Employment opportunities for Landscape Architects?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums EDUCATION Employment opportunities for Landscape Architects?

This topic contains 7 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Andrew Garulay, RLA 2 months ago.

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  • #3557517

    Kravimsky
    Participant

    Hi people,

    I am contemplating starting a Masters in Landscape Planning and switching my career into this direction. I am now a biologist/ecologist, but am a bit disillusioned with my industry, and I’ve gotten to the painful conclusion that I do not like research, thus not many opportunities present to me.

    I have though been fond of architecture for all my life, I like drawing and sketching, and I’m now thinking why not combine my passion for the environment with the latter and maybe make a career out of it.

    Thing is, I don’t want to embark in a new career change and later find out that I’m in the same situation, having difficulties getting a job in my field.

    How are the job prospects for this field? Are you guys happy with your job and do you see any room for evolution in your current position? Is there demand for LAs? Are they good enough paid? I don”t expect to get rich, but I’d like to have a decent living, just like everybody.

    The Master I plan to enroll in is more complex, it blends land management, planning, resource conservation and landscape ecology, so I’m thinking maybe I might have higher chances to get a role also in land restoration, water management, stuff like that, as it’s also close to my degree in Ecology.

    Any comments are welcomed.

    Thanks!

    #3557530

    Andrew Garulay, RLA
    Participant

    What you are describing is a active niche for sure. I live on Cape Cod and do residential landscape design. Many of the projects here are the razing and replacing of water front vacation homes (multi-million dollar summer homes). These are all heavily regulated to protect the many wetland resources that occur in these settings. Almost all of these projects require mitigation for expansion in the form of habitat restoration on site because most of these properties were originally developed before any wetland protection and have no or significantly degraded buffers to the resource areas. Additionally, many buffers that do exist are full of non-native invasive plant species. Views are usually very important to the new property owners, so these need to be done by qualified people to justify what is to be removed and how it will be restored in such a way that is not detrimental to the resource areas and enhances habitat for wildlife.

    Landscape Architects who work on residential design like I do usually are able to do the basic mitigation plans, but quite often a separate company is hired to do just the mitigation, vista permitting, and habitat restoration aspects of the more sensitive projects. This is a rapidly growing cottage industry where I am. They are not specifically Landscape Architecture firms, but a mix of biologists, landscape architects, people with landscape architecture degrees, and some people with some coastal engineering background. It is more of a team effort from what I observe and you may already be qualified to join in with a similar firm. They seem to learn from one another very well in their team work office and field environment.

    Google ecologic restoration and a geographic area that you might want to be in and see what careers are listed on the various company websites. You may be surprised.

    #3557536

    Kravimsky
    Participant

    Hey, I’m glad this is an active niche.

    I know about restoration and land management, I’ve been searching that niche for a bit.
    But I guess it really depends on the geographical area. For example, I see a lot of jobs in Australia for contaminated land restoration and stuff like that.

    But I’m pretty optimist at the moment, the programme I plan to enrol is quite versatile, as it does not focus only on design, but more on interdisciplinary curriculum.

    Thanks for the encouraging reply.

    Cheers

    #3557547

    J. Robert Wainner
    Participant

    I just recently “Retired” from Landscape Architecture @ the age of 69 (graduated from Texas A&M University) in 1977…so, what happens with our LA Profession will not have a direct effect on me or my life.

    However, in my opinion, I don’t believe this profession is on solid ground….OR is in demand as it once was. According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, Landscape Architect jobs will increase at a rate of 6% over the next 10 years…or a total of 1,600 jobs for Landscape Architects.

    What, ONLY 1,600 jobs available in a 10 year period in the U.S.

    OK, consider this. There are a total of (75) Universities in the U.S. who offer Landscape Architecture degree programs….and there are (6) Universities in Canada. I’m thinking approx. (40) students @ every University graduate each year with a degree in “Landscape Architecture”. That pretty much works out to be a total of (3,000) LA graduates nationwide each year. Multiply those 3,000 graduates x 10 years you get………30,000 LA Graduates (looking for a job)…in that
    10 year period.

    So, HOW are 30,000 LA Graduates going to get a job…even an entry level job, when the U.S. Bureau of Statistics predicts that there will ONLY be a total of 1,600 job openings for Landscape Architects???

    I also noticed looking at the LAND 8 Jobs Board…..a majority of the LA job openings are in locations like New York and California. Those locations have high costs of living and high State Income Taxes…and I seriously doubt that the employers will pay higher salaries to compensate for those issues. Especially for young or entry level LAs, high cost of living areas with high State Income taxes would create some hardship just starting out. I recommend do a LOT of research on the design firm, the city, State…..everything you can learn about the area before you even consider travelling for a job interview.

    To me, that doesn’t look good for our profession. I designed for about 14 years for (2) differen3t LA firms, before going out on my own at the age of 41……and then, just recently Retired earlier this year. If I were a High School student looking for a design profession and was aware of the information I mentioned above…..I’d probably hesitate about going into Landscape Architecture. It worked out great for me…..but, times are changing.

    J. Robert (Bob) Wainner

    #3557552

    Andrew Garulay, RLA
    Participant

    Things in the landscape are getting built and people are designing those things. That part has not changed other than volume going up or down as the economy swings. I don’t know (or care) about the statistics of how many have BLA/BSLA, or MLA, or any other degree or whether or not they have LA stamps, some other stamp, or no stamp at all. What I do know is that there is a need for what we call “Landscape Architecture” whether or not a lot of other people are calling it that.

    You can’t do that well without being well trained either through education or experience (where does one begin and the other leave off?). My personal opinion is that the skill set developed in an undergraduate BLA/BSLA program is (or at least was) a very targeted skill set to get a job working for others to develop actual practical experience whether that is with an LA firm, a civil engineering firm, an ecologic restoration firm, or an architectural firm.

    Designing on the land is an extremely diverse field with thousands of people working within it. I think one of the mistakes people make who enter the field through school is that they hear the profession described by their professors which is the “traditional LA firm” where everyone operates the same way. They hear how each design profession does their part and we all fit together. That may have been how most of “the system” worked in the 60’s and 70’s (maybe not), but it is very clear that the lines between our profession and other professions are very gray and fuzzy.

    Quite honestly our profession is made up of those thick gray fuzzy lines between architecture, civil engineering, and environmental restoration. What I see is that those others all reach as far as they can into the gray area that is our profession and when they touch – they don’t need to hire a whole other profession to join the design team. However, the skill set of an LA (or someone trained to become one) is just as viable in those firms reaching into that gray are as they are in a traditional LA firm. The problem is that everyone coming out of school is too focused on the career path that they have been told to follow (by professors who took a different route in most cases).

    There are tons of opportunities to apply the skill set. It is true that you have to start at the bottom and work your way up, but that also applies to traditional LA firms. It might be harder to do so in LA firms because a lot tend to dump their interns in favor of new interns instead of paying them more.

    I think you need to understand how the design profession is working in the market you want to work in and look for where you want to get to. When you know that, it is time to figure a strategy to build your experience so that you can get there without worrying about what letters you have after your name or where the firms you work for on the way up are listed in the yellow pages (sorry, where they come up in a google search).

    #3557558

    Tim Daugherty
    Participant

    Robert – regarding some of your data. The 1,600 jobs over 10 years are just NEW jobs, right? On top of the baseline number of jobs currently out there and held. Presumably in that same 10 year span there will also be people retiring, changing careers, dying (!), promotions, etc.

    In other words, I don’t think 30,000 graduates are fighting for 1,600 jobs. The attrition rate alone has got to be several thousand positions a year, no?

    #3557569

    J. Robert Wainner
    Participant

    Just a P.S. on this issue. To “Tim”…I’m not really convinced that there are “thousands” of LAs dropping out of our profession or changing their career paths in any given year. I would like to at least “believe” that a majority of those 30,000 LAs I mentioned have a desire to be a successful Landscape Architect. But, I know, many just won’t make it.

    I recall a few years back, reading on an INDEED.com thread, where an LA grad from a major East Coast University spent 4 years searching for an entry level job…and she had zero luck.

    Looking at the LAND 8 Job Board….it’s interesting that a majority of the LA job openings are in areas like California or New York (where the cost of living is very high and the State income taxes are also high). Those locations, IMO, are probably not the best locations to begin an LA design career…unless you’re able to live at home with your parents OR have a couple of roommates. Young LA grads need to do a lot of research on the particular design firm, the city and State, just learn everything you can about the situation before you go for an interview…if you can get one.

    Over the past 8 to 10 years, I have just got the sense that Landscape Architects aren’t in demand as they once were. Developers and Home Owners are searching for short cuts and don’t seem to believe that the design services we offer are worth the Design Fees we charge.

    Well, and I also have seen and know of personally….young inexperienced LAs (with only a small handful of yrs. of experience) who believe they have enough experience to start their own LA design firm (and, in my professional opinion) they really don’t. But, that’s pretty much true with nearly every profession. You can’t just jump out there with little or no real experience and know what you’re doing…because, you can’t teach yourself. Well, IMO, you can’t…especially Landscape Architecture.

    J. Robert Wainner

    #3557572

    Andrew Garulay, RLA
    Participant

    I think part of the problem is that people are either afraid to look at alternative pathways to success or have been convinced that they are less of an LA if they don’t go the firm route. I’m not saying that one way is better, but if you hit a road block you can either sit there and stare at it, hope for someone else to move it (ASLA, government, …) or you can just go around it.

    Someone is doing all of the “LA work”. If it is not LAs, people who want to do it better figure out who it is and start working for them to figure out why and then use that knowledge to start doing it on your own.

    THE WORK IS GETTING DONE BY SOMEBODY! They might not be called LAs. The education is only a waste if you can’t figure out where you need to look to get it.

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