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Salaries & Prospects: Landscape Architects, Architects, & Urban Planners

Statistics and trends for the professions that design our world

September 19, 2018

A pink-haired young woman leans over architectural and landscape drawings at standing desk
Architects, landscape architects, and urban planners together design human environments.

To those outside the field, the overlapping job descriptions of architects, designers, and planners can be confusing. These creative professionals share many concerns: client and site needs, available resources, user experience, environmental impact, and engineering considerations. They are all demanding careers that require vision and inspiration be balanced with pragmatic, practical concerns. For professionals and curious outsiders, we’ve put together a review of the available data on the impact of the careers of landscape architects, architects, and urban and regional planners, using May 2017 stats from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job Statistics for Landscape Architects

Landscape architects design outdoor spaces. The landscape designer is both an artist and scientist because their work requires they take a holistic, multi-pronged approach. To create a site design that serves its intended use, the landscape architect must respect human experience, safety, ecology, climate, and sustainability. In consultation with clients, engineers, architects, and urban planners, they create outdoor areas with softscape (soil, plants, trees) and hardscape (concrete, stones, pavers, site furnishings). The US Bureau of Labor Statistics recognizes Golf Course Architect, Golf Course Designer, Landscape Designer, and Landscape Architect as job titles in this category.

Where are landscape architects working?

Map of US showing the most landscape architects per 1000 workers in WA, OR, CO, WY, AC, FL, VA, MA, CT and HI
Nationally, there is one landscape architect for every 9174 workers.

Landscape architecture, by the numbers

  • Median landscape architect salary, 2017, National: $65,760
  • Best paid states for landscape architecture, 2017:
    • District of Columbia: $94,800
    • California: $83,830
    • Connecticut: $77,150
  • Lowest paid states for landscape architecture, 2017:
    • Louisiana: $38,420
    • Nebraska: $42,390
    • Iowa: $48,390

Interesting municipalities:

  • Hilton Head Island in South Carolina has a great number of landscape architects relative to population, with one in every 1510 workers. The median wage of landscape architects in Hilton Head is $57,460.
  • The top median wages for landscape architects are in:
    • San Luis, CA: $114,180
    • Asheville, NC: $106,550—in the 17th best paying state
    • San Francisco, CA: $95850
  • The lowest wages are in:
    • Albuquerque, NM: $30,750
    • Baton Rouge, LA: $30,970
    • Tampa, FL: $34,470—yet the state has a median wage of $58,000, and Daytona Beach, FL, pays a median wage of $76,210!

Job Statistics for Architects

Architecture is the art of building design, the creation of spaces and structures that are aesthetically beautiful and functional within the bounds of what can be engineered. Architects design new buildings, both inside and out, as well as work on the preservation or retrofitting of older ones. Working in conjunction with clients, planners, engineers, and construction teams, architects can either oversee construction projects from inspiration to completion or be hired into a team by a planner of another profession. Like landscape architects and urban planners, architects must build safety, user experience, intended use, sustainability, and ecological friendliness into their designs. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics includes several job titles in the architectural career category, including Building Architect, Building Architectural Designer, and Structural Architect.

Where are architects working?

Map of US showing the most architects per 1000 workers in WA, OR, CA, MT, CO, IL, NY, MA, MD, HI and DC
Nationally, there is one architect for every 1493 workers.

Architecture, by the numbers

  • Median architect salary, 2017, National: $65,760
  • Best paid states for architecture, 2017:
    • Arizona: $90,240
    • Georgia: $89,200
    • California: $88,780
  • Lowest paid states for architecture, 2017:
    • Montana: $61,300
    • Colorado: $63,570
    • Utah: $63,780

Interesting municipalities:

  • Washington, DC features 1 architect for every 358 workers. Its median wage is 15th on the list, so market saturation is not driving salaries down.
  • Colorado has a very high number of architects both in Boulder (1 in 439 workers) and in the non-metropolitan area of NW Colorado (1 in 330 workers). The median wages there are lower than the national average, at $57,920 and $57,650 respectively.
  • Architects tend to work in large urban areas. The top metropolitan areas for architects as a proportion of the population are:
    • Washington, DC
    • San Francisco, CA
    • Boulder, CO
    • Missoula, MT
    • Charlottesville, VA
    • Seattle, WA

Job Statistics for Regional and Urban Planners

Planners take a regional or city-wide view of design and planning, rather than focusing on a site-specific one. They will often be part of the team that reaches out to architects and landscape designers for site plans. A city or county planner take a development view to their work, looking to influence the overall environment over years or decades, including the construction of infrastructure to address economic, environmental, and social needs. Urban planners look at demographics and growth trends, as well as trying to envision a positive future for a city, and recommend where schools, roads, bike lanes, transit lines, and other major infrastructure projects should be placed. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics include the job titles City Planner, Community Development Planner, Regional Planner, and Urban Planner in this designation.

Where are urban and regional planners working?

Map of US showing the most urban planners per 1000 workers in WA, OR, CA, ID, AK, HI, WY, SD, MN, MD, DC, MY, RI, and VT
Nationally, there is one urban planner for every 3571 workers.

Regional and urban planning, by the numbers

  • Median urban planner salary, 2017, National: $71,490
  • Best paid states for urban planning, 2017:
    • Washington, DC: $97,970
    • California: $85,410
    • Nevada: $83,500
  • Lowest paid states for urban planning, 2017:
    • West Virginia: $48,110
    • Vermont: $48,960
    • Kentucky: $49,270

Interesting municipalities:

  • Olympia, WA has the greatest density of urban planners in the US, at one planner for every 272 workers. Their median salary is $74,340.
  • San Francisco-Redwood City has the highest median urban planning salary at $104,670.
  • In fact, the highest median salaries are all in California: San Francisco, San Jose, Napa, Santa Maria/Santa Barbara, Anaheim, Vallejo, Santa Rosa, and Los Angeles.
  • The trend appears to be that smaller populations have a greater proportion of urban or regional planners.

chart showing lower population areas in California have higher number of planners as share of labor force

  • Detroit is worse off than any of these cities. At a metropolitan population of 4,296,250 it has only one urban planner in every 13,335 positions. Further, planners in Detroit have a median wage of $57,430 per year.

Mutual dependence and regional variations

Urban and regional planners, architects, and landscape architects all work together in various ways to design and implement large, visionary projects. Looking at the working populations state by state gives a sense of the planning field in that area.

States that love all the planning professions

Four states fall into our top categories design and planning professions.

  • Washington
    • 1st in Landscape Architecture jobs
    • 3rd in Urban Planning jobs
    • 4th in Architectural jobs
  • Hawaii
    • 2nd in Urban Planning jobs
    • 6th in Architectural jobs
    • 11th in Landscape Architecture jobs
  • Oregon
    • 3rd in Landscape Architecture jobs
    • 8th in Urban Planning jobs
    • 10th in Architectural jobs
  • Massachusetts
    • 2nd in Landscape Architecture jobs
    • 9th in Architectural jobs
    • 12th in Urban Planning jobs

Some states show an inverse relationship between LA and UP

In every state there are more architects (excluding naval and landscape architects) than either landscape architects or urban planners. However, the last two categories appear to have some fluidity. In some places, landscape architects set up as site planning firms, and even be the ones hiring out architects and engineers.

This may explain why some of the States with the most planners have fewer landscape architects. Vermont, for example, has the greatest number of planners listed per 1000 jobs—there are 8 urban planning jobs in every 10,000 positions—but Vermont is one of the states whose landscape architect share of the labor force is too small for labor stats to count.

In fact, 7/8 of the states without usable landscape architecture labor statistics also fall in the top third of our urban-planning friendly states. These are: Vermont, New Mexico, Alaska, Dakota, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Montana.

Ratios between the professions

The average ratio of landscape architects to architects is 1:6 throughout the US, and ratio of urban planners to architects is 1:3. However, there are a few standouts.

  • Landscape Architects : Architects
    • On the high end, Wyoming is 3:5.
    • On the low end, New Mexico is 1:44. t’s not just the dry weather, since Arizona’s ratio is 1:2. However, as noted, New Mexico is one of the states that has many planners and few LAs in the data.
  • Urban Planners : Architects
    • Idaho has a ratio of 1:1
    • Arkansas has a ratio of 1:9

Projected job prospects for architects and planners, 2016-2026

Urban planning is the top growing profession, but architects still make up the largest group of professionals in this sector.

chart showing 13% projected growth in urban planning employment, 6% growth in landscape architecture employment, and 4% growth in architecture employment between the years 2016-2026

Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 survey, with supplemental data provided by the state licensing offices of Rhode Island, Montana, Vermont, New Mexico, Alaska, Delaware, South Dakota, and Mississippi.

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