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landscape architect; So you want to be a...

LANDSCAPE architects, sometimes known as landscape designers, are responsible for designing, planning, creating and managing landscapes in a variety of settings - both urban and rural.

Projects could include public parks, woodland or other habitats and areas around public buildings. Assignments may also include working on reclaimed industrial sites, new roads and motorways or on city housing estates.

Work begins by liaising with the client and identifying their requirements. A site survey would be undertaken to evaluate existing flora, fauna and natural resources. The survey may include the views of local residents, businesses and other people who use the site.

Landscape architects may co-ordinate their plans with other professionals working on a project, such as architects, civil engineers and town planners.

Using computer-aided design (CAD) packages, several plans with alternative options may be drawn up for a client to choose from. Options may differ in relation to the types of plants and materials being considered, layouts and costings. A lot of work goes into drawing up plans, writing reports and making environmental impact assessments.

On some projects, presentations to clients and others who may be affected, will be required. Giving evidence to a public inquiry may also be necessary.

Landscape architects will have responsibility for monitoring a project as it progresses. They may also have to draw up contracts and oversee the tendering process for contractors doing the work.

HOURS AND ENVIRONMENT Landscape architects normally work a 37-hour, five-day week, but the hours can be irregular. They will have to work overtime to meet project deadlines. Landscape architects spend around three-quarters of their time in offices, either at a desk or in meetings with other professionals and the public.

Protective clothing may be necessary when working on-site.

Many jobs involve travelling extensively..

SKILLS AND INTERESTS To work as a landscape architect you need: Creative flair, to be able to draw, by hand and using computers; Good communication skills ( written and spoken); Enthusiasm for conservation and environmental issues; Good observation skills and an eye for detail; Good knowledge of the conditions for plants and wildlife to flourish; Good practical skills and scientific understanding; good negotiating skills; and to be able towork as part of a team or on your own initiative Computer skills.

ENTRY You need either a first degree in landscape architecture or a postgraduate qualification after taking a degree in a related subject.

For a first degree course you will need at least five GCSEs (A-C)/S grades (1-3), including English and maths, and two A-levels/three H grades, or equivalent qualifications.

Useful A-level/H grade subjects include art, biology, botany, design, environmental studies and geography.

For details of qualification equivalents see: Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (England, Wales and Northern Ireland), Scottish Qualifications Authority. An Access to Higher Education qualification may also be accepted for entry to certain courses.

If experienced in a related field, you may be able to gain recognition of skills through Accredited Prior Learning (APL). Please check with colleges or universities for exact entry requirements.

For a postgraduate course you need a good first degree, usually in a related subject such as planning, geography, architecture, biology or horticulture. Some relevant practical experience is useful.

You can study full or part time.

A driving licence is often required.

TRAINING Subjects which are likely to be covered in a landscape architecture degree, include: geology, horticulture, botany, architecture, building construction, planning law, surveying, site assessment and techniques of earth moving.

You can get more details of accredited courses from the Landscape Institute (LI).

You can become a member of the Landscape Institute (MLI), which is the recognised professional qualification for chartered landscape architects. To gain this qualification, you first have to get associate membership. To do this, you must take an accredited first degree or postgraduate course and have at least two years' practical experience.

Following this, you must then pass the Landscape Institute's professional practice exam.

You must submit a practical training record, which should outline at least two years' supervised work experience. The exam consists of a written paper and an oral. If you have five years' relevant experience, you can submit a detailed CV and self-assessment essay of your practical work experience instead of the practical training record. You must still sit the exam and oral.

The Landscape Institute encourages continuing professional development (CPD), and members are encouraged to keep record sheets and to attend conferences and training events.

There are NVQs/SVQs at levels 2 and 3 in environmental conservation, amenity horticulture and constructing and restoring landscapes, and at level 3 in designing and specifying land designs.

NVQs in amenity horticulture, designing landscapes and planning their management, are available at level 4.

There is also a vocational A-level in land and environment..

OPPORTUNITIES Around half of landscape architects work in private practice - companies are often small and may specialise in certain types of landscapes. They also work with local authorities, large corporations, the construction industry, government agencies and voluntary organisations.

There is a clear career path in local government. In other organisations, it is often necessary to move to gain managerial responsibility and to broaden experience. In private practice they may progress to become a partner or set up their own practice.

There is also scope for self-employment, teaching and lecturing.

ANNUAL INCOME New graduates start at around pounds 16,000 a year. Experienced, qualified landscape architects can earn more than pounds 25,000..
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 17, 2009
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