Tree Foundation of Kern

Landscape Architect

To plan and design private, public and commercial greenspace and create site plans for land use

Landscape architects rely on their knowledge of construction, grading, drainage, irrigation, plant materials and horticulture throughout an often solitary work day in the office that revolves around design and drawing. In their careers, landscape architects tackle a variety of projects including designs for private residences, apartment buildings, schools, parks, golf courses, office buildings and public road projects.

"Landscape architecture has a wonderful freedom because there's a wide, wide range of projects you can do from little 200 square foot backyards to 200 square mile regional planning projects," said landscape architect Brent Thrams of Sacramento, California. "It's an incredibly diverse profession. I never do the same thing from day to day."

A talent in art, a knack for graphics and an eye for detail pave the way to architecture. In addition to traditional architectural studies, landscape architects also must have a good understanding of plants, the environment and social trends.

"The profession of landscape architecture demands that you help improve society, and I think it helps if you want to do that," said Fred Simon, an architect in Bakersfield, California. "Open your eyes and look around. See what's good and bad about your community and decide how you would fix it."

An attractive career, landscape architecture can be a highly competitive field and architects also face competition from unlicensed garden designers who sometimes are able to do similar work much more inexpensively.

A degree and license, however, can open doors of opportunity and changes the nature of the work day. "I am never out in the field installing things, I am inside designing things with pencils on paper or with computers," Thrams said.

Formerly a landscape contractor, Thrams can now design many more projects in a year than he ever could personally install before although his extensive hands-on experience with plants has benefited his architectural practice. "If a person doesn't get a complete education in the field then they're probably pretty limited to doing landscape planting or designing for smaller projects," Simon said.

"Some landscape architects are more inclined to dwell on design, others work on the irrigation aspect, others on construction and some like myself enjoy working with plant materials and the juxtaposition of plants," Simon said.

Landscape architects can work in a variety of settings such as governmental planning departments and large architectural firms but many enjoy the freedom that comes from running their own private architectural practices.

Requires: 4 Year degree, state license and certification from American Association of Landscape Architects.

Salary: Range from $25,000 to start up to about $75,000.