|WHOA! :D I'm SO SO glad I found this group! What interesting posts everyone is making and what a vast amount of information to read! :) This website will keep me amused for a loooooong time to come!
Anyways, I am interested in becoming an LA. I'm 25 and live in Central Florida. For weeks now, I've been looking for a group of LAs and LDs and such to talk with. I've joined online mailing lists, emailed LAs privately, asked questions on Yahoo! Answers, yet so far, I've received no response. I think it is very important that I talk with other LAs before deciding to plop down the funds for college. :) However, like all potential-to-be LAs, I have a few concerns.
Anyways, I currently do part-time medical transcription work and also run my own business (very small) as a digital concept artist/illustrator. I'm already a master with Photoshop and excited to learn CAD programs. I've been drawing now for 11 years and it is just one of the favorite aspects of my life. The other favorite aspect is dealing with clients on a daily basis. I absolutely love talking with a new client and hearing what he/she is desiring in a painting and then creating their vision for them. It is not only exciting for them, but exciting for me once they see and love the end result. I'm a very creative individual, and other than the art that I do, I'm incredibly bored with my life and it is time for a change. I do not make enough money with my art to pay my bills and medical transcription offers me no challenge at all, so I can barely stand to get up and do it everyday.
I've been looking for a career in which I could use my creativity, work with a team, and be given a problem and have to find the solution. One day, I was remembering how my cousin's wife is a landscape architect (although, I refuse to contact her due to crazy family-related issues... I moved out of state for a reason lol), and I had that "ah-ha!" moment. I immediately began researching and reading as much as I possibly could about the field and I began to fall in love the with idea of the job. I also am a huge nature nut and I view the outdoors as the best room of the house. The yard should not only be a beautiful view to look at, but a fun, interactive room for the whole family. Or, in a business sense, a comforting retreat during a hard day or curb appeal to help attract customers to your business. I would love to be able to offer that to someone, whether it be a family in a new home or a huge corporation needing landscaping services done. I also love the fact that I get to be helping and restoring the environment, which is something I am passionate about. I'm incredibly easy to get along with, and while I do prefer to work by myself, I can also work in a team very well and I think it is so fun to combine thoughts and feed off of each other's ideas. If I am able to work at home sometimes while creating the design, that's even better, as spending the past 3 years working at home has spoiled me. ;) However, if I do not get that option for awhile, if at all, that is fine, as long as the job offers me something different everyday, challenges me, and keeps me on my toes. I'm used to working 7-day weeks to meet deadlines, and while I am a very relaxed person, I do find that rather thrilling to try to meet the deadline. The finished result is always worth it.
Wow, it sounds like I am sending you guys my resume. lol However, the above statements make me think that I may have found my dream career. I'm not looking to get rich, I just want to be comfortable and happy and help make others happy. Still, the part I am lacking is the confidence, but that will come in time once I jump in and do it. Also, I'm *horrible* with math, and that part scares me. However, there is a very good chance that I am actually good at math (I actually talked to my dad today about the math fears I have and he explained algebra to me... I understood it on the first try! *does a little dance*), but I had horrible math teachers in high school. In my Junior year, I had a great math teacher and I got all A's, but still.... math terrifies me. :) In viewing college courses and requirements, it says I have to take calculus! I about nearly fainted when I saw that. Do LAs have to use calculus all the time? Basic math is fine... but calculus? Oh well, no use in letting that stop me. I'll learn it somehow! So, now I am at the point when I would love to discover this field through other's eyes and hear the nitty gritty other than read the redundant information about LA that is on Google.
I just called a friend to screech in her ear about how I found a group of over LAs and LDs to talk with. I'm absolutely obsessed with this career and what it may offer me and the chance to speak with you all is thrilling. As I read some great advice on this forum from another post, I am going to shadow some LAs for a day, if possible. :) I do agree that shadowing an LA would not only give me insight into the field which I am craving, but also build contacts. As a businesswoman myself, I understand the necessity for networking. :)
Anyways, I'll shut up now. I'm a chatterbox when I get excited! Thank you all! :)
|You must enjoy plant material and know how to use it. A college classmate who got his master's taught at a school close to you was frustrated by the laziness of students, so he quit and went back to private practice. Another classmate is dean at a university in the Midwest. The Florida classmate did some biggy projects in the Caribbean and clients can be finicky and slow pays, but if you are working for someone that won't be your problem. You could be bored by the pace since you are self-employed because most kids who attend college never held a fulltime job and need to be prodded. There are a lot of courses that you will have to take that have no reflection to the field. It is an exciting field but most people don't have a clue what a L.A. capabilities are besides mowing lawns and pulling weeds. Large cities don't have a clue either because they hire polly sci majors to do design. At universities that offer BLA's it's a 5 year course. Think carefully before committing when you could work for a garden center and practice landscape design and learn plant materail because as I said most people don't have a clue what a L.A. does. Reality not trying to burst your bubble.|
Here is a link that might be useful: Propagating Perennials
|Hey! Thanks for the reply! :) |
I definitely do enjoy plant material. Yeah, I understand that about clients being finicky. I work with clients on a different medium, but they are picky, nonetheless. I do want to work for a LA firm, both because I'm honestly tired of the self-employeed thing and I also like working with a team. I hope you aren't saying that I'm a kid who never held a full-time job. ;) Or are you saying that my classmates might be those kids and be slower than I? I definitely am a get-it-done kind of person, but I am also patient. As for the college, I imagine I would be attending USF and it is 5 years for MLA. Then there is the whole internship thing afterwards.
Then can you tell me what LA does? That is why I joined the forum. Obviously, LA is more than working at a garden center or pulling weeds, however, working at a garden center would be great while I was attending college. I know the basics of what LA is. Again, I've been researching it extensively, but I'm at the point where I'd like to speak with other LAs and get a better inside look at the field than read the exact same thing over and over on Google.
Thanks so much for the link, as well. :) I'll definitely check that out.
Go to this blog, Garden Porn and spend some time looking at all the posts to get an idea of the projects a LA does.
I would say the main difference between a landscape designer and a landscape architect is that the LA deals with a lot of the underlying infrastructure beneath and around a landscape, drainage, engineering, the hardscape and hopefully works with the architect of new larger buildings so the landscape and building work as a whole functioning system.
|What does an LA do? |
Well, I'm one and I can tell you what I do, but that would not begin to explain it. It is a misunderstood field because it is an extremely diverse field. It is both diverse in terms of what one individual LA might do through the course of a day, or a week, or a career. But it is also very diverse in the various branches and niches within the profession itself. Sometimes people know exactly what direction they want to take it in and others get into areas that they never thought they would.
The first assumption is that the profession is largely garden design. It is not. Garden design can be part of a lot of the profession, but some LAs don't deal with plants at all. The strength of the profession is planning whether it is planning how to use a residential property, or an entire site plan (not just landscape) for a 700 unit housing complex, or a wilderness area.
In the case of a residence, much of the use is aesthetic and garden design is part of how you would achieve a successful design. It will be the part of the planning that people notice, but usually it is doing much more than acting like a painting on a wall.
If you are most interested in residential garden design and not so interested much in planning and site engineering, the five years of school and two years of internship might be more of an investment in time and money than you will recover in greater income. You will not get 5 years of garden design. Most likely, you will have a year or two of plants and planting design that might meet twice a week for a couple of hours (partly in the field). Compare that to 9 hours a week in in design studio working on site plans for three or four years, a semester of grading and drainage, a semester each of construction details, landscape architecture history, professional office practice, a year of landscape graphics, computer applications in landscape architecture, ...
Add to that about four semesters of art, creative process, and art history classes, at least a semester each on psychology, philosophy, sociology, urban theory, regional planning, and then true sciences of biology, botany, botany II, geology, ecology, and environmental science, and surveying, urban forestry,... English, math,...
It is not that you don't get a lot of planting design, it is just that it is only a little piece of what they'll be trying to teach you. It would be like eating a five course dinner because you really want that tiny spoonful of sorbet that comes with it. If you are going to do it, you should enjoy the whole meal, or go somewhere that will just sit you down and sell you the dessert.
I started out as a landscaper going to school to elevate my career in design/build landscaping. I wound up doing things that I never intended to because of what they forced me to learn. I had no interest in environmental restoration and wound up drawing plans and negotiating solutions to people's "mistakes" in public hearings with conservation commissions. I became Chairman of Planning & Zoning in the city I lived in while I was in school. I got a drafting job with a surveying and engineering firm while I looked for an LA job. I wound up doing complete site plans. First houses, then bigger and bigger projects. I even layout subdivisions. I took a couple of years of from that to do ocean front landscape design and construction for a company well established in the very high end (why take the stairs when there is an elevator). I got injured and went back to engineering full time, but designed landcapes with that company for several more years. Now I do both with a different land planning company very close to home and I do some smaller landscape plans on my own when I make the time.
Not one person from my graduating class is in design/build. Half of them are not directly in the green industry, but are using the skills they gained through school.
One of the best things about it is that it is a diverse enough profession that you can find niches in it that play to your strengths and away from your weaknesses. I don't draw well, so I did not get into the big design firms that hire big staffs for production. But, I would giggle when I would engineer their plans afew years later - something that they would not have been able to teach me.
Look at asla.org and landscapeonline.com.
Everyone including those in the field tend to tend to describe the profession with one agenda or another. Universities like to play it up that we are all leading the way on every popular environmental issue out there. The truth is that developers pay for our services not greenpeace. You could also get the impression that 50% of landscape architects are all specializing in green roofs while the rest are curing Alzheimers through garden design.
It is a strong profession if you play your cards right, see the opportunities, and understand your own strengths and weaknesses.
Is that link is to an LA? A darn good designer who can go circles around a lot of LAs! It makes a strong point that you don't have to be an LA to do the same type of work. It does take education, experience, and dedication with or without the degree or stamp.
Thank you for that think. I read a few of the posts and I can't wait to read more. That's some really awesome insight into the life of an LA. I'm feeling more excited about this with each new bit of information I read. :)
I did contact some firms in central Florida about shadowing an LA for a day, so hopefully, one of them will give me that opportunity to do so. Again, thanks for the information! :)
Wow! Thanks for that insight. :) That was a huge help. I do love the fact that the field is so diverse and there are many paths that I can take in that field. In my current field, I'm just stuck. It's a straight, boring road with nothing exciting along the way to look at or look forward to, hence my desiring a career change.
Yes, I understand that LA is not all about garden design. I personally think that is great. Again, more diversity. I would like to look more into site planning and engineering, as it really does interest me. Honestly, all areas of this field seem to interest me in one way or another. Of course, design is my strongest point since I am already an artist and creative in nature, but I also do enjoy planning. I imagine what I will do is continue doing a ton of research, especially on site planning and engineering and get a better idea on all of that. Spending all that time in college does not concern me, and I do have an interest in those courses that I will be given, even the "off topic" ones. :) I've also been looking at the courses at USF and what the entire curriculum involves. It does take 5 years for the MLA, and I understand that I still have to have an internship and get my certification afterwards.
However, my strengths definitely are creativity/drawing/design. My weakness is mathematics, but I could brush up my math skills and not have an issue. Still, I do enjoy the creative side. So, I guess my next question is can I be an LD and still work in an LA firm doing the designs? If so, I'll have to check that out too. :) Also, I'll have to check their salary to see if I could do that job and still live here in Florida comfortably or if I'll need to move to a cheaper state to live. lol I know the estimated salary of an LA, but not of an LD. Of course, I'm not wanting to do this for the money, but because I do have a strong interest in plants, design, planning, working with clients, etc. However, I do need to be able to survive.
Also, I do understand that LA is not about saving the environment. Either way, I do think I could find my niche in this field. I thank you for your time to reply to my post and give me all of that wonderful information. :)
|laag, it is my understanding, perhaps I am wrong, that she is a graduate of Harvard University's Graduate School of Design, Landscape Architecture program. Maybe the final seal of approval wasn't obtained from the state? or in the niche market she is in, it is down played. |
Great write up, it made me remember why, at my age, I am learning LD instead of LA, even thought my dept head is advising me to go on for LA. To be honest with you I am tired from reading what is expected while going to LA school, I guess that answers that question for me.
Inalik, at your age I would highly recommend going for the LA degree. But check this link out, for landscape design. Just to further your research.
My background:, raised a pack of kids, went from a hobby gardener to work 4 years at an upscale retail nursery, decided my gift was consulting and putting together great plant pallets. I enrolled at the local college for an AS hort degree, with emphasis on design.
My old nursery now recommends my services, and I am just now starting my second year of working for myself as a LD and landscape consultant.
To be honest with you I am better at consulting than design, since I have so much to learn still. I know plants better than hardscape. Most of my design clients want to build things them selves but need direction and plans with plant lists. I seem to fit the bill for them and it works for me now. Next year, after I grad with my AS I plan on apprenticing with a LA in the area. I think thats when my real design education will start and I look forward to it.
Best of luck in your decision, deb
Here is a link that might be useful: APLD
|Hi Deb!! |
Wow, that's great things are going well for you. :) Best of luck to you with your apprenticeship! Also, thank you so much for the link, I'll definitely check that out in a bit. :)
One thing that I recently found was a pdf on what college students that recently graduated from LA school said about the firms they applied to. Just like Laag said above, the comments were varied, which I personally think is a good thing. Some graduates said that the firms were incredibly relaxed, friendly, and casual, while other graduates said that the firms were professional, yet friendly.... and some firms just sucked. LOL However, I think this is a great thing. Personally, I would rather work with a friendlier, casual firm that still gets the job done and does a good job vs a more uptight professional firm. I'm more laid-back and relaxed (yep, I'm a true Floridian! ;)) and I do like my work environment to reflect that, but I also enjoy the rush and pressure to meet a deadline that will be sure to happen in this job.
Deb, if you do decide to get your LA, will you plan on running your own business still or will you transition over to a firm? What are your plans? :)
Also, to some experienced LAs, do firms hire more than one LA at a time... or are you the one and only LA in the firm walking in the LA parade all by yourself? lol Do firms hire LAs that are more experienced in the engineering part, and at the same time, hire LAs that are more artistic and can create the designs? How does it work?
Thanks all and good luck, Deb! :)
|Just the questions that have been on my mind, and lots of good answers. My own background is in glass art & design. Besides that, I've been doing a number of things - teaching color theory, translating books, making movies, organizing and participating in land art festivals - while longing to have a garden of my own. Now that I have it, there seem to be lots of ideas left over that don't fit in my small space. So I'm on the lookout for what opportunities might be around. Since I'm 35 and raising my first child, a full LA course is probably too late to think of... |
Good luck to you Inalik, I'm curious how you'll be doing!
Make sure that USF is accredited in Landscape Architecture. There are some programs, including some well known Master's Degrees that are not, so be careful.
There are big firms and small firms. There are nice people and not so nice people. Some bring in several interns and train them well. Some exploit interns who want a big name on their resume by using them as low paid production workers and replace them as necessary. Some take in an intern and they wind up as partners. Some don't need extra help and don't take interns. It is just like any other group of people, there is no one size fits all. It is really up to you to find where you fit in to get the most out of it.
Here is a link that might be useful: Accredited programs acording to ASLA
|If at all possible to learn about the USA is to attend a school where you would be introduced to a new surroundings because you never know where life's path will lead you. I remember my classmate who was teaching at UF who went to UGA and was offered the dean's job at KSU. Each region of the country is different. I remember how different GA was from NY, then I lived in MA, and then moved to CO. Diversity is the key especially when I visit CA.|
Here is a link that might be useful: Proagating Perennials
|I have a Landscape Architecture degree but have not bothered to get the license at this point. For the work I do right now it would not produce enough of a benefit to be worth the hassle. I may ultimately sit for the exams just as a point of pride. It does chafe to have to call myself a 'landscape designer' when in my state any person- qualified or not- can use that title. |
I work for a Landscape Contracting firm doing design work and project management. I only work part time which works out great for my young family.
One of my friends I graduated with told me he's jealous because he's got his license and is stuck doing boring civil engineering-type work while I get to do the fun stuff!
If you want to do detailed design work with plants, I'd push you more into a horticulture program and also getting a degree or training to be a Landscape Contractor. The money is in the installation- not the design. A 2-year degree would probably cover you for that.
If you are interested in the 'bigger picture' of corporate campuses, wildlife preserves, City Planning (which I did after getting out of school and before having my family), or the like, you'll need a degree.
|See, that sounds exactly like what I would like to do. Be a landscape designer, at least at first, and work for a Landscape Contracting firm. However, what is the salary of a LD versus LA? I can't seem to find that bit of information. |
Later on down the road if I wanted to get my LA degree, after I have a better idea of what it all entails, I could then do that. :) There is a college really close to me actually that teaches LD and it takes 2 years to get the degree. For LA, the college is 1-1/2 hours away, and I did find out that it is accredited. :) Once I figure out what the salary difference between an LA and an LD is, that will help me make my decision. I'd rather do the design than the installation. lol
Thanks so much for the info. :) I can also imagine how frustrating it would be for *anyone* to call themselves an LD, especially when you've been doing the work to deserve that title. Good luck with your exams if you choose to do them. :)
|At the age of 34, I am currently exploring a career switch into LA. This " thought" has led me to an extensive "research project" since it would be a big step for me. I hold an B.A. Technical Management and am interested in the 3-year MLA program offered by City College of NYC. Still waiting for the school's confirmation whether they are indeed an ASLA accredited program provider, please allow me to ask you two questions that I haven't been able to answer yet: |
Assuming I would get into such program and successfully graduate, would it be difficult for me at the age of late 30 to find an apprenticeship? In other words, do employers prefer NOT to hire "adult trainees" or do you think it is more about good self-marketing, good education, etc?
Another question covering the "teamwork aspect in LA":
|It looks like City College of NYC is not an option (see link below). |
I got my degree at 35. I don't think your age will work against you, but rather for you. Internship is limited to those who have degrees, so your competition is limited. Where you are is more important in finding an internship as small offices don't often take on interns or roll over employees. It is much easier where there are lots of big firms. Some of those big offices favor graduates from the schools that the principals went to, though.
Hierarchy tends to follow from who got the job first down to those who are brought in to complete it. It would have to be a large high profile LA firm to get on the top of the food chain. Usually it is the architect that sits there on most projects. Engineers typically make other people's designs work more so than driving the design (I work in a civil engineering firm).
The more established and renowned an LA firm is, the more ownership of the design they can get. Most LA firms are coming in after the general layout of the site has been done (at least in concept) because architects tend to try to control as much as possible the outcome of their projects. Then you typically work within the context that they set up. This is usually just the placement of buildings and general layout of driveways, parking, and bigger elements.
Architects will tend to be the people who you will be more likely to butt heads with.
I don't think you are too critical, but very realistic.
Here is a link that might be useful: City college phasing out!
|As has been stated here by others, there is a wide range of types of practices, and there are niches within the profession for almost everyone, from those who can't be bothered to learn how to draw, to those who can't be bothered to remember plant names, to those who can't be bothered to do CADD,(like me!). I graduated from a program here in California, (2 different schools actually, UC Davis and Calif. Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, and was not required to do any additional mathematics beyond the high school level trigonometry that I already had done in high school. I know how fear of math can be, I had changed my major from Plant Science originally when I saw that calculus and organic/inorganic chemistry were going to be required. |
Many of my fellow students back in the early 80's were also in their mid 30's at the time, so it is not unusual at all to have a great range of ages in a typical class of landscape architects. I myself have bounced around within quite a range of types of jobs, from working for 40 person name firms here in California that were all landscape architects and did a lot of international work, to working as a project team with engineers on international work(airports and palaces in Saudi Arabia), to urban design here in San Francisco, to design/build residential, where I have ended up and happily so.
The blog site that was listed by Amili is someone who used to post here quite regularly, Michelle in Zonal Denial, and she is a graduate of Harvard Design School, and also interned at one of the Botanic Gardens back in Massachusettes, I think. I don't think she has ever gotten her license, (nor have I), and is a good friend of mine. She created a show garden for the SF Landscape and Garden Show earlier this year(2008) and won best of show, and documented the whole process on her blog/web site. She is also quite an accomplished artist in glass and ceramics, as well as being quite proficient in landscape design, and primarily works in Marin County here in the San Francisco Bay Area.
I'd say that if you already know that you prefer to work with single clients at a residential scale, that it certainly wouldn't hurt to get a degree in landscape architecture, but it may be a longer program and less focused on your interests than appeals to you. I am certainly not sorry that I got my own degree in this field, and enjoy the variety of work that I've had a chance to do. I will admit that it is most interesting for me when I have complete design autonomy and/or am working with an owner/builder/contractor that is design oriented. A recent project that I worked on as the landscape design/builder is currently on the market and can be viewed here, at www.28vallejostreet.com.
Good luck with figuring out what you want to do, and I would also recommend that working at a large office right out of design school is a good way to get some experience and see the range of possibilities in the field.
|I actually think this is a field/desire that many people find later in life- once they've had some land of their own to work and find that 'connection'. I was only 18 when I started my degree and barely 22 when I finished. I was too immature to make the most of it. I really feel I ripped myself off by working toward a 'grade' rather than recognizing the incredible opportunity to gain knowledge. I would be a much more intense student if I went to school (at 36) seeking the degree I already have. I would graduate with a much greater depth of knowledge if were going to school at 'my age' now. |
As for the landscape contracting vs. design thing. A landscape contractor will often make 3-5 TIMES more money than a designer working for a firm. A landscape contractor would probably make in the neighborhood of 2-3 times as much as an LA working for a firm (unless the LA OWNS the firm and has several employees). My boss has no formal education at all but makes substantially more than my friend working at a Civil Engineering Firm doing LA work. My boss (and by extension ME) have complete control over the implementation of our work. This is not a small thing. There's no one 'over' us, except of course the client, who may change our work or- as is so often the case- fail to implement it to the quality standard we do.
LA's in my area usually work on larger-scale projects with the occasionally high-end residence. We do all high end residential. That doesn't mean we work only for 'rich' people but rather people who are willing to spend a good amount on the landscaping of their property because they value it. Those are not necessarily the same people.
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