Eye opener on the job front …

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    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I recently asked to go part time at the civil engineering firm that I work at in order to move toward going full time with my part time LA office (fits in a brief case). Anyway, we started to interview candidates to fill the void and prepare for the future as we have an aging professional work force there. Keep in mind that my job there is as a civil site planner rather than landscape architecture.

    All four candidates (picked out of 40+ resumes) have had only one Autocad class. None had done much in the way of any site design in school or anywhere else. They have very minimal understanding of site layout or basic grading without the assistance of some kind of computer program. I asked if they had ever done any hand drawing of a grading plan as part of the learning process. … nothing but the sound of crickets.

    All I could think about was that most of the students that I graduated with (BLA) were far more capable of doing 90% of the job description.

    If you are out of work and looking to change that, don’t sell yourself short. Small civil engineering firms, at least in my region, do more site planning than anything else. When you see an ad for an EIT or entry level civil, get your resume in and a cover letter explaining your capability in site layout and grading. Don’t forget to mention that you CAN’T open up an engineering shop down the road in a few years, but an EIT might. You’ll probably be bored out of your mind after a few years like me, but you’ll have a decent job and huge experience.

    If they did not need a future engineer because of the aging of our staff, I think we’d be interviewing LAs instead …. and not to do planting plans!




    Small civil engineering firms, at least in my region, do more site planning than anything else.

    That’s how it was in NJ as well.  I used to get so irritated with those dull site plans that civils would produce.  I’d passive-aggressively make suggestions as to how they could be better.  But if more LA’s wormed their way into this site-planning process, eventually we’d see some better plans.


    I recently saw an ad for a civil designer with AutoCAD Land Development Desktop experience.  I’ve done grading, earthwork calcs and roadway sectioning and profiling in LDD, so I responded.  Haven’t heard from them yet, but there are a lot of unemployed civils in NJ as well.


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Are you sure that ad was in NJ?


    You need to remind them that you not only have education and experience, but you can’t be an engineer and open a competing shop like the civils they may interview could.



    Yeah, South Jersey craigslist.  Of course, sometimes ads get misplaced.  And craigslist ads are of dubious value in my experience anyway.  So many scam jobs and postings where they’re just fishing to see who’s out there.  To broke to afford a real ad yet somehow you’ll be able to pay me a salary?! Yet recently I noticed that the highly-regarded Olin Partnership of Philadelphia was advertising there as well!


    Eric Gilbey

    Andrew, I would love to see all accredited LA programs include a required internship or co-op. As part of my first degree (Associates in Landscape Contracting and Construction), an internship was (and still is) required and this really sets a student up for success. Having progressed to the BSLA degree which I achieved afterward, the owner felt that I was more qualified for the job in his LA firm, which followed soon after graduation. Even if there are few if any LA firms seeking intern jobs, a seasonal job in a landscape contracting company, nursery, engineering firm, or city/county parks/rec/hort. depts, etc. could really do wonders for practical field experience. This may not solve the specific site planning concern you brought up, but it would really help these soon-to-graduate students be more aware of their impact in the industry and do a much better job at site design and yes even site layout. Purdue is an example relative to LA graduates; these students who were required to take internships are snatched up by either the companies with which they interned, or others who found value in their experience.


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Internships are great on the one hand, but there is a lot of baggage that comes with it.


    The biggest problem many are having right now is not being able to get an internship after graduating. Can you imagine how hard it would be to get an internship after graduating if there were students taking them? Or, can you imagine not being able to graduate because you could not get an internship?


    I think it would be great for a couple of schools to do this in LA rich areas such as Boston or San Francisco, but it would be a disaster if it was everywhere.


    Heather Smith

    I agree…you know where we are. That would be nearly impossible for some students.



    Geoffrey Campbell

    As an LA in a CE firm, I agree.  LA grads are much more prepared out of college than BSCE grads, particularly in grading and site layout.  There are some hurdles in understanding detailed SWM, but that can quickly be picked up.  Most SWM design is done using help from various computer programs anyways.  When and if I get some say-so, I will certainly be hiring LA’s to do site design.  If I were an unemployed LA just trying to get my foot in the door, I would definitely be looking hard at CE firms for opportunities… besides there’s a lot more of them. As you mentioned Andrew, the ability to obtain a P.E. is not as easy, but its definitely possible, and in some states sooner rather than later.


    Aaron Kraemer

    Thanks for this idea. I will have to look into more civil jobs. As I have done grading etc. by hand as part of the first year of my MLA.


    david maynes

    MVV started his career in a CE firm…for what it’s worth



    Cara McConnell

    I know it’s tough all over, but when people with Masters degrees advertise on ASLA’s joblink resume page seeking entry level work at $30k per year. You know it’s a sad profession.


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I’d rather have a BLA than an MLA  (unless w/ BLA undergrad) as a job seeker in this economy. I can understand that an MLA would be more desparate than a BLA. The required internship for licensure plays a big role here as well (internships are a mixed blessing).

    Academia has moved toward selling MLAs with the students believing that they will have a more senior position in the profession. The problem now is that when an intern or new hire is needed, it is for production. Undergraduates are much more suited to do production work due to the rigors of at least 3 years of full time studio – advantage: undergrad.



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