Landscaping Schools for the Professional Landscape Architect and Designer

There is a growing demand for people with a formal training in landscape design and a number of colleges are now offering full or part time degree courses to satisfy this demand.

Many of these degree courses are tailored to the needs of the student who wants a professional career in the design of urban landscapes, working together with architects and engineers to landscape new buildings, motorways, and other developments.

The landscape designer or landscape architectLandscape Architecture Schools may be involved in the planning of large scale building projects as well as the design of public parks, sports stadiums and playing fields. Any new development, such as the building of a retail park or a housing scheme, will require the services of a firm of landscape designers, both at the planning and execution stages. They will also be involved in the subsequent maintenance of the design. Growing transport links now require, to an increasing degree, the employment of landscape designers. Under modern planning requirements a major road or rail network has to blend into the landscape and local residents in the areas affected must be protected from excessive noise and pollution. This is all part of the professional landscape designer's work.

The aspiring landscape designer follows a course leading to a professional qualification, normally a degree such as a BTec (Bachelor of Technology) in the UK or a BLA (Bachelor of Landscape Architecture) in North America. These courses are full-time courses and will last from two to four years.

In the USA there are over 60 BLA programs. In Canada landscape architecture is more often studied as a postgraduate degree, with programs in British Columbia, Montreal, Toronto and Manitoba.

Funding available for these courses varies from country to country. In Canada a degree course in landscape design will cost something in the region of between $2000 and $3000 for each semester. In the UK, they currently cost about £1000 a year, although this is now likely to increase sharply. In Canada, and in the UK except for Scotland, students may get interest free government loans to cover their fees. They may also be able to obtain sponsorship from a firm of landscape designers if they show promise. In Scotland, fees are paid for Scottish students by the Scottish government.

Although horticulture is usually a part of these courses, and many of them will include short courses on plant identification, they are not designed for gardeners. A number of them will have a stronger emphasis on horticulture or arboriculture but in general students entering landscape design courses often have some talent in art and design, a strong ability to draw plans and to envisage these in 3-dimensional forms and a strong interest in modern architecture, rather than a strong interest in gardening.

A degree program in landscape design will cover the following subjects -

Technical drawing
Computer imaging
Landscaping materials
Geographical information systems
Site evaluation
Legal requirements
Employment law
Landscape management
Site safety
Landscaping machinery
Urban planning

As part of the degree in some colleges students are required to spend a term, usually in their final year, working as an intern with a firm of landscape designers. Many employers very much prefer graduates who have had this experience.

Graduate landscape architects or designers can expect to rise to decision-making positions in urban planning and design.

There are, however, diploma courses available, designed for those who will be involved in the more practical aspects of landscape design. These are normally full time one or two year courses leading to a recognised diploma, such as the HND (Higher National Diploma) in the UK. The entry requirements are less stringent than for a degree course and government funding is available in many cases.

The subjects studied on these courses include:

Technical drawing
Health and safety
Hard landscaping
Soft landscaping
Costing and estimating
Surveying and levelling
Planning and design
Teamwork and communication skills
Plant science
Soil science
Ecology and conservation
Recreational land use
Turf culture

Such courses are much more practical than the degree courses. Students are expected to take part in a practical project and most of the course involves hands-on learning. Once the students have gained their diploma they can expect to gain employment as, for example, suburban park wardens, amenity wardens, recreational ground managers, conservation officers or access managers.