Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects › Forums › EDUCATION › Anyone know what the job market is like for an MLA grad?
- This topic has 1 reply, 26 voices, and was last updated 10 years, 3 months ago by earthworker.
April 1, 2012 at 1:08 am #158231AnonymousInactive
If a person doesn’t know how to sell they would be foolish to start a design/build company. You can be the best designer in the world and be a master builder, but if you don’t have the skills to sell to the kind of people who buy upscale landscape work, life is going to be very hard. You could end up competing against fly-by-night landscapers in the low bidder game. This is not a nice place for someone with an LA degree. It would suck to lose out to a guy who wants to install a gurgling prefab kidney bean shaped water feature and a fake garden bridge to nowhere. There’s more to it than designing and building pretty landscapes and collecting a check. You have to make enough profit to make all the b/s you have to put up with worthwhile.
Another thing, it’s not easy being a young articulate college grad having to deal with the typical landscape installer and I’m not just talking about the unskilled laborers.April 1, 2012 at 1:25 am #158230
“… it’s not easy being a young articulate college grad…”
Thank you for calling this 51 year old “young”. You made my day!April 1, 2012 at 2:55 am #158229Jason T. RadiceParticipant
Well, the design build market around where I hang my had is woefully oversaturated, and competition would be very tough. You have the large companies that have been doing it forever, you have the nurseries/garden centers that are well equipped, plus have access to their own plants since many here grow their own (they write off the design portion), then you have your neighborhood guys who got into it beause they lost their job in other professions and figured “I can always do landscaping”. Add in a few award-winning high-end LA firms that really do great work, and you have a very tough market to contend with, and fewer people on the mix to pay for those services.
Apprentieship is a HUGE part of this industry. You skip it, you are really missing out on your TRUE education, be it in a studio or at a design/build. Plus, if there is no LA to sign off on your CLARB credit hours, it will take you a decade before you can sit for your license here, provided you still went to an accredited school.April 1, 2012 at 9:00 am #158228
Jay, this is what I’ve been hollering and yelling out to students for the past 10 years!!! And I’ve been having this debate with Craig Anthony for months on end. Tell the students the hard truth. As students, you are the University’s clients. Those school projects are not realistic. In the real world, you don’t have countless hours to spend on a project.
This is the final time…I’m going to say this: Look before you leap. My best advice is stay out of LA. Period.April 1, 2012 at 9:16 am #158227
You said it all, Jason! Students today simply DO NOT know what they’re getting themselves into…this roller coaster of a profession.April 1, 2012 at 9:29 am #158226
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.April 1, 2012 at 9:47 am #158225
That’s great news for you Heather! But, you do have one huge advantage: you and husband were a LA design build duo. One person doing this route solo, especially right out of school would find a more difficult time.
I can guarantee that a graduating nursing student will FIND employment before a landscape architecture one! By average in the long run, the nursing student will make far more money. PNW is hogwash and just one source out of many research, opinion firms.April 1, 2012 at 12:52 pm #158224Andrew Garulay, RLAParticipant
It sounds like a good plan. The problem is going to find someone with those skills who wants to partner up with you. What do they get out of the deal? You believe that it takes them to the next level, but do they believe it does that?
What are their alternatives to partnering up? They can hire a designer for each individual job that requires one. They can hire a full time person with an LA degree to both do design work and work as a laborer in the field (I’ve been there more than once).
When I landed a nice LA job with a great design/build everything went great from March ’til June. I sold every build for each design that I did. The problem is that production does not always keep up with sales. I had a shovel in my hand from June on. It is often assumed that the company can just get more laborers and foremen to match sales. That is not so easy. Your ability to produce design work will far exceed a small company’s ability to build it. What else can you do throughout the rest of the year to remain on the payroll? I had previous experience (15+ years) in landscape construction, so it made it worth it to have me year’round. I was an employee, certainly not a partner.
Eight to twelve designs for full scale residential landscapes and they are booked for the year. That is not going to balance out to a partnership.
The biggest value comes from sourcing work. If you are generating leads, then you have value. If the contractor is generating leads for you, then you have far less value and are easily replacable. Can you hang a shingle and get design business now? If you can, then you might have something to offer. But, if you can, why would you want to tie down to one contractor? If you can’t generate leads now, what will suddenly change that will bring leads to you if you partnered up?
I’m not trying to be negative, just trying to describe what I experienced that I did not see coming as I went through it. The biggest one being that very few contractors can support a full time designer as an employee, never mind as a partner. Nurseries and garden centers can support design staff, but don’t need to pay well. This is a good place to go and produce work that gets built so that you can build a portfolio and make connections – especially with contractors.April 1, 2012 at 1:30 pm #158223Kim RomanoParticipant
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.April 1, 2012 at 2:45 pm #158222AnonymousInactive
No…I will not take a swing at that big fat slowly pitched softball. I’m going to play nice today, even though it pains me greatly.
; + )April 1, 2012 at 5:40 pm #158221
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.April 1, 2012 at 6:00 pm #158220
I would prefer to hear all the nasty realities. My partner of many years owned a building company back in the 80’s that went bankrupt. I have heard the stories. Believe me…I wouldn’t be able to lift a finger towards a goal like this without a ton of research, a solid business plan – solid enough to convince a lender to extend a line of credit…etc. In fact, I probably wouldn’t make it out of my sloppy house pants and into my street clothes if he had any suspicions of me embarking on such a plan. No, scratch that…I wouldn’t make it out of the bedroom – he’d probably barricade me in there yelling “LIKE HELL you are going to start this business”!
“Nurseries and garden centers can support design staff, but don’t need to pay well. This is a good place to go and produce work that gets built so that you can build a portfolio and make connections – especially with contractors.”
Good advice – thanks for that. Geographically, I am much closer to many nurseries – far more than firms. One of the advantages I DO have over my classmates is….I don’t really need to make a lot of money. I have already had jobs that paid well, quite well for my situation. Age has its advantages in terms of financial security – my partner and I have a condo, a house (paid for) and income-producing commercial property. I have investments I can liquidate for cash, in addition to skills I can market to the legal community on a contract basis if the landscape thing gets slow. I don’t envy my younger classmates their dewy glow of youth. Oh well, maybe sometimes when I am dragging and they are still annoyingly perky on 2 hours sleep.April 1, 2012 at 6:13 pm #158219
Aw, c’mon…take a swing. You know you want to!
Seriously – I have had TONS of client contact in my previous jobs with some very difficult and demanding people. I don’t see how a landscape installer can be any worse than Bill Gates Sr. (yeah, that one – NOT the nicest guy), an attorney that graduated from Yale that thinks his shit doesn’t stink (it does), an arrogant PhD that thinks mere mortals are so dumb its a wonder we get ourselves dressed in the mornings (we manage!), men from Islamic countries who think they can intimidate me with a steely stare (it that all you’ve got?), or a CEO of a multinational corporation that is only willing to give you a nanosecond of his time when you need a hell of a lot more to get what he wants done….done.
A mere landscape installer? I’ll have pieces of those guys in my STOOL!!!April 1, 2012 at 6:32 pm #158218Andrew Garulay, RLAParticipant
It is a huge advantage not to need work to keep you fed. A big trap door for a lot of people when they do this is that at some point they start taking on lower level work in order to bring in some money, next comes pricing to desperately make a sale, and before you know it you have become a discount landsaper getting more references for more discount work and little else. Keep your prices up and do only the work that you want to do. It will be slow at first, but you’ll stay in the market that you want to work in.April 1, 2012 at 7:50 pm #158217AnonymousInactive
“Apprenticeship is a HUGE part of this industry.”
You’re right Jason. How do you really learn how to do grading and drainage? Its obvious most schools don’t teach it very well with the numbers of people who need to retake that section on the LARE.
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