Architecture is the design of spaces – buildings, homes, etc. Landscape Architecture is the design of outside spaces – parks, walkways, areas surrounding buildings. There are about half as many Landscape Architecture programs in the United States as there are Architecture, so admittance is even more competitive. A bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture is usually a five-year degree, and a master’s degree is 2-3 years more. Landscape Architecture majors must complete a degree, work 1-4 years as an apprentice or intern, then pass federal licensing exams to become Landscape Architects.
If you enjoy architecture and have a passion for nature, this is the perfect blend. A Landscape Architecture major likes things that are beautiful and functional. Landscape Architects work as part of a team most of the time, and get hands on at project sites.
A Landscape Architecture major has a good blend of art and science in his or her blood. Like in Architecture, it’s not necessarily important that a Landscape Architecture major be a good drawer, it is critical to be creative and good at displaying ideas on paper. Landscape Architecture majors need strong computer skills, good people skills and a good grasp of science. Since a Landscape Architecture major will deal with plants (horticulture), animals (zoology), and impacts on nature (environmental sciences), understanding of all those aspects will be important.
If the great outdoors (or even the shrubs in the parking lot) just aren’t your thing, stick to indoor architecture. If the great outdoors is your thing but designing is not, drop the architecture angle and look into other fields in nature, like conservation, wildlife management or crocodile hunting.
A Landscape Architecture major will learn all the same basic principles as an Architecture major (i.e. how to build something that won’t cave in on you), but will also learn about plants and nature, water conservation, biology – all the things that would be encountered outdoors.
Landscape Architects often work side-by-side with Architects. The Architect will design the office building, hospital or whatever it may be, and the Landscape Architecture will lay out what the grounds look like – where the trees go, what the parking lot is shaped like, how to layout the facility to be easily accessible by roads and sidewalks. Landscape Architects also do work where no Architect is necessary – designing parks and playing fields, working on wetlands conservation projects, etc.
Because there are fewer of them, Landscape Architecture programs are even more competitive than Architecture programs. For the edge here, you’ll want to take plenty of science classes, like biology. If your high school or community college offers a course in horticulture, dive right in. You might also get some experience doing grunt work at the local park or community center, clearing out weeds and beautifying public areas. Spending the time on your hands and knees in areas designed by other Landscape Architects could teach you a lot.
Make sure you’re a team player. Your program will be extremely competitive, but among the many skills you’re trying to develop are team work and cooperation. Work hard and put in the hours, but also make sure you’re contributing to group projects and discussions.