Landscape architects plan, design and advise on the construction of urban, rural, residential and public landscapes. They also manage and conserve natural or heritage landscapes and public open spaces.
Graduate landscape architects usually earn
$40K-$60K per year
Landscape architects with two to 10 years' experience usually earn
$45K-$90K per year
Source: NZ Institute of Landscape Architects, 2017.
Pay for landscape architects varies depending on skills and experience.
- Graduate landscape architects usually start on about $40,000 to 60,000 a year.
- After two to five years' experience they usually earn between $45,000 and $90,000.
- Senior landscape architects with five to 10 years' experience can earn $80,000 or more.
Landscape architects with more than 10 years experience and those who provide specialist services, such as representing clients in the Environment Court, may earn more than this.
Source: New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects, 2017.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Landscape architects may do some or all of the following:
- study sites to be developed
- develop plans, sketches and models, either by computer or hand drawn
- consult with the public about developments in their community
- work out costs for landscape projects
- develop tenders for construction projects, for example of housing and street developments, and urban parks
- oversee construction works
- advise clients on ways to restore and maintain outdoor areas
- arrange for people to construct outdoor areas
- provide landscape and visual assessments for resource consent applications.
Skills and knowledge
Landscape architects need to have:
- knowledge of design principles
- excellent design and planning skills, including drawing skills
- skill using computer-aided design (CAD) and desktop publishing software
- an understanding of how people interact with their surroundings
- knowledge of plants, water processes, soils and climate
- knowledge of different construction methods and materials.
- usually work regular business hours but may sometimes have to work weekends
- work in offices or studios and on site
- work in conditions that can be noisy and dirty.
What's the job really like?
"I flew to Australia recently, and when I filled in 'landscape architect' as my profession on the entrance card, the border control officer asked me if I had any of my tools of the trade with me – spades, or things like that. "That's how people tend to think of landscape architecture, as only being on the small scale, when actually it's quite broad and could encompass anything from designing people's back gardens to a master plan of a town centre."
How did you get started in landscape design?
"I initially worked for a large consultancy in Auckland for work experience while studying towards a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture at Lincoln University. I found it rewarding and meaningful work, and so I kept going back to work for them during the holidays. When I graduated in November 2008, I got a full-time job with them.
What does the work involve?
"It's essentially a computer-based job, where you might easily spend 70 to 80 percent of your time in front of a computer, using design software. I also spend some time resolving problems out on site.
"You need to develop the skill of bending around different people's understandings, and identifying what they need out of you, and how you communicate that."
Landscape architect video
May Jan MacIntyre talks about life as a landscape architect - 2:25 mins.
A typical work day for me always starts with a coffee, I normally check what’s going on for that day and see what projects I prioritise. I normally do landscape plans, anywhere from initial concept through to detailed design. I spend about 80% of my time in the office and roughly about 20% out on site. If it’s a small project, it might be okay to go on site and just see what’s happening and it’s mainly observation. For larger projects you would definitely make sure you’re engaging with a whole range of people. So we work with councils, landscape contractors, architects, planners, engineers, surveyors. If you go away and research and find out that the local iwi have a really significant stake in what’s going on, then we need to consult them and make sure they’re on board with what’s going on and talk to them about what they want as an outcome.
My journey to where I am now is sort of a bit crazy because I was a barista for a while, I worked full time and then I did computer science and I realised that wasn’t really for me. So I had a really good think about what it is that I enjoy doing not related to a job. And I realised I enjoy art and being creative, and I’m also quite logical, I do enjoy a bit of maths every now and again, and so I thought that is sort of architecture. And Landscape [architecture] is about assessing what the world is doing already, and I think it’s definitely more encompassing, it’s everything outside of a building.
It’s okay not to know what you want to do for the rest of your life, I would say definitely go out and explore loads and loads of options, talk to people, go beyond the careers advisors at school, and think about what it is that you like doing and what you’re passionate about. And don’t think about the job first, think about what you like doing first and then find the job later.
To become a landscape architect you need to have a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture or a Master of Landscape Architecture from one of three programmes accredited by the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architecture (NZILA), or a relevant overseas qualification.
- New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects website - information on how to become a landscape architect
A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training. Useful subjects include design and visual communication, digital technologies, education for sustainability, geography, physics, construction and mechanical technologies, and maths.
Landscape architects need to be:
- creative and innovative
- good communicators
- adaptable, with an eye for detail
- able to inspire confidence in clients
- able to work well under pressure.
Useful experience for landscape architects includes:
- draughting work
- work with plants and gardens
- building or landscape construction
- planning or having an understanding of the planning system
- design work or courses
- accounting, budgeting or costing projects.
Landscape architects have the option of being registered with the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects (NZILA). Graduates can enter a NZILA mentoring programme to become a registered landscape architect after two to three years of practical work experience and passing an oral examination.
- New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects website - information on landscape architect registration
Find out more about training
- New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects
- 0800 843 694 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.nzila.co.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
A buoyant economy means more opportunities for landscape architects
Over recent years, the number of landscape architects employed has remained relatively stable. The New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects has 600 members and 250 student members.
A buoyant economy and increased building activity (both residential and commercial) in Canterbury and Auckland, and to a lesser extent in other New Zealand regions, has contributed to a gradual increase in employment opportunities for landscape architects.
According to Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, employment growth of around 5% per year is expected in the landscape architect role until 2018, and 4% per year from 2018 to 2023.
Opportunities for landscape architecture graduates vary across the country. Some larger firms offer intern or graduate positions, and many self-employed landscape architects provide mentoring.
According to the Census, 984 landscape architects worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Increase your employment opportunities
You can increase your chances of finding work as a landscape architect by:
- keeping your course focus broad, which will widen future work opportunities
- knowing how to use landscape design software such as InDesign and CAD.
Types of employers varied
Many landscape architects are self-employed, while others work for:
- small private practices of typically less than five landscape architects
- multi-disciplinary consultancies that specialise in environmental design, planning, architecture or engineering
- local and central government agencies
- tertiary organisations.
- Bray, S, president, New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects, Careers Directorate - Tertiary Education Commission interview, July 2017.
- The New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects, membership database, 2017.
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
- Stats NZ, ‘Census of Population and Dwellings’, 2014 (www.stats.govt.nz).
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Landscape architects may progress to set up their own business, or move into management roles.
Landscape architects can specialise in a number of roles, including:
- Landscape Architectural Advisor
- Landscape architectural advisors give design advice to public service agencies and councils.
- Master Planner
- Master planners create new developments such as residential suburbs and redesigning urban environments to be more environmentally sustainable.
- Parks and Open Space Designer
- Parks and open space designers create gardens, parks, public streetscapes and playgrounds.
- Resource Management Specialist
- Resource management specialists prepare the information needed to meet council permissions for new urban and rural developments.
- Urban Landscape Designer
- Urban landscape designers create urban areas for both private and public use.
Last updated 16 September 2020