Landscape Architects vs. Landscape Designers

What’s The Difference?

Ever hear the terms landscape architect or designer and wonder: What’s the difference? While they’re often used interchangeably, the truth is more complex. The biggest distinction is that the former hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in their field and must achieve licensure from the state. They tend to work on major projects that include significant hardscapes, engineering challenges, and integrating architecture—think the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ elaborate terraces, sculpture gardens and water features—while designers may be self-taught and typically focus more on the residential soft stuff. 

Oakencroft Center. Photo by Ansel Olson

There are a lot of overlapping skill sets but, simply put, a landscape architect can be a designer, but a designer can’t be a landscape architect, explains landscape architect and Waterstreet Studio principal, Jill Nolt. Her team includes both and boasts a portfolio filled with complex, multifaceted jobs like the University of Virginia’s Darden Inn Arboretum & Botanical Gardens and Oakencroft Farm & Winery, also in Charlottesville. 

Waterstreet’s shoreline restoration at The Tides Inn. Photo courtesy of The Tides Inn

This article originally appeared in the Best of Virginia 2024 issue.

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