Study Landscape Architecture: Master's, Bachelor's & Online Degree Info

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Find out what you can do with a landscape architecture degree. Read about requirements and the pros and cons of a bachelor's vs. master's degree in landscape architecture.
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Landscape Architecture Bachelor's and Master's Degrees at a Glance

Landscape architects plan and oversee the creation of gardens, parks, campuses and playgrounds. As a student in this field, you'll learn about urban and rural design, learn to use design software and become familiar with environmental laws and regulations. You'll also learn how to communicate design plans to a variety of experts from other fields, such as engineers, contractors and architects.

Landscape architecture is expected to grow 20% from 2008-2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), but it's still a competitive field, so advanced degrees and significant work experience are increasingly necessary to stand out. Additionally, studying, training and getting licensed to work independently takes a long time (6-10 years). To get licensed you need to get a bachelor's or master's degree in the field, intern for 1-4 years under the supervision of a licensed landscape architect and pass the Landscape Architect Registration Exam (L.A.R.E.). Most states might have additional licensing requirements.

Bachelor'sMaster's
Who is this degree for? Students who know they want to enter the landscape architecture career field - Students who want to continue their training in landscape architecture or who wish to expand their knowledge or learn a specialized field like urban planning (2-year programs)
- Bachelor's degree holders from other fields who decide to enter landscape architecture (3-year programs)
Common Career Paths (with approx. median annual salary) - Landscape Architect ($59,000)*
- Surveyor ($53,000)*
- Architect ($70,000)*
- Urban Planner ($60,000)*
Time to Completion 4-5 years full-time (typically takes 5 years) 2-3 years (2-year programs only open to students with a bachelor's degree in landscape architecture)
Common Graduation Requirements Roughly 45 classes, including courses in: mathematics, landscaping, environmental impact, ecology, design, construction- 15-25 classes (depending on the program)
- Internship at landscape architecture firm
- Thesis and/or professional graduate project
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED Bachelor's degree in any major for 3-year program or bachelor's in landscape architecture for 2-year program
Online Availability Rare, may not be professional program Rare, may not be professional program

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (figures for 2008).

Bachelor's in Landscape Architecture

Bachelor's degree programs in landscape architecture allow you to study all the foundational topics involved in creating and implementing a landscape design concept. As you evaluate schools, keep in mind that programs often teach the ecology and topography of their local region. If you know you want to work in a particular area or type of environment (e.g., urban, desert or forest), you should consider attending a school located in that setting.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • It's a flexible degree in a growing field, which can be used in either urban or rural settings
  • Allows you to enter the field and potentially gain employment/internship that will help you get licensure
  • Helps you gain skills in a variety of fields (math, environmental science and design)
  • Qualifies you to enroll in a 2-year master's program (if you're a non-major, a master's program will take 3 years)

Cons

  • Bachelor's programs typically take 5 years to complete
  • In a more competitive job market, companies may prefer master's degrees
  • Does not allow for as much specialization as a master's (in areas like urban planning or environmental development)

Courses and Requirements

Students in a landscape architecture bachelor's program learn about road-mapping, grid placement, floral and tree arrangements and environmental restoration. Courses will cover a wide range of disciplines and combine skills from design, economics, ecology, geology and site planning. Common courses include:

  • Landscape ecology
  • Landscape engineering
  • Garden design
  • Soil and water management
  • Geology
  • Construction

Online Info

It is possible, but not at all common, to find an online bachelor's degree program in landscape architecture. Some campus-based degree programs offer individual courses online. Online programs might not be professional degree programs that hold accreditation from the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB). Some states' landscape architecture licensing boards require more professional experience from applicants whose degrees came from schools without LAAB accreditation, so carefully consider your professional goals (and find out your state's rules) before enrolling at such an online program.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

In recent years, there has been a large push towards environmental protection and restoration. So if you're looking for a way to stand out in this field you can opt to become well-versed in environmental issues and best practices. Additionally, you should study environmental laws and regulations at the federal, state and regional levels.

This field is also becoming increasingly technical, so it's advisable that you gain proficiency in software that can be used while you're creating reports and presentations. This might include word processing, publishing, spreadsheets (e.g. Microsoft Excel) and computer design. Many landscape architects are self-employed, so you should be familiar and comfortable with all aspects of the landscape design business.

Master's in Landscape Architecture

Master's programs in landscape architecture can allow you to hone your skills while specializing in specific sub-fields like urban planning or landscape design. Schools typically enroll landscape architecture bachelor's degree holders in a 2-year program while non-majors enroll in a 3-year program. Hands-on learning is a significant component of master's degree programs in landscape architecture.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Employers are looking for people with higher education
  • Earning a master's degree could qualify you for jobs teaching landscape architecture
  • Most programs have an incorporated internship program, providing work experience that employers will want candidates to have
  • Allows you to specialize in landscape architecture sub-fields

Cons

  • You would be applying for the same jobs as someone with a bachelor's degree
  • According to a 2011 survey, graduate students' average salary offers were only $7,000 more than those of undergraduate students ($46,000 vs. $39,000).*
  • Admissions to Master in Landscape Architecture programs can be competitive (schools could accept as few as 21 students each year)
  • In total you could spend up to eight years in college

Source: *American Society of Landscape Architects.

Courses and Requirements

Students in a master's program take courses very similar to those in a bachelor's degree program. However, graduate level courses usually cover more advanced topics in that field. Additionally, many master's programs have a required internship component. Students who wish to graduate with their master's degree usually complete either a senior project (a fully designed and planned project) or a master's thesis. You should keep in mind that even with a master's degree in landscape architecture, to gain licensure you will still need to complete a 1-4 year internship, pass a written exam and complete any state regulations.

Online Course and Program Information

Online learning typically is not offered at the level of a full professional graduate degree. You might find a campus-based professional program that incorporates online learning into one or more classes. The rare online programs offered may not hold accreditation from LAAB. This means that graduates may face more hurdles as they seek the licensure that's necessary to begin professional practice as landscape architects. If you want to take an online program, you may wish to check with your state's licensing board about the requirements for graduates of that program.

Stand Out with this Degree

Socially and environmentally conscious architectural designs are becoming increasingly popular. Specializations in urban design and environmental restoration can allow students to acquire skills that make them more competitive. In order to better be able to create presentations and reports as a landscape architect, you should gain technical skills including knowledge in word processing, spreadsheets, computer programming and design. Furthermore, with the rise in self-employment, landscape architects need to be proficient in the entire design and implementation process and can benefit from having a background in the business side of the field.