The quick response is that landscape architecture is a licensed profession administered by the State or Province and regulated by a central registration body in Washington DC. (CLARB, the Council for Landscape Architectural Registration Board) Anybody overnight can call themselves a landscape designer.
The word (Landscape) Architect in most States and Provinces including WA falls under an Act or WAC where those licensed are required to abide by the following laws (typically):
- To uphold public health, safety and welfare as it relates to the professional practice of landscape architecture in your region.
- To nurture and further the professional application of landscape architectural knowledge and technique as it relates to the planning, design,development, preservation, protection, restoration, reclamation, enhancement and management of the environment.
- To further and maintain proper standards of professional landscape architectural practice.
- To complete annual continuing education requirements_ a number of education and training credits taken in Landscape Architecture or in related fields.
- Landscape Architecture is a broad based profession requiring many skills and diverse knowledge.
To become a landscape architect you are required to accomplish the following:
- Pass an accredited B.L.A. program (typically 5 years)
- Or have a related degree (earth sciences for instance), make up some undergrad BLA courses and pass the M.L.A. _ masters program.
- Complete a three year (min.) professional practice log having fulfilled a minimum period of certain tasks.
- Pass the L.A.R.E. registration exams _ a series of five or six exams you sit for at certain times in the year (typically). These take a minimum of a year and a half.
- Pass the (national/ state) review boards and in some States a licensing exam
The time it takes to meet all the requirements from A to Z varies but typically it takes about nine to ten years. However the national and state/provincial requirements and/or laws are constantly changing hence to become a practicing professional may be shorter than expected. At least the current trends are to simplify and reduce the requirements.
Many landscape designers are self-taught after having read and worked in the landscape business. Knowledge is picked up in nurseries, community colleges, workshops, master-gardener programs and so forth. Typically the landscape designer is focused on residential garden design and therefore often have an expertise in horticulture and local plant materials_ native and/or ornamental. Most landscape architects (but limited to) have a wider repertoire and consequently offer a wider range of skills and expertise from planning, project management, and design at various scales/size. That is not to say that some L.A.’s choose to have a career solely in residential design.