Getting an education abroad?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums EDUCATION Getting an education abroad?

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    I’m thinking about attending grad school for LA and I am looking for advice on being educated abroad? I really want to live in Europe again (Scandinavia ideally), but getting my master’s there would mean not being a certified landscape architect in the US, do you think it would be possible to get a job back in the US or is accreditation essential?

    Also if anyone has any insights how the masters LA programs differ in the US and Europe that would be help full too!

    Thank you so much!

    Dave McCorquodale

    Paige– I’ve got a friend who studied for a mini semester at an urban design school in the Netherlands.  Not exactly like what you’re looking at here, but maybe relevant.  I think he’d say that the international exposure heightened his design ability and gave him a new perspective on finding solutions.  My sense is that while licensure may not be required of you at every firm, you may want it for personal satisfaction and as a resource down the road.  You may find out exactly what you need to do and if your study abroad goals would fit inside the context of a stateside MLA program.

    …hey Bob.  I think you posted a comment on her profile page thinking you were replying to this discussion…  😉


    Hi Robert!

    I had some trouble posting my question and maybe somehow your comment got lost? I did not mean to delete it, please repost it. I don’t know what happened, I would really appreciate any advice. Sorry about this!

    Thank you for reaching out.



    I found it! It is on my profile instead of the discussion thread (thanks Dave!) I will take a look when I am at a computor next! Thank you!!


    Hello Paige;

    I think that’s GREAT that you wish to earn your MLA overseas.  I just think, as I’m sure you area aware, many considerations and a lot of “research” before you move forward.

    *Finances……the various costs associated the cost of living in the city where the University is loccated…..and too, the University Tuition itself?

    *Safety…..I would highly recommend researching the “safety” of living in any city abroad….I would give myself the SAME advise, Paige.

    *Since your undergraduate degree was NOT in Landscape Architecture….you’ll have some catching up to do in an MLA program.  I would look at various good MLA programs here in the U.S….see what courses are including in their MLA programs.  Especially for you…it will be very important to get up to speed with the various necessary computer software programs….I think there are 4 or 5 computer software programs that will be helpful to you as a professional LA.  Courses in design, graphics, hand sketching, grading design, plant sciences, LA professional practice, business admin., etc. Courses that will prepare you for the REAL world and for your first job with an LA firm.

    Remember too…..the profession of Landscape Architecture involves many, many hours of sketching, designing, time with computer software preparing drawings.  I was never a 9 go 5 job to me…..I normally spent between 9 to 14 hours daily during my entire LA career.  So, having a sincere compassion to design and draw is a must for ALL LAs… become successful.

    Paige, IMO, and I don’t know for sure…..but, I tend to believe that too many University LA professors (in both undergraduate LA programs and MLA programs) are teaching their students “liberal environmental ideology”.  Some of that is all well and good, but, you need to learn and prepare yourself to be able to join an LA firm that is designing “mainstream” REAL world design projects…..i.e. residential, commercial office parks, city parks, upscale multi-family & University Student Apartments, schools, University master planning, streetscapes, mixed use land planning, resort hotels, golf courses, city plazas, residential community master plans, etc. You can research many TOP LA firms in the U.S. by reviewing their company web sites and view their Portfolios…see the types of projects they are designing.  

    My point is, if your MLA program is not structured with courses that properly prepare you to be an LA designing in the REAL world….you’ll just be wasting your time and money.

    Also, if you can find the time….it would be wise to begin to study to take and pass the various sections of the L.A.R.E. exam.  You’ll need to pass the L.A.R.E. exam, so that you will eventually be able to be a “Licensed Landscape Architect”.  I believe every U.S. State also requires that before you can apply for an LA license….you must work a minimum of 2 yrs., for a “Licensed Landscape Architect”.


    J. Robert (Bob) Wainner



    Yes….Think you’re correct here.

    I went ahead and re-wrote my comment above.

    My biggest concern, which I voiced above, for Paige is that….when your Undergraduate degree is NOT a 4 or 5 yr. LA degree….your MLA degree becomes very important….as those programs are normally (2) yr. programs (I believe) and you have a lot of catching up to do with regards to studying courses in design, drawing, sketching, plant sciences, computer software programs, LA professional practice, etc.  

    I recently chatted with a younger LA….who earned his undergraduate degree in a subject other than Landscape Architecture…and then, he earned his MLA.  He told me that he “thought” that after he graduated with an MLA degree…that he would be fully prepared to get an entry level job with an LA firm…..but, he told me, it wasn’t working.  That the courses he took in his MLA program did NOT prepare him to land that first LA job.  So now, he finds himself taking additional University courses….in an effort to bring himself up to speed with other young LAs who earned a 4 or 5 yr. undergraduate LA degree.

    I do believe though, that studying abroad is not a bad idea…..and travel abroad can definitely be a plus.  While I was in the U.S. Navy (back before I enrolled @ Texas A&M’s LA program)…I was fortunate to be able to visit many cities in Southern Europe….Barcelona, Cannes, Monte Carlo, Naples, Rome, Tuscany, Venice, Athens, Palma and Rhodes (Greece)…..I think the roots of Landscape Architecture are in Europe….so, my experience visiting European cities helped me to realize that the career I wished to pursue was “Landscape Architecture”…..and it turned out to be a great fit for me.



    Hi Robert-

    Thank you for replying, just two questions for you. What do you mean exactly by ‘liberal environmental ideology’?

    Are you saying I don’t need to attend an accredited U.S. school to take the L.A.R.E. to become a licensed landscape architect?

    Thank you!



    From my research it seems like there are MLA programs for those with an undergraduate degree in LA and then there are 3 year programs that are specifically designed for those who did not have an undergraduate degree in LA. But that is scary that he wasn’t prepared after his MLA degree, may I ask which school he attended?



    Thanks Dave!

    In your experience is there a pay difference or other benefits that come with being licensed?


    Dave McCorquodale

    I think the consensus around here is that your ability to bring income into the firm and/or increase firm profitability would have a greater positive impact on your earnings than a license. Do longer MLA grad programs contain a study abroad time if you’re just looking to spend time abroad?  Or could you even dovetail into an undergrad study abroad program at your school and work it into your degree track.  Just thinking out load.  All the best in your planning!




    No, I don’t think you have to attend an accredited U.S. University to earn your MLA in order to take the L.A.R.E…..though, there may be much younger LAs here on LAND 8 who are much more qualified to answer that question.  You shouldn’t have a problem….it’s really just a matter of being able to pass all of the sections of the L.A.R.E. exam.  You’ll want an MLA program that will help you be able to accomplish that goal.

    There are also some very good L.A.R.E. Seminars available….for a price.  At various U.S. cities throughout the year.  Some of these seminars can even be found on-line….so, you could learn HOW to study for the L.A.R.E. exam even if you were out of the Country.  This L.A.R.E. exam is a 100% computer test…and not easy from my understanding.  Best to learn as much about it before you pay the exam fee and start taking any of the sections.

    You could probably GOOGLE the L.A.R.E. exam…..and search for “requirements”.

    My concern for your future in Landscape Architecture is…..I’m not sure what all you came away with….with your degree in Environmental Science.  That’s all good information to know and does apply to Landscape Architecture……but, Landscape Architecture means a lot of “design, drawing, sketching, computer software drawing programs, plant science courses, grading design, professional practice courses, etc.)….just making sure you find an MLA program that has all of the necessary courses that will get you well prepared for the LA profession.

    Take a few minutes to study top MLA progrms…..and look around on-line at a dozen or so TOP LA company’s web sites….look at their portfolios…the types of projects they design and the very high quality of their design work.

    And, be sure you understand…..being an LA is very demanding of your “time”…it’s a difficult profession to find a great “balance” between work, play and relationships.  I know for me, I allowed my LA career dominate a good portion of my life…..well, I don’t regret it….and I still have a strong passion for this profession.  I just could have done a better job of finding that “balance”….and its not easy to do with a demanding design profession.

    Best Regards,



    Paige……….That LA is Canadian, so, I’m thinking it was an MLA program at a major University in Canada……not in the U.S.

    And, I’m not sure…..if his MLA program was a 2 or 3 yr. program.  But, IMO, it would make sense if your undergraduate degree is NOT in Landscape Architecture… really would need a 3 yr. MLA program to get up to speed.



    Hi Paige;

    I recently read……that having a “Landscape Architect’s License” in any U.S. State would get you approx. $25,000.00 more in salary per year.  That was just one article….but, there’s definitely an upside to getting an LA license.  And, once you get an LA license in (1) State, you can apply for reciprocity in other States.  However, a few States, like Florida, Louisiana, Nevada & California (probably a few more) have a “State Exam” you have to pass in order to get a license in their State.

    Starting Salaries @ most LA firms these days, I believe is between $35k & $45k.  In larger LA firms, when you have obtained 20 to 30 yrs. of experience, you could be looking at approx. $100k per yr. plus benefits.  But, I will say this….I decided to go out on my own after 14 yrs., as working for others…will, well, probably not get you the salary you are wanting.  I probably should have gone out on my own sooner….as my annual income (after a 2 yr. start-up period) jumped up 5 to 6 times higher than I was earning in the LA firm where I put in 13 yrs.  I’ve worked on my own since 1991 (deciding not to expand).

    I believe ALL States required that you work under a “Licensed Landscape Architect” for a minimum of 2 yrs., before you can be eligible to be licensed in a State……plus, you have to have passed the L.A.R.E. exam as well.  I believe now, CLARB requires that you maintain a file with them (and an annual fee)….plus, every State requires that you take “continuing education courses”….each state is a little different; But, I feel sure you can take those courses “on-line”…that’s what I did.  Then, keep very good records of your “continuing education courses” in case the State/s you are licensed in asked for proof that you took the required number of hours worth of those courses.  Every State has an “annual LA Fee” too.  Well, it’s all sort of an administrative pain….but, just part of the deal.

    Some young LAs go out on there own a lot earlier than I did….maybe after 5 to 7 yrs.  It can be done.  But, those 13 yrs. of exp. I picked up working at that LA firm was invaluable to my making it on my own.

    Back in the 80’s & 90’s…..I had both Texas & Florida LA licenses….and was able to get reciprocity in 12 other States (as the LA firm I was designing for had clients who wanted our firm to design projects for them in other States).

    In addition, in order to use the TERM “Landscape Architect”, you MUST be a “Licensed Landscape Architect.  In most States (like here in Texas) if you do NOT use the TERM “Licensed Landscape Architect”…..but, instead, use the TERM “Landscape Designer”, you are permitted to provide Landscape Design Services.  I’m semi-retired, and I am now only focused on “single family residential design projects”…..but, not a heavy schedule.

    Once you get your MLA….it will very important to get “experience”….best, I think, at an LA firm.  While there, you can be working on your L.A.R.E. exam….and getting the required experience you need.  I believe completion for entry level jobs has been pretty difficult these past 5 to 8 yrs.  But, I have learned that today, in the LA profession, there are MANY more women in our field than when I started out in 1977….maybe as many as 50% of all LAs now. Putting together a “very good” University LA Design Portfolio while your earning your MLA will be important in helping you land that first job.

    Hope this info. is somewhat helpful, Paige.


    Eli Paddle

    MLA degrees are usually intended to be research focused rather than preparing you for entry as a junior LA. If that is your intent then it is a good idea to augment your learning with some CAD, illustration and perhaps GIS learning so that you have the entry level skills that makes you a profitable employee. Generally MLA degrees don’t cover these areas.

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