Is graduate school worth it?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums EDUCATION Is graduate school worth it?

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    Michael Coyle

    I recently graduated from Penn State University with a bachelors in LA.  Now I am trying to figure out if it will be worth going to graduate school to get my masters.  I’m not sure if it will actually help in the long run.  Any advice would be great!


    Personally I do not think it will help you in the long run except for a few positions that you see now and then. Whether you get a Masters or not you are still going to be doing entry level work at entry level pay. In this market the cost of grad school wont pencil out unless you are planning on going into teaching.


    Finding jobs can also be a difficult task, If you can get into a firm and get some experience, that will carry you farther than grad school.


    If you do decide to go to grad school, find a different one than your undergrad




    My two cents……if you are finding it difficult to get a job these days perhaps graduate school is a good alternative.  However, I would not recommend an MLA.  You will spend money for at least two more years of school and your job prospects may not be any better.  You will be competing for positions similar to what you would be applying for today. Plus becaue you have a Masters you might be assuming you can demand more in salary and firms might shy away from you if they think they need to pay more for that Masters degree.  After all this is not an MBA…..the world of business and high finance works much differently then Landscape Architeture.

    If you do decide to go back for a Masters I would suggest something in a related discipline so that you are actually expanding and diversifying your knowledge and background.  Perhaps Planning, Environmental Sciences, GIS  etc.

    Good luck with whatever you decide.

    Michael Coyle

    Thanks for the advice, I wish graduate school was free (haha).  But I understand what you’re saying, I’m currently working at an engineering consulting firm.  Unfortunately there is not a whole lot of design work but it has been a great learning experience so far.

    Michael Coyle

    I agree school is very expensive, in fact too expensive.  When I do look at firms online many of the people they have on display show they have a masters in landscape architecture.  But I do have to agree that this would not mean I would get more job offers in the future because of having a masters.


    A lot of those people with Masters in Landscape Architecture that firms have on display probably have a degree in a different field altogether.  A good friend of mine has his undergrad in horticulture from Michigan State and his Masters in Landscape Architecture from Ohio State.  Unfortunately for him when he started his career he wasn’t earning any more than someone coming out of school with a Bachelors degree.  Penn State seems to have a decent Online World Campus I think they offer a Masters in GIS….that might dove tail well with the Engineering firm you are working for.  I sometimes look at the work I do as not being very creative, just due to the nature of our business and types of commecial clients we have….I get my creative kicks from doing freelance residential design work. 

    Trace One

    For the State of  California, a Master’s degree earns you an additional $30,000, right off the bat. If you then get certified, you garner another $20,000. Who knows when they will next be hiring, however, and I have not found this kind of deal anywhere else in the country except the land of fruits and nuts..

    If you want to teach, you need a Master’s degree at least – I personally think these are some of the most satisfying and best paid jobs – nothing stops professors from running firms, in fact they are encouraged to, and professors work hours give  you a lot of time to run a  business.

    And the Master’s degree, depending on where you go, can be really inspirational and fun, especially if  you are not a newbie – i.e., if you can draft already..

    If you want to run your own firm, stop now and get to work! don’t even bother getting certified – they are reducing the requirements every year..

    good luck!

    Heather Smith

    Two words: student loans.

    I don’t think it would be financially worth it.

    Jason T. Radice

    If you are working…stay working, you are getting practical experience. I don’t know if you were looking to go back to Penn State, but since you already have a 5 year BLA (Make sure the 5 yr part is on your resume), you essentially already have an MLA, minus a thesis. Since PSU now has MS degrees in LA, if you are interested in either of those topics, that would be a better fit than a generic MLA. It really focuses your interest the way a standard MLA cannot. I found when researching an article that at many schools, the MLA is not much more than a repeat of your BLA.


    Please refer to my LAM article from Decmber of 2010 regarding this very subject.

    Alan Ray, RLA

    get your masters in Economics….might come in handy some day.

    if you don’t want to teach then forget it.

    Roland Beinert

    I went back to grad school for a number of reasons. First, there were topics that I had not had an opportunity to explore in undergrad, like urban ecology, that I knew I would only have the time and resources to explore if I went back to college. Secondly, I wanted to explore planning, and there was a graduate certificate in planning at U of I. Finally, I was unemployed and felt I was wasting time doing nothing.
    If you get a masters it should not only be about getting a better job when you graduate. It should be about you. Is there something you want to learn more about? There are ways to reduce the cost if its really something you want. Live for a year in the state where you want to get your masters, so you get in-state tuition. Find a job and save. Beg your parents. Use Tuition Management Systems, so you don’t have to pay all at once.

    david maynes

    It’s not the ‘MLA’ degree that gets you the better job, it’s the knowledge you gain from the research you choose that becomes your professional value and attraction.

    I had a BS in landscape hort, then went to grad school (later in my career) to explore the hard science of phytoremediation and its project integration with design and implementation. Now…

    I’m an optimist, and believe that someday just maybe, cleaning junk can be done without a dump truck and offsite disposal facility. In ten years perhaps, maybe the intense research and understanding I have of this subject will offer a lucrative and promising later career. We’ll see!

    If you’re unemployed and have a research interest, I say an MLA (specialized knowledge) can be helpful. Maybe just not right when you graduate.

    Good luck



    Jason T. Radice

    Nothing more than a part-time interest. And its soooo boring.


    Still want to get an MSLA…but on my terms, and what I want to study. I’m thinking about other degrees, an MBA for one, or possibly a psychology/human behavior degree. I just don’t want to pay to play the BS college games anymore. I have certain things I want to study for particular reasons and thats it, nothing more. Until then, I guess i’ll just continue being autodidactic.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    “autodidactic”  …. YOU’LL GO BLIND!

    Jason T. Radice

    LOL….you’re right!



    From all the reading, that is!

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