Benefits of certification

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    How important is it to be certified to work as a landscape architect?

    I’m considering schools for my MLA. There’s a good opportunity for me at a non ASLA-accredited school. They offer a super-intensive 1-year program, whereas the accredited schools require 3 years (more time not earning a salary).

    My hunch is that I should sacrifice the 3 years and go to an accredited school so that I can eventually get certified. Am I right? Are there a lot of uncertified LAs out there? Thanks in advance!

    Andrew Spiering

    What school are you considering?


    It depends on what you want to do with your Landscape Architecture degree. If you have any aspirations of becoming a licensed Landscape Architect, then the accredited program is most likely your best bet (depending on how soon you want to try to achieve that). If you don’t want to get licensed or not in the next 8+ years, then go for the unaccredited program… maybe.

    What an accredited program means is that the school has chose to go through a voluntary review process through the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB) who has a set standard on quality which they evaluate the schools program. The school then makes the commitment to uphold that standard if they pass. I think they might even get periodic outside reviews to make sure they are still doing that but with such a small profession, word gets around pretty quickly if they are or are not.

    By graduating from an accredited program, you can take the LARE (the professional licensing exam) in 2 to 3 years depending on the state you are getting licensed in after working under a already licensed Landscape Architect. If you graduate from non-accredited program, you have to wait 8 years while also working under an already licensed Landscape Architect. There is some leeway with including years while in school at an unaccredited school and other technicalities but that still won’t cut much time out for you. Legally, you are not supposed to call yourself a Landscape Architect until you have been licensed so even though you have a degree in Landscape Architecture, you really are a Landscape Designer.

    The biggest thing in my opinion about choosing to go to an accredited program is the quality of education you are going to get. For the most part, people in the profession know what schools are accredited and with that comes a reputation that is known (for better or worse). So while you pay more and take more time to achieve that, you in return also get the benefits of that schools reputation. Like with most programs in any school, they are ranked yearly so why not set goals high to head to a school with a reputation. Although, that really shouldn’t be your main factor on choosing a school, every school approaches the profession in a different way and you should find one that meshes well with your ideals. Whether that is theory, sustainability, technical, etc.. I’m not saying schools are the best just because of accreditation but there are standards set in place.

    If you want to look more into this you can visit the professional society’s website: or more information regarding licensing you can look at the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Board’s exam at:

    Hope this helped you!! Take care.


    I’m looking at Cal Poly Pomona (accredited) and the Conway School of Landscape Architecture (not accredited). I’m currently in San Diego and can’t move, so Cal Poly is my only choice of accredited programs. The Conway School is In Massachusetts but is only 1 year, which I can do.

    I guess my question is, what does the certification do for you? Do most jobs require the certification to work at higher levels?

    I intend to be in the profession for the rest of my life, and of course I want to keep moving up. My hunch is that the certification is worth the sacrifice, but wanted to check with people who have practical experience. I’d hate to go for the certification just to learn later on that employers don’t even look at it.

    Craig Coronato

    Tracey: without a license you will not be able to call yourself a landscape architect nor practice landscape architecture in most states. if this is your career choice I’d go with the accredited program.. Good luck.

    Eric Galvin

    yes, i agree with Craig. If you really are making the transition to being an LA for the rest of your life, definitely smarter to go with the accredited program; it will be harder in the short term, but better in the long term. some notes from the California LATC
    Can I apply to take the LARE before I complete all training and education requirements?

    No. In order to take the LARE in California, candidates must meet all of the following examination eligibility requirements:

    1. Be at least 18 years of age
    2. Hold a degree (Associate, Bachelors, or Masters) or extension certificate (UCB Extension and UCLA Extension) in landscape architecture
    3. Have at least six years of combined educational and training/experience credit
    4. Have at least two years of training/experience credit (1500 hours of qualifying employment equals one year of training/experience credit; employment in excess of 40 hours per week will not be considered)
    5. Have one year of training/experience credit under the direct supervision of a landscape architect licensed in a U.S. jurisdiction that was gained after graduation from a qualifying educational program.


    Perfect — thanks everyone for your feedback. Makes me feel a lot more sure I’m heading in the right direction!

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