There are over 3,700 landscape architects registered in California. Follow this step-by-step guide and you can become a licensed professional, too.
Where to Start
California landscape architect licenses are issued by the state through the Landscape Architect Technical Committee (LATC). The LATC is primarliy interested in maintaining high standards for landscape architects in the state of California in order to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the general public. Follow the steps below, and you can be a licensed landscape architect, too.
Eligibility Requirements for a Landscape Architecture License in California
You must meet some basic eligibility requirements established by the California Department of Consumer Affairs Landscape Architect Technical Committee (LATC).
- Be at least 18 years of age at time of application.
- Graduate with a bachelors degree, masters degree, associate degree, or extension certificate in landscape architecture from an accredited landscape architecture program.
- Demonstrate six years of qualifying education and training experience in actual practice of landscape architecture as specified by the LATC. Don’t panic about the six years figure. You can meet the six year requirement in several ways. I’ll show you some different ways to meet the combined work and education experience requirements a little later.
First, we will discuss the state’s education requirements for licensure. You need to have some formal education in landscape architecture to apply for a landscape architect license in California. Unlike many other states, there are many different education paths you can take to become a licensed landscape architect.
- Bachelors (BLA or BSLA) or Masters Degree (MLA) in Landscape Architecture: Your accredited masters degree or bachelors degree is worth four years in the experience calculation. (Unaccredited bachelors degrees or masters degrees are only worth three years of experience.)
- Associates Degree (AA) in Landscape Architecture: California is on of the few states that will accept an associates degree in landscape architecture for experience credit. An associates degree in landscape architecture counts towards one year of experience.
- Extension Certificate in Landscape Architecture: If you only have an extension certificate in landscape architecture, you get credit for two years of experience. But if you have a four year degree in any subject other than landscape architecture and an extension certificate, you get four years of experience credit. An extension certificate and an associates degree in landscape architecture earns you three years of experience.
As you can see, there are several ways to satisfy the education requirement. Next, we will look at different ways to earn work experience credit in California.
Unless you have a masters or bachelors degree in landscape architecture and have been self-employed since graduation, you need to have at least one year of work experience under the direct supervision of a licensed landscape architect. Not all work experience is equal in the eyes of the California Landscape Architect Technical Committee (LATC). You can only count 1 year of experience if you worked in an architecture or engineering firm and were not directly supervised by a landscape architect. But if you worked for a licensed landscape contractor, you can count up to four years for experience.
I have put together some possible scenarios where you could combine education and work experience together to meet the six year requirement.
These examples hopefully will give you some idea of how you can combine your professional experience into a format that will qualify you for a landscape architecture license in California.
Scenario 1: Jack graduated with a bachelors degree in landscape architecture from an accredited university. He can count his accredited bachelors degree for four years of experience towards qualifying for the landscape architecture license exam in California. To get the other two years of experience in landscape architecture, Jack has many options. He can work for a landscape architect office for two years. Jack could open his own design business and work for two years as a self-employed garden designer. Or Jack could work for a landscape architect for 1 year and an architect or engineer for 1 year to get two years of experience. Any of these options would permit Jack to take the LARE and qualify for a landscape architect license in California.
Scenario 2: Grace discovered landscape architecture after graduating college. She enrolled in an accredited landscape architecture masters degree program and graduated. She can work for a landscape architect for two years, be a self-employed garden designer for two years, work for a landscape architect for one year and an engineer or architect for one year, or work for a landscape contractor for two years. Any of these experience and education combinations would meet the California landscape architecture experience and education requirements.
Scenario 3: Joseph wanted to be a landscape architect but couldn’t afford to spend four years in college. Instead, Joseph graduated from a community college with an associates degree in landscape architecture. An associates degree in landscape architecture only counts for one year of experience for California’s landscape architecture license requirements. Now, Joseph needs to find a way to meet five years of experience before he can take the LARE in California. Joseph could earn an extension certificate in landscape architecture from one of several colleges that offer extension certificate programs. An extension certificate added to Joseph’s associates degree in landscape architecture would count for three years of experience. Now, Joseph only needs three years of experience which he could get through working for a landscape architect, landscape contractor, or through self-employment as a garden designer. Otherwise, he would work for an architect or engineer office for one year and a licensed landscape architect or landscape contractor for 2 years. Even if Joseph never went back to school to earn an extension certificate, he could qualify for a landscape architecture license by working for himself for five years or working for a landscape contractor for four years and working for a landscape architect, architect, or engineer for a year. Joseph has many options to meet the education and experience requirements.
Scenario 4: Katharine graduated with a bachelors degree in an unrelated subject and decided at age 40 that she wanted to change careers and become a landscape architect. She has family commitments that would make a graduate degree in landscape architecture impractical. Instead, she chooses to get a university extension certificate in landscape architecture. Katharine’s bachelors degree combined with an extension certificate in landscape architecture are worth four years of experience credit. She can earn the remaining two years of experience by working for a landscape architect for two years, working for an architect or engineer for one year and a landscape architect for one year, working for a landscape contractor for two years, or by being a self-employed garden designer for two years. There are many ways Katharine can satisfy the education and experience requirements for a landscape architecture license in California.
As you can see, there are several ways to meet the experience requirement.
Apply For California Eligibility
If you meet all of the eligibility requirements listed above, the next step is to apply for eligibility to the California Landscape Architect Technical Committee (LATC). Download the application form from the LATC website and fill it out. The application fee for eligibility is only $35 (check or money-order). In addition to the application, you will need to have your college or university send official transcripts to the LATC. This can take some time and a little cash to get completed. In addition to transcripts, you will need to have former employers verify your work experience in order to qualify for the exam. Download the experience forms from the LATC website.
You need to apply at least 70 days before the exam date for the LARE to give the committee time to process your application.
Once your application of eligibility is approved, California will send you an eligibility number that you use to register for the LARE with the Council of Landscape Architect Registration Boards (CLARB). CLARB is authorized by the state of California to administer LARE in California.
Register for the LARE with CLARB
After California’s LATC determines that you are eligible to take the LARE, set up an account on the CLARB website and register for the LARE exam. There are five sections of the LARE (three multiple-choice and two graphic vignette sections). Each section is offered twice a year. The multiple-choice sections (Section A, Section B, and Section D) are offered in the spring and fall. Sections C and E are graphic vignette sections and are offered only in December and June.
Study for the LARE and Pass All Section
Prepare for the LARE by studying the books listed in CLARB’s recommended reading list, attend a LARE exam preparation workshop, or use practice exams to get ready to pass the exam. Passing rates on some sections are pretty high while others (like Section C and Section E are dismally low). Check out this article on LARE passing rates for more information.
Pass the California Supplemental Exam for Landscape Architects
After you pass the LARE, you can apply to take the California Supplemental Exam (CSE). California is a unique place with unusual climate, topography, and environmental conditions compared to the rest of the United States. The California Supplemental Exam (CSE) tests landscape architect license candidates’ knowledge on topics specific to practicing landscape architecture in California. The CSE is offered at several places throughout California. Check the LATC website for registration information on the supplemental exam.
Get Your License
Once you have completed all of the eligibility requirements and passed the LARE and CSE for landscape architects, you can get your landscape architecture license. The Landscape Architect Technical Committee will notify you when you meet all requirements and are eligible for a landscape license in California.
Words of Encouragement
It is far from impossible to become a landscape architect in California. If you have the education, work experience, and study a little for the LARE and CSE, you can get a landscape architect license in California. Many others have already walked this path; you can do it, too.