Landscape Architecture Professional Design Certificates vs. L.A. Degree programs

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums EDUCATION Landscape Architecture Professional Design Certificates vs. L.A. Degree programs

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    Craig W. Arnold

    Hello everyone,

    I have a few questions regarding the status of professional design certificates in Landscape Architecture, such as those acquired at U.C. Berkeley and UCLA Extensions.

    1. Are the certificates held in the same regard as degrees?

    2. From a architecture firm’s perspective, are these equal?

    3. Have members outside of California heard of these programs and are they reputable outside of California?

    4. How much weight does California’s certification board, the Landscape Architectural Technical Committee (LATC) have?

    I greatly appreciate any insight anyone might have regarding these programs.


    Andrew Spiering

    Good question. I am finishing up my certificate at UC Berkeley Extension and am happy with my experience there. However, if I were to do it all over again, I would have gotten my Master’s degree instead. I say that because a Master’s program is usually 2-3 years while an extension program can drag on for more than 4 years (I am approaching five years). Also, a Master’s degree allows you the option to teach.

    There are advantages to Certificate programs. For example, classes are at night. This allowed me to work for a firm while I was taking classes. I do not think I would have been able to swing that if I were getting my Masters. This made classwork much easier and I was able to apply what I was learning in class immediately to my work in the office.

    But let me try and answer your questions…

    1. I think a Master’s degree has a better rep.
    2. I don’t think so. But you will have to prove yourself no matter what degree you have.
    3. Not sure.
    4. Can you clarify?

    Hope this helps!


    4. Wasn’t this just under discussion regarding whether the california LATC should be consolidated under the California architects committee (AIA)?

    Craig W. Arnold

    In #4 i am talking about compared to the national accreditation board that certifies bachelors and masters programs.

    Craig W. Arnold

    Yes, it was in gov. Schwarzenegger budget plan to eliminate the LATC even thought it is funded from fees for the registration exam. Does anyone know if this went through or not?

    Christopher Patzke

    Morning Craig.

    I have a Master’s degree so my opinion is a little biased…LOL

    Certificates are generally not held in the same regard as a degree. A degree indicates a level of commitment that a certificate does not. Accredited programs tend to be more comprehensive and rigorous. You will get a decidedly different level of education from a degree versus a certificate. There are also incidental experiences that a degree offers that a certificate may not. In a degree program you enter an environment that is saturated with discussion all day and night. There is nothing like being immersed the studio experience a degree will offer. A certificate program with commuting and full time employed students is just not the same.

    One very important thing to take into consideration is the type of work you want to do. We all start out doing the lowest work on the totem pole. A fully recognized degree would help you advance quicker in the profession. On the other hand you may be a bit frustrated seeing others advance quicker because they have a different skill set.

    Personally, as much as this may make me sound like a jack-ass, I would tend to hire someone with a degree to be a project manager/designer and someone with a certificate to be a CAD jockey. I would promote the person with a certificate once they received a degree.

    On the other hand and to confuse things a little…
    A degree never indicates a level of talent or ability.

    Andrew Spiering

    I believe certificate programs (at least UC Berkeley Extesion) fall under the same jurisdiction. A year ago, UCBX was in danger of losing their accreditation. The students were in a frenzy because of it…


    Dear Craig,
    Well, I can’t believe I haven’t replied to this!
    I am the Regional Director of Region V (western Region) for CLARB.
    I am also a policitally appointed committee member of the LATC, and have been for the past 6 years.
    I am the Vice President Elect of Government Affairs for National ASLA.
    And I have a certificate from UCLA Extension landscape architecture program.

    So I am biased, perhaps, but certainly well qualified to comment.

    The UC certificates in California are considered equal in the eyes of the LATC as fulfilling the education requirement needed to sit for the licensing exam in California.

    THE REST OF THE USA (we do think like that here)
    Every state has the RIGHT to set their standards for licensure. Therefore it varies from State to State. Some states don’t require education at all, and others require what we call the three legs necessary for licensure, education, experience, examination.
    The LATC as a member board of CLARB, has equal weight with all boards. Some boards require accreditation, some don’t. So it varies.

    The UC systems are reviewed by the LATC based upon the exact same review requirementst for curriculum as put forth by the LAAB. So if realistically viewed mano y mano, the UC Extension Program Certificates are reviewed under the same academic lens as other accredited schools, just by a state regulatory agency and not by private accreditation board (yes LAAB is made up of the ASLA, CELA and CLARB and is private).

    Why doesn’t LAAB review or accredited the UC Extension Programs? Good question! Because they ONLY accredit FIRST DEGREE GRANTING PROGRAMS. So since the UC Extension Schools offer a certificate, they cannot apply to be accredited. This has been addressed at numerous meetings, and will continue to be addressed, and is the reason the LATC assumed the responsibility of credentially the UC Programs.

    HISTORY OF THE UC Extension Programs
    These programs were started to fill the need for education of LA’s when the Regents did not authorize expanding seats in existing LA programs in the state. The Regents also did not intend to create new LA Departments or Degrees. Therefore the UCLA Extension Program was created to provide this option for education of LA’s to meet the profession’s need, OVER 35 YEARS ago! The Berkeley Extension Program followed. These are the only two evening and weekend programs that provide options for working adults in the USA that lead to licensure in a state. That state being California.

    At this time, we have successfully fought the issue of losing the LATC, a peer review group of licensed landscape architects. BTW, the LATC is already under the CAB, as a special committee, with members appointed by the Senate, the Assembly and the Governor.

    HIRING a UCLA Certificate Graduate.
    I’d hire a UCLA Extension graduate for any position based upon their previous background and portfolio, as I would any other applicant. In my experience I have found that most Masters degreed students are sorely lacking in practical experience although not all. Certainly it depends on the person and what they do with their education.

    I recently became the director of the UCLA Extension Program, and I’ve been the city Landscape Architect for several California Cities and the Chief Landscape Architect of a mulicounty regional park agency. I have hired many firms with people from many schools.

    To assume that the UC Extension Certificates are not equal is certainly something I would recommend that you reconsider and consider on a person by person basis as you should each applicant. To not do so, would be a disadvantage to you and to those who have worked hard all day and gone to school at night to practice this wonderful profession.

    Passion is not taught, it is nurtured. UCLA Extension certainly attempts to nurture individuals to fill that bill.

    Stephanie V. Landregan, ASLA, LEED AP

    Craig W. Arnold

    Thanks for your input Stephanie! On the subject, suppose I want to leave California after graduating from the certificate program. I have heard that the certificate carries little clout outside California. Do u find this to be true? What have ur graduates found from UCLA working outside of Cali?

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