Job: Landscape architect
Role: Unlike landscapers, with whom they are often confused, landscape architects don't actually put plants or hard landscaping materials into the ground. They are instead involved at the planning level, working with city planners, engineers, private property owners and a variety of government departments to collaborate on projects ranging from developing city parks and roads to flood-water mitigation planning to green space and environmental policy development.
"We're working at a very high planning level, developing where green spaces are going to be, where trail networks are happening, considering environmental issues and opportunities, storm water management – we have our fingers in a whole bunch of different pies," says Carol Craig, president of the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects. "Once a piece of land has been designated as a park or a street, we go in and help do the design of that particular element, then we get it approved by municipalities, then we tender it out to contractors."
Salary: Landscape architects enjoy a higher-than-average starting salary. Even during the two- to four-year internship period, which most provincial associations require, salaries start between $40,000 and $60,000 thousand a year, depending on the employer and geographical location.
"Mid-range is $80,000 to $100,000 a year, and I'm guessing that's maybe seven to 10 years [into one's career], and then you'd move slowly from $100,000 to $140,000. Depending on the person and where they are working, that will take another five to 10 years," Ms. Craig says. "People who are earning $140,000 per year are in the 20 to 30 years of practice range."
By the numbers: According to Service Canada, the average income for landscape architects in 2011 was $46,952, with 60 per cent earning between $20,000 and $49,999 annually, and 32.5 per cent earning above $50,000. The vast majority (96.8 per cent) of landscape architects have earned a bachelor's degree, work full-time (92.3 per cent) and are between the ages of 25 and 44 (68.3 per cent). There were fewer than 1,500 landscape architects employed in Canada in 2011, with men comprising just over half the sector, at 52.4 per cent.
Education: In order to become a landscape architect, students need to earn a degree in landscape architecture. There are two landscape architecture undergraduate programs offered in Canada. One is a BA at the University of Guelph, the other is a BLA (BAP) degree program at Université de Montréal. There are also a number of masters programs provided by the University of Guelph, the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia and the University of Manitoba.
Canadian landscape architects, however, can earn their degree in the United States, which has a reciprocity agreement for bringing training across the border in that industry.
"Our schools can only take a limited number of students at a time. It's a very rigorous program with a small ratio of students to staff," says Ms. Craig, adding that training doesn't end with the completion of the program. "We have component associations, and they look after each province or territory, and so you would have to join that association and do an internship in most provinces under a practising landscape architect and get a variety of different experiences [before becoming a full member]."
Job prospects: In spite of the higher-than-average salary, limited school capacity and a lack of awareness of the role have left the industry with a talent shortage. "We are short of landscape architects in Canada," Ms. Craig says.
Challenges: Since landscape architects work closely with a wide variety of public and private organizations, Ms. Craig says they need to "speak the language of a lot of different disciplines," and pleasing all stakeholders often proves challenging.
"There's a negotiation that has to go on, and a lot of discussion, and different departments have different requirements," she says. "Transportation wants to have a tree a certain distance off of a curb because they're talking about transit lines, and then operations and maintenance want the tree at a difference distance because they're talking about snow removal, and then the water people want it a different distance because they don't want tree roots within a certain proximity of their water line, so there's all those pieces you're trying to pull together."
Why they do it: Ms. Craig says that landscape architects enjoy seeing their hard work come to life, while collaborating with a variety of stakeholders and partners.
"Landscape architects make a difference. We're here to create the best places for people and for the environment," she says. "We get to see a very broad perspective of the project, and that's something we're trained to do, to look at the very high level and narrow in on the details. That variety of scale is exciting."
Misconceptions: Many people confuse landscape architects with landscapers or architects, Ms. Craig says.
"Most people think we do planting plans – a plan of where the trees go and where the shrubs go," she said. "They think we're purely a plantsman, and we are not, we are exterior spatial experts and we look a much bigger picture than where a tree is located in a park."
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Editors's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated there is only one undergraduate program in landscape architecture in Canada. This version has been updated.