Architects and landscape designers, also known as landscape architects, work with residential, commercial and public property to design indoor and outdoor spaces that are functional and beautiful. Education is the key to entering landscape design and architecture careers, and online degree programs can offer computer skills and experience for these aspiring professionals.
Because most states license architects, formal education is a requirement for the career. There are two common educational paths to a career in architecture:
- Bachelor's degree: This specialized five-year degree is designed for students with no previous architecture training. Students typically commit to one program because transferring credit across architecture programs is often difficult. After graduation, a three-year training period is typically required before a licensing exam.
- Master's degree: For those who have a bachelor's degree in an unrelated field, the architecture master's degree is designed to offer the training needed. Programs can last anywhere between one and five years, depending on the student's previous training. As with the bachelor's degree, a three-year training period is required for master's degree graduates before licensing.
About 87,700 architects were employed in the U.S. in 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. Architects earned mean annual wages of $78,530 that same year, according to the BLS. Those working for the federal government enjoyed some of the highest salaries, earning $88,980 in 2010. Career opportunities for architects are projected to increase by 16 percent between 2008 and 2018, as 22,900 new jobs enter the industry. However, keen competition means that even licensed architects should keep up with relevant industry advances like eco-friendly design.
Landscaping design programs blend technical training--such as computer-aided design or CAD--with relevant knowledge like environmental design and urban planning. There are two main paths within landscape architecture training:
- Bachelor's degree: The Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture, or BSLA, and the Bachelor of Landscape Architecture, or BLA, offer similar options to students. Degrees are generally completed in four to five years of full-time study.
- Master's degree: The Master of Landscape Architecture, or MLA, requires about three years of full-time study, though students with a landscape architecture bachelor's degree can complete the training in two years.
The BLS reports that landscape designers actually spend much of their time indoors, creating plans, preparing cost estimates and conducting research. BLS data shows that landscape architects earned mean annual wages of $66,880 in 2010, and employment growth of about 20 percent is projected between 2008 and 2018, with 5,300 new jobs in the industry.
Computer-aided design is an important part of architecture and landscaping design careers. Online education can help students take advantage of software like Autodesk AutoCAD, sharing designs with peers and professors across the country. When students in e-learning programs work with CAD programs, they enjoy hands-on training and online convenience.
Working with distance learning tools can prepare architecture and landscape design students for the increasingly high-tech field. A 2010 article presented at the Education Technology and Computer Science International Workshop noted: "the application of computer[s] in architecture can not only enrich the means of communication and calculation, but also widen the architecture vision."
- Employment: About 21 percent of architects and landscape architects are self-employed, higher than the average for all occupations.
- Licensure: Aspiring landscape architects must pass the Landscape Architect Registration Exam, while architects must pass all divisions within the Architect Registration Examination.
- Optional: Additional training in urban planning and eco-friendly planning and design are recommended in competitive career areas.