Complete Guide to an Online Landscaping Design Degree
An online landscaping design degree prepares students to use drawings and graphics to create and maintain the appearance of outdoor spaces. Landscape designers typically have a diploma, certificate, or associate degree in landscape design or landscape architecture. Landscape architects are responsible for developing complex specifications for outdoor areas such as parks, highways, airports, and building grounds, and they must have an advanced degree and a license.
For the best landscape design employment prospects and to ensure a high-quality education, it is recommended that students choose a degree program that is accredited and recognized by the US Department of Education. For a career as a landscape architect, students must attend a bachelor's or master's program that has been accredited by the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Read More
Comprehensive List of Accredited Online Schools - Landscape Design Degrees (7)
Online Landscape Design Degree Overview & Career Information
Professional landscape architects must be trained in areas of architecture, botany, engineering, ecology, environmental science, and design in order to utilize outdoor spaces in a way that is sustainable, functional, and aesthetically pleasing. Professionals may specialize in particular areas of landscape design, such as environmental restoration or urban planning, while others act as consultants on large projects and develop proposals about potential costs and risks involved. A wide variety of landscape design certificate programs are available from those targeting students of other disciplines looking to broaden their skills to those targeting landscape designers intending to advance their careers.
The associate degree in landscape design offers foundational courses in garden and landscape design and includes a curriculum of general education courses such as English, writing, communication, science, and psychology. Once the general education requirements are complete, the core courses will include topics such as landscape principles, botany, site planning, math for environmental design, pest control, irrigation, plant types, landscape graphics, planting design, construction principles, grading and drainage, and grounds equipment and management. The program admits students with a high school diploma and lasts approximately two years.
Before students can become landscape architects, most states require that they have a bachelor's or master's degree in addition to a certain amount of work experience and a passing score on the Landscape Architect Registration Examination (LARE). Some states require another test in addition to the LARE. Students with an associate degree may be qualified to become an intern or apprentice under the guidance of a licensed landscape architect until they complete the necessary training and requirements to become licensed themselves.
Online bachelor's degree programs in landscape architecture teach students about the core principles in the discipline. Students become familiar with techniques that make outside spaces aesthetically appealing and eco-friendly. Additionally, they learn what decor best fits in a variety of environments, such as parks, homes, airports, playgrounds, and churches. Many programs give students the opportunity to participate in internships in order to gain hands-on experience.
Landscape architecture degrees at the bachelor's level are usually offered online via colleges and universities. The two principle types of bachelor’s degrees are a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture degree (BLA) and a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture degree (BSLA). The BLA requires five years of full-time study and is considered a first professional degree. The BSLA program takes four years and is considered a general professional degree. Both types of bachelor's degrees are accredited by the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB).
Bachelor's degree programs require students to fulfill liberal arts requirements prior to taking the core landscape architecture courses. Courses will typically include these subjects: landscaping history, horticulture, plant selection and design, ecology, botany, urban and regional planning, and graphic design. Students learn about computer-aided design and the tools for creating landscape layouts, as well as the history and theories behind landscape best practices.
Due to the many skills involved in landscape architecture, many entry-level positions in this career require a bachelor’s degree. Those with bachelor's degree in landscape architecture usually enter the workforce as entry-level professionals, interns, or apprentices. They often split their time between devising specific plans at an office or design firm and outside at different sites.
A master’s degree in landscape architecture covers the horticulture knowledge, technical skills, and understanding of human factors required to create inspiring outdoor spaces. These programs take two to three years to complete and require 15 to 20 courses. Admission requirements for master’s degree programs in this field typically include a bachelor’s degree, a graduate school examination, an essay or personal statement, and letters of recommendation. Some programs may require specific undergraduate work in design, studio art, earth sciences, environmental science, or related areas.
The landscape design master’s is based in studio courses and a final portfolio or thesis project. Studio courses require students to produce designs based on certain criteria, and hands-on work on simulated and real landscape design projects allows students to gain experience using computer-aided design, geographic information systems, and other professional tools. The thesis consists of one complex design project, which the student approaches creatively, with the aim of showcasing the many skills they have learned in the degree.
Students in these degree programs learn engineering fundamentals, such as surveying, construction, and architecture, as well as environmental theories in ecology and geology. Courses in landscape plants, ecological analysis, and environmental factors in design teach students about the ways outdoor spaces impact their larger ecological environment. Classes in graphics and modeling teach students how to sketch their designs using technology.
Graduates of accredited landscape architecture master’s degrees are positioned to begin careers as licensed landscape architects. New graduates typically become landscape architect interns for one to four years, until they have attained enough professional experience to sit on the Landscape Architect Registration Exam (LARE). The work and degree requirements for taking the LARE vary from state to state, and prospective master’s students are encouraged to review their state’s guidelines before planning a career path.
Certificates in landscape design are ideal for those interested in all types of landscaping. Most landscape design programs require that students have completed a high school diploma, but some professional landscape design certificates require applicants to have a bachelor's degree. Although there are variations, a majority of programs will take one to two years to complete and consist of anywhere from 5 to 60 units of coursework and hands-on instruction.
Training for landscape architects typically involves a wide variety of courses that combine elements of art and science. Students can expect classes on ecology, biology, design and engineering, design theory, and urban planning. Landscape design certificates cover an array of topics, ranging from types of plants to design and use of space. Common courses include introduction to landscape architecture, elements of design, history of garden design, site analysis, site design, planting design, comprehensive project analysis, project planning, sustainable and environmental design, horticulture, social factors in environmental design, seasonal plants, and analyzing space. Certificate programs will likely require a certain number of hands-on hours for their students before graduation to ensure that they can properly put their education to work.
A certificate in landscape design is all that is needed for many jobs in the field. Common career paths include gardener, landscape designer, forester, construction manager, and nursery manager. This certification can also be beneficial for those in real estate or appraising so they can learn the value of design and landscaping when showing homes to clients. Once established in landscape design, it's likely that professionals will tailor their services to a certain type of landscaping, such as in small homes, public parks, or for those interested in environmentally friendly landscaping or gardening.
Accreditation from a US Department of Education-recognized accrediting agency indicates that a college, university, or vocational school meets high standards in terms of its faculty, curricula, student resources, and overall quality. While attending a school that has not been accredited doesn't necessarily mean that the school is of lesser quality, students are encouraged to thoroughly review a potential landscape design degree program from an unaccredited school with great scrutiny. Avoid diploma mills at all cost, and be wary of schools that advertise quick degree schemes for a fee, as they may be fraudulent.
There are different accreditation requirements for graduates from landscape design programs versus landscape architecture programs. Because professional landscape architects are required to be licensed, they must attend an accredited degree program in order to meet the application requirements for state licensure (LARE). Landscape designers, on the other hand, are not required to obtain a license, so there is no official requirement for landscape designers to attend an accredited degree program. Landscape designers will still benefit from attending an accredited college or university, however, as accreditation just helps ensure that a school has been evaluated and vetted by legitimate agency. Accredited schools can also access federal funding and enable students to transfer credits to other accredited schools.
Students who plan to apply for a professional landscape architect license in their state will need to attend a landscape architecture program that has been accredited by the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB) of the American Society of Landscape Architects. ASLA is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as the authoritative accrediting agency for landscape architecture programs. Both ASLA and CHEA offer current lists of accredited schools and degree programs.
Nearly all states require landscape architects to have a state-issued license, although the qualifying criteria for this license varies widely. The Landscape Architect Registration Exam (LARE) is the basis for most licensing programs; the exam includes both multiple choice questions and a graphic portion. It is sponsored by the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards and offers six different paths to become eligible to take the exam. Each path involves a different combination of education and work experience so that not all applicants will have the exact same qualifications or background.
States require one to four years of professional experience in order to sit for this exam, plus a bachelor’s degree from a school approved by the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Some states may allow those without a degree to sit for the LARE after they have accrued a higher number of years of professional experience, and some states require even more testing at the state level, which focuses on climate, plants, soils, and other details that are particular to that state. Newly hired landscape designers are enlisted to apprentice or intern until they can qualify for licensing after one to four years of work experience.
Continuing education classes are often required to maintain a state landscape architecture license. Obtaining a national license can be useful for gaining a reciprocal license when moving from state to state; national licensure requires passing the LARE and working for three years under a licensed landscape architect. Students should verify their state's licensing requirements before enrolling in a landscape architecture degree program to ensure that their degree will qualify them for licensure.
People who earn degrees in landscape design or landscape architecture are responsible for the planning and implementation of space for public use. This space typically includes gardens, parks, and recreational areas—some of which may also be for private use, such as that of a particular university. These professionals work in conjunction with traditional building architects to discuss environmental concerns and other factors pertaining to the construction of landscape architecture.
Most landscape design programs will require students to complete an internship in which they work for a company with a licensed architect or landscape architect to gain supervised, hands-on work experience. In most instances, degree programs in landscaping design seek to involve students in actual landscaping projects, which may require them to work in a physical location and utilize various aspects of computer-aided drafting, video simulation, and geographic information systems.
The following courses are often part of the curriculum in a landscape design degree or certificate program:
- Computer Aided Drawing (CAD): Students will learn the fundamental and advanced skills needed to develop construction documents that incorporate layouts, grading, lighting, and planting plans.
- Environment and Natural Systems: Students will examine the methods used to design landscapes with regard to natural systems and elements, landscape ecology, and sustainability.
- History of Landscape Architecture: This course will allow students to explore the cultural relationships humans have had with landscapes, from ancient civilizations to the 20th century.
- Human Factors in Landscape Architecture: This course teaches students about the ways in which people interact with their outdoor environments and focuses on settings such as urban plazas and other pedestrian areas, using design to enhance privacy and safety, and the cultural and social aspects of outdoor spaces.
- Plants Form and Function: A combination of lecture, planting exercises, and research study will help students learn about the processes of conceptualizing, developing, and implementing plant designs.
Many landscape architects and designers are self-employed, though most will work under a licensed professional for a few years until they can meet the requirements to obtain their own license. Others may work in construction or for local government agencies managing and maintaining city park and urban center landscaping. Other settings that may also require the services of a landscape architect include golf courses, business parks, garden centers, college campuses, and housing developers. Here are some examples of specialty areas within the landscape architecture profession:
- Environmental Remediation: Landscape designers involved in environmental remediation work to reverse poor planning that has led to the destruction of natural resources. They may help re-establish wetlands or restore a site to its historical state.
- Feasibility and Planning: Landscape designers who focus in feasibility and planning consult on large projects to provide estimates of the costs involved or the environmental impact that certain developments might have.
- Public Landscape Architects: These professionals are employed by the government to help design and protect state and national parks, and to evaluate the environmental toll of public works projects.
- Regional Planning and Resource Management: These landscape architects specialize in evaluating the natural resources of an area in order to determine the best ways to protect those resources.
- Site Construction: The design and layout of a particular construction site is the realm of these landscape architects. They work with building engineers and architects to plan a landscape design around the building’s theme and intended use.
- American Society of Landscape Architects. Accessed May 9, 2014. http://www.asla.org/index.aspx.
- CLARB's Eligibility Requirements. Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards. Accessed May 27, 2014. https://www.clarb.org/Candidates/Pages/CLARBEligibilityReqs.aspx.
- Licensure. American Society of Landscape Architects. Accessed May 27, 2014. http://www.asla.org/licensure.aspx.
- Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Accessed May 28, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Architecture-and-Engineering/Landscape-architects.htm.