time management
  • Good vision
  • Deductive reasoning
  • Coordination
  • Complex problem solving
  • Oral and written expression

Actual Job Postings from Employers

Experience in landscape design is generally a prerequisite for employment in the field, though formal education may also be requested. Some employers prefer to hire landscape designers with sales experience, and the ability to lift heavy objects is a plus for those working in nurseries and garden centers. The following summaries of online job advertisements from March 2012 give you a snapshot of what real employers were seeking.

  • A nursery and garden center in Pennsylvania was looking for a landscape and paver designer who meets with customers in their homes and creates custom design plans. This was a per diem position, and the landscape designer would earn a commission. Two years of experience and the ability to sell are preferred.
  • A nursery and landscaping company in Kentucky is looking for a landscape designer/project manager to supervise and direct crews and oversee projects. Knowledge of landscape design and installation along with a minimum of five years of supervisory experience working with crews on residential landscaping projects were required.
  • A garden center in Delaware wanted to hire a landscape designer/salesperson to estimate project costs while performing design consultations. Candidates must have a degree in horticulture or landscape design or have two years of experience.

How to Stand Out

Complete a Formal Education Program

There are several steps you can take to make your skills more marketable. Degree programs and professional certificates in landscape design and horticulture are available at many colleges and universities, and receiving a formal education can improve your chances of securing a higher-paid position, according to HACC, Central Pennsylvania's Community College.

Join a Professional Organization

You can also join a professional society to give yourself an edge over the competition. Membership in the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) demonstrates to employers that you are dedicated to the profession. There are other benefits to joining the APLD, including educational and design resources, professional networking opportunities, member discounts for workshops and seminars, and advertising discounts.

Certification

The APLD also offers a certification that places you above the competition and gives prospective clients and employers solid proof of your expertise. After working in the field for four years, you're eligible to become certified. You must present design plans and final photographs for three landscape projects and have your work approved to earn the credential. When people search the APLD website to locate a landscape designer, members who have received certification are listed first, boosting your chances of adding to your clientele.

Other Career Paths

Landscape Architect

Landscape architects do much of the same work that landscape designers do: they plan outdoor spaces for a variety of clients, including businesses, residences, recreational facilities, and airports. Unlike designers, landscape architects must have a degree in landscape architecture and a license. These extra requirements can pay off when it comes to salary, since most landscape architects earned between $36,000 and $71,000 a year and the majority of senior landscape architects made between $50,000 and $97,000 annually, as reported by PayScale.com in 2012. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that landscape architecture jobs would grow by 16%, about as fast as average, between 2010 and 2020.

Interior Designer

If you enjoy art and design but prefer to work indoors, a career in interior design might be a better fit. Interior designers plan the inside spaces of buildings, such as homes and offices, while taking aesthetics, safety, and function into consideration. The work of interior designers isn't limited to decorating; when the design requires plumbing or electrical work, you would consult contractors and draw up contracts. You also interact with construction inspectors and architects to make sure that the design elements conform to building codes and meet structural specifications. According to the BLS as of 2011, most interior designers took home between $26,000 and $86,000 annually, and job growth was projected to be 19%, or about as fast as average, between 2010 and 2020.

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