Anyone know what the job market is like for an MLA grad?

I'm a mid-career professional thinking of going back to school and getting an MLA.  It'd be a major lateral transition in my career but I am so attracted to this field and it's a much better fit for me than public administration (my current job)

I've been accepted to University of Georgia and University of Texas at Austin.  But lately my enthusiasm has been tempered  by the posts that I've read on some forums here about scare LArch jobs.  It sounds pretty dire. Anyone think the job market will see an uptick in a few years?  I'm hoping to work in a major city for a studio that specializes in large, sustainable public projects.  Thanks!xo


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I’m starting to think you’re this diabolical LA. I can imagine you twisting your skinny little mustache as you plot to put a stranglehold on the business.


People don’t listen to this guy, he’s evil. He’s young single living in a beach condo, working on primo projects in LA paradise while discouraging people around the world from entering the profession.


I’m on to you mauiB.

Okay Craig, next time someone ask me, especially a student, I'll tell them LA is great! A very very bright future, where its financially lucrative, lots of prestige, and probably retire after only 20 years in the profession. And did I forget to mention that all the young kids will want your photo and autograph too. Everyone should be a LA. There's 8 open positions for every 1 job seeking designer. Sound good, my NYC friend? I will only speak the truth! LA is wonderful.

Thanks Jay!  I've talk to a few principals of LArch firms in NYC about the realities of the job and the day-to-day tasks.    Having earned my first masters, I went through the process of having my academic safe, free-thinking bubble burst when I went to work for the City of New York.  Trust me, a crappy day of work in the Landscape Architectural world sounds better than a regular day for the government.

Unless your an LA working for the government. hahahhahaha.

Kim and Heather, Are you two serious?! I accepted a position on Maui 4.5 years ago after working for a private firm in Phoenix. About a year on Maui county, the firm in Phoenix went bye-bye. They laid off almost everyone during the great depression of 2009. Several of my former co-workers are still looking for an LA position or moved on to another career. As for me, I'm doing quite well. My job duties are varied and interesting on a daily basis. One week I'm doing land planning, writing reports and the next, putting on my LA hat to design parks. I drive a county vehicle to project sites for visit, get paid very well and my benefits are outstanding. My healthcare is covered 100% with 14 paid vacation days, 10 paid sick days and pension when I reach retirement. My current co-workers are all pleasant in this no stressful office environment...well, for most of the projects anyway! I wear shorts and flip flops every Friday. Did I also forget the annual professional education fund? I use it to pay for licensure fees, take college courses or go on ASLA conferences, like in San Diego. So I would say...not too shabby working under the Government umbrella!!

I should clarify Maui Bob, "Any job in LArch would be better than working for my current position in the government." I'm working for a low income housing program in NYC, you are designing parks on a beautiful Island in Hawaii.  While they are both government jobs, I'm assuming the working culture is very cery different.  Wanna switch for a week and find out? 


I think that the biggest negative about going straight into entreprenuership is that it isolates you. There is a reason that most states require an internship (besides exploiting recent grads). The alternative is like homeschooling yourself and expecting that the teacher is a legitimate mentor for the student while they are one in the same person. Working for others, especially others who are already successful doing what you want to do where you want to do it is of huge value.


As far as starting out of school as a design/build goes, we have to understand that someone coming out of a BLA program with no relevant construction experience is not well suited to compete with existing landscape companies that have been in the business for a while. Whether that means their ability to construct, their ability to market, their ability to manage help, their ability to price out a job, .....


Someone above posted that they did not feel well prepared to do business as a landscape architect. Clearly, we are even less prepared to do business as a design/build. A twenty four year old who has labored for a successful landscape contractor for five years is likely to be better prepared to run a landscape construction business than someone right out of school.


Having said all of that, you have to do what you have to do to survive sometimes. Many people do take this route now and in the past as well. My best "internship" came after my licensing while working for a person with an LA degree who went directly into design/build in 1983. I believe him to be the very best high end landscape design/build on Cape Cod. BUT, he had worked many summers and after school for landscapers and masons before getting his degree. .... he never got licensed because he never interned since he was running a business (and he has no regrets).


Two years working with him changed me from being a capable design employee to being able to effectively  operate as an independent landscape architect. Much of that had nothing to do with design and everything to do with, selling, pricing, quality control, dealing with clients, dealing with laborers (the worst) , and day to day business things that come up. I already knew how to draw plans and operate a shovel.



"A twenty four year old who has labored for a successful landscape contractor for five years is likely to be better prepared to run a landscape construction business than someone out of school."

Bingo.  Thanks for confirming my train of thought.  This is exactly the type of person I'd want to partner up with: my design abilities + your knowledge of how to put it together.  A BLA a year ahead of me has approached me about going into business together once I graduate.  However, I don't see the point of duplicating the skill set - we'd be woefully lacking in construction knowledge and have an overabundance of design/graphic presentation skills.  I don't see a successful partnership there.

But with an individual that knows how to build?  That could be a winning combination if done right. Unlike many of my classmates, I am in no to position to relocate - I have to look around me and see if opportunities are there. Like you said - " have to do what you have to do to survive sometimes." 

So, faced with the choice of spending a year or two sending out portfolios into a black hole - OR, doing market research to see if there is any need for residential/small commercial design-build with an able partner...

It would appear that finding an individual with landscape construction skills that wants to take their craft to the next level, but might lack the artistic ability, or interpersonal skills to tease out the more intangible, emotional/psychological aspects of a design, would be much more likely than one of the few firms in my metro area needing an entry level landscape architect.

I could be full of it, but one can dream...

I poked around the other forum categories...but don't see a "Trying To Make it On Your Own" type thread.  I might start one if no one points me to an existing least we can dream on this forum!

April, you are definitely dreaming!! How do you suppose of getting your license working with a non-licensed landscape contractor? If you think your schooling is teaching all you need to know about the design aspect of LA....then you are spending way too much time in Disneyland. Heed to Jason's advice and comment.

Are there rules against dreaming and wishful thinking on this board? 

Let me assure you I'm more pessimistic than my post lets on.  In fact, if I'm not careful, I'll morph into the female version of you if I don't watch it.

Well if maui can explain how an unemployed grad will get their license...besides living in Idaho maybe that would be a real argument against self employment. Besides the fact that many people never get their license and do just fine if not better then those that have. How is doing AutoCad for years at a giant firm teaching you design? I see April as exactly the type of person that could do this. Everyone makes it sound like she would be in competition for the High Line. haha. No. The hardest part is not the design. It isn't. I know that maybe takes away from some of the idea that we are all super talented and no one can learn the skills unless they train under some sort of Mr. Miyagi. There are no Mr. Miyagis hiring right now.  Planting plans are difficult...being good at them is something that can be learned on your own and isn't a risky proposition. Installing those planting plans is pretty low risk. Even simple retaining walls are simple, as evidenced by the millions of American's that do that job themselves. Pretending we all have some choice whether we work at a firm or not is relegating people to barista jobs. Those skills get dusty if you don't use them and do you think an employer is going to be more interested in someone that pulled themselves up and created opportunity or who bagged groceries at Winco and sent out hundreds of resumes and portfolios? People are attracted to go getters, even if that means failure. You don't have to go into debt to start a business. We didn't. Small business loans are very difficult to get. I recommend small scale planting design...get good at that and you have a niche.




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