Can I apply for MLA programs or jobs in LA?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums EDUCATION Can I apply for MLA programs or jobs in LA?

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    Hello everyone! I am currently in my final semester studying at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. I have a specialization in Computer Arts(very broad program including sound design, 3D, interactive art, etc..) and a minor in Sustainability Studies. I was thinking of applying for Masters programs in sustainable design(of products) but I am realizing more and more that I want to work with materials on a larger scale while applying principles of sustainability in LA. Would I be able to apply/get into masters programs without a bachelors degree in the subject? Also, would I be able to apply to firms, even at entry level/internships? 

    I have bought a few books on sketching/landscape graphics and have a bit of experience with Sketchup/Maya and will continue to learn on my own and try to build a portfolio of projects by myself.

    Thanks in advance ūüôā¬†

    Jason T. Radice

    Yes, most schools offer a track for students that do not have an undergraduate degree in landscape architecture. It is usually a three year full time program. You might be able to get an internship or even an entry level job, but not necessarily doing pure LA work, but you would be extremely valuable for your graphics and can try to pick up some LA knowledge while you are there. It sounds like you already have a good knowledge of design, and as I like to say a good designer can design just about anything once they “get it” as to what they are to design.


    Hi Omars,

    I’m currently studying LA at University of Montreal. Since the past year, it is possible to study a master degree in LA without a bachelors degree. Of course, as you didn’t make the bachelors degree in LA, you’ll have to add another year to your master degree to actually get the necessary “knowledge” but related to your lack of experience.

    For example, I know the MLA is 2 years (or so). You said you have studied into sustainability (environment). They are going to credit you the courses related to the subject you are good at it and ¬†fill you out with some class about plants, constructions class etc. which mean you’ll end up with 3 years class at the end.

    You couldn’t really go directly and make a MLA cause you need to know some basis on how to draw plans, know your plants database, your laws, architectural presentation standards, etc.

    To summarize, you need to do one years studying what you don’t know, then start your master. The 1st years in french is called a “prop√©deutique”. At the moment, a lot of student are doing it (I’d say 15 out of 90 student in total).¬†

    And, I’d say that you have a very and very interesting and valuable mix of knowledge. I’ve deep experience with software and computer and I’d say it’s a very big plus in Architecture to master it. But I’d suggest you to start learning autocad, sketchup, Rhino and of course Illustrator/photoshop if you didn’t yet.¬†

    The minor I’ve done in environement is also a big plus into an LA program.

    Wish you good luck,


    *Sorry I’m not English and I might be hard to understand me at some point.


    Omar……….Please realize, I’m all FOR “sustainable” design in this World.¬†But, I believe (and I very well may be WRONG)………that this “sustainability movement” is pretty narrow in scope and could very well be “short lived”.

    If you look at efforts with regards to the “green energy”.¬† Our Gov’t has tried and failed in very large solar energy programs.¬† There have been large efforts with regards to “wind” energy….but, environmentalists have fought these programs due to all of the birds the windmills have killed…this program seems to be going down hill.¬† Efforts in the U.S. to build more fuel efficient automobiles (like electric cars)….again, failed.¬†Chevy built the “Chevy Volt”….and couldn’t give them away.

    I’m sure there are “sustainable” developments and opportunities throughout North America…I just tend to believe that it’s just not a very strong movement.¬† I HIGHLY recommend you do a lot of research……BEFORE you move forward with an MLA that specializes in “sustainability” design.

    Good Luck!

    J. Robert (Bob) Wainner


    thanks for your response! I’m not too worried about that extra year, and doing an internship/entry level job will really help just for the experience and basic knowledge, will be applying next year ūüôā¬†


    Hi David, don’t worry about your English I understood just fine ūüôā what you’ve said is very helpful and eases some of the stress I had about applying without the Bachelors degree. As I said to Jason above, that first year is critical and I definitely don’t want to miss it. Thanks for you reply!


    Hi Robert, by sustainability I don’t necessarily mean solar/wind energy and the typical cliches people think of. I mean it and how it regards to LA. creating resilient environments, with regards to native species, food production, soil capacity, economic dev. etc… I probably should have been more clear. and I don’t think I will specialize in LA sustainability, I just meant that I would use some of the experience from my minor to ¬†enforce decisions I make while working on projects.¬†


    Oh Omar……..I understood where you were coming from.¬† STILL, I think that “sustainability” for Landscape Architecture projects is a “narrow” field.¬† There are still so many developers and people in general who have not yet bought into this “concept”.

    Though, I realize, there are more developments (world wide) where designers are using “sustainability”……but, it’s just not really “main stream” yet….probably still many years away.¬†

    But, if you can make a living using this design concept……..go for it.¬†



    Currently in the bachelors degree, our teachers are teaching us that sustainability is “fundamental” to the profession. Which means that as an LA you should actually work with this idea of sustainability as a “base” for every kind of projects you’ll be developing.¬†

    Also, we’re working at a smaller scale in LA. I think that Robert’s point of view is larger. Even if I’d like you to notice that here in Qu√©bec, some politics are falling, of course, but not them all. It is a movement that grows and become bigger and bigger everyday as the citizens are getting more award and educated. How are they getting educated? With our planning of the design that should be sustainable. That’s how it works seriously.

    But at least, in USA I’d say Obama is trying, but he’s hurting a lot of “old shcool” culture if I could say.¬†

    To finish, I am optimist. And changing the world begins from local to global. Every little battle that you succeed is a new step for the future. By the way, I think (as I’ve a minor too in sustainability too), that it is a plus to the profession.¬†

    Best regards,



    David……..First of all, understand that University Professors (by nature) are extremely “Liberal”…well, not all of them.¬† But, also, they will teach just about anything you wish in an MLA program…..You see, they need those high paying jobs.¬† Too much of what Professors teach is “theory”.¬† Too many LA professors have not spent enough time in the “real world” to prepare their students.¬† They fill their heads with all these “theoretical ideas”.

    “Sustainability” in theory sounds wonderful, David.¬† But, I promise you, you can’t shove that concept down the throats of developers.¬† Sustainable designs are rarely “cost effective”…and many, many developers are always looking to cut their “overhead costs”….trust me, I have worked with more major developers than I can even recall….who think like that.

    The problem with the “green energy” & “sustainability” movements…is, the thinking is….the Planet comes before the People who live on it.¬†We, as people are like a grain of sand on the beach.¬† The Planet has been here for millions of years…and it will be so, millions of years after¬†mankind has departed.¬†

    I tend to disagree with you about Obama’s intentions….he’s doing all he can to help his “friends” who will benefit “financially” from “green energy”…or anything that moves us away from oil, coal & natural gas. I think your intentions are good and admirable ones…but, it’s not “main stream”.¬† Have you taken a look at the unemployment situation in the U.S.?¬† For 5 years now, it’s been incredibly BAD…and getting worse.¬† And, especially for the LA profession!¬† Entire classes of undergraduates from major U.S. Universities can’t even find a “entry level job”.

    When you narrow your direction of study….or the direction you wish your LA design career to take, you’re digging yourself a hole….a deep one.¬†I would recommend learning every type of graphic computer software program you can….get really good a “hand drawing”…..make sure you have an outstanding portfolio & resume’….read books on how to give a GREAT job interview….study LA firms’ websites on-line – learn what they’re all about, what types of projects they’re designing.¬†

    To me, a major responsibility of a University LA Professor is to prepare their students for the “real world”……and with all due respect to my LA professors, I don’t feel I was really prepared to go out and make it as a Landscape Architect.¬† It was like I had a blindfold on, feeling my way through the darkness.¬† But, yes, I did find my way…but, it wasn’t easy.

    I’m not suggesting you give up any dreams or hopes of being able to contribute to the World of Landscape Architecture with “sustainable design”…..but, it would be very wise on your part to not narrow your options…..because, as I mentioned the job situation out there is BAD.¬† I even recently read where a McDonald’s in Boston was requiring it’s job applicants to have a Bachelor’s Degree to apply…..unreal.

    I feel that Landscape Architecture (when I graduated in 1977) was a very inviting World to graduates….and it was for at least the 25 yrs. that followed…..not so any longer…, PREPARE yourself…..for a rough ride!

    Very Respectfully,

    J. Robert (Bob) Wainner

    Trace One

    I don’t know what world Mr. Wainner is living in, but in my world sustainablililty is already written into law, and will only be growing. Best Management Practices in erosion control is a requirement. Dealing with drought conditions, rising flood waters, changing climate are all jobs you can get NOW, for places that have suffered horribly already, like New York New Jersey and New Orleans.

    Where do you think sustainability is going, Robert? It is a basic concept, particularly for landscape architects, and the more you know about it, the more employable you will be in the future. Perhaps you are referring to the narrow LEED certification – this is something that will probably change. But only in the direction of increasing no of increasing it’s complexity and responsiblity.

    Now if you were talking about history and Landscape Design, I would say you are unfortunately¬†correct in estimating it’s decreasing importance. But sustainability? Environmental design? No, these are solid basics of our profession.


    I’m currently on a LA BSc course at the moment and your first paragraph made me chuckle.. sounds like a pretty accurate assessment to me!

    Barbara Peterson


    If sustainable design is your real passion / your interest, I say “go for it” and don’t worry about what others think.¬†Every comment that you will receive is¬†based upon “that” person’s experiences so take everyone (including me) with a grain of salt.

    I’ve been in the business for 20+ years. I was a degree change student with a BS in Biomedical Science. I got my MLA even though¬†my committee chair would not let me work in “the” project area¬†that I was really passionate about because he said that it “was too narrow and that¬†I would NEVER get a job once I graduated”.¬† I buckled and did what he wanted. “My” final project was on strip mine land reclamation….”yeah”, now¬†that’s “not” too narrow…..¬†

    I have since worked both in residential and commercial design and on public and private projects: no reclamation work of any kind but a couple of tiny¬†projects in my original area of interest….

    That said, here is my take:

    1. Follow your passion.  Does this guarantee you a job when you get out? No, but you will put more effort into your studies than if you do what someone else thinks you should do. Remember: the basics are important no matter where you work when you graduate.  Learn them and learn them well.

    2. Think long term. Yes, the economy may be rough and¬†jobs scarce now¬†but¬†that doesn’t mean that it will stay this way “forever”. (My first boss out of college was a residential l.a.¬†When he graduated, he worked in the field until the economy went down in the 80’s, I think. He switched to the oil & gas industry for several years. Then he left that and started¬†his own l.a. firm. He’s still doing great high-end residential work.)

    3. Sustainable design is not “too narrow”.¬† It goes beyond LEED, bioswales, greenroofs, and wind / solar energy: it’s a thought process about a new (actually an old) way of thinking about our relationship with the environment.¬† This can be applied to both residential and commercial work…public and private whether on a small or large scale. It may be as simple as using native, low-water plants in one design but thoughtful site grading, bioswales, reclaimed water,¬†permeable paving, and the native plants¬†on another.

    4. It is the though process that you learn that matters. I agree with Trace, I think that sustainable thinking is a basic premise of landscape architecture…whatever it was called “back in the day”.

    Good luck and go for it.  

    Tosh K

    He’s in TX – might explain some of it. ¬†

    I, too have always worked in places that required innovative stormwater solutions, native plants, minimizing impact, etc (even in ‘red’ counties in the south).

    Barbara Peterson


    I’m guessing that the Texas reference was a joke (probably based on some fact…you should hear Aggie jokes but I digress)….sometimes hard to tell on-line…¬†

    Like Robert, I’m from Texas … actually also the Dallas area.¬† The firm that I work for has worked / is working¬†on numerous LID, LEED, and storm management projects; uses native plants as well as¬†adapted low-water use plants; has 2 LEED Associates and one that will be working on her¬†ISI (Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure) certification in the next month; support and add organic maintenance into the specs (when it’s not VE’d); and more. We are not unusual: many of my L.A. friends¬†(and the¬†firms that they work for)¬†support “sustainability” and sustainable projects.

    No ‘red’, ‘blue’, or ‘purple’ involved.

    Understanding sustainability issues and current solutions can aid Omar in about any firm.

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