LARE test: Who takes it and who decides not to?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE LARE test: Who takes it and who decides not to?

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    Denise………I agree with what you have said here.  But, I can tell you this (and I have checked directly with the State of Texas Landscape Architecture Board)… in Texas, you can STILL design a variety of projects (residential & multi-family)……with the exception of retirement communities…..WITHOUT a State LA License. 

    The KEY here is the TITLE you use.  If you are not Licensed in the State, you can NOT use the title “Landscape Architect”.  I allowed my Texas LA License to lapse a couple of years ago…..but, I am still allowed to design “residential & multi-family” projects… long as I used the TITLE…”Landscape Designer”.

    So, Jason, I tend to disagree with you here.  Well, yes, with “some” commercial projects, an LA’s seal may be required…but, in that case, getting an LA with a License via a “consultant’s fee would resolve that issue. 

    And as far as LA salaries or income goes….with the LA firm I worked for in Dallas (1978 to 1991), I was bringing in between $35k & 45k max…which included a lot of over-time.  Within just 3 yrs. after leaving that firm (1991) and setting up my own private practice….I was pulling down 5 to 6 times that income every year thereafter.  And I wasn’t putting in any more hours on my own than I was for that Dallas LA firm. 90% of my projects were upscale multi-family developments in 12 states along with 10% upscale residential projects.  Leaving that Dallas LA firm was the BEST thing that ever happened to my career.  My only major overhead between 1991 and approx. 2008 was Federal Income Taxes.  I had no office space, no employees…..basically zero over-head.

    I have been “freelance” since 1991.  So, it appears to me, Denise, that you are just fine with the direction you’re going.  For me, after I had my own private LA practice for about 5 yrs., there was NO WAY I was going to go back to work for an LA firm again.  I have really enjoyed the design freedom and lifestyle.


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    No matter what type of landscape design you are doing, whether it requires holding an LA license or not, you get your work based on how much faith your potential client has in you. Having the license, whether the client has a clue of what it means or not, gives you that much more gravitas or credibility.


    I’ve never worked on a job that legally required a licensed LA to my knowledge. I’ve worked on many that declared that a “Landscape Architect” was required, but then went on to define “landscape architect” in ways that pretty much said ….or anyone else we decide to be appropriate.


    I agree that in many places, including that which I work in, it is not a legal advantage. BUT, if you are licensed and declare that you are licensed, it often makes the potential client interested in whether other people who they are speaking with are. They may further explore on their iphone as  to what that means. Maybe they do none of that, but they know that it means something toward your credibility.


    If you are capable and eligible to be licensed you only question should be whether you think the cost of testing and annual license fee exceeds that extra credibility or not. When compared to other marketing expenses, it is quite inexpensive especially after the testing is over.


    It does not give you an instant pass to the front of the line, but when lumped in with a bunch without it, you will be one that at least gets a closer look. If you feel like you are strong enough to compete without it, why not make your advantage stronger?


    Here is the thing. This is the question that is usually raised by people who are currently not eligible to sit for the exam. They usually are those who went into business before having worked under an LA, those who have not finished their degree, or those having a hard time finishing the exam (maybe due to money  or ability to pass).I don’t blame anyone who needs to get on with his/her life to skip licensure and move forward. I know a few people who did exactly that with LA degrees who are much more successful than me. I do a lot of work with one who is an awesome designer and contractor who taught me far more than those LAs who I worked under. Who in their right mind is going to close their business to be an apprentice? (who is going to hire someone who is only putting his business on hold to get licensed?)


    Bottom line: if you are eligible, take the exam before you get into the position that it is too impractical. If you are not eligible and you want to continue to grow your business, do it with no regret. It is a diverse field.

    Tosh K

    How does having your name on a project w/o a license affect liability insurance?  I can’t imagine tying my license for liability on another person’s drawings, too many things could go wrong.  Is this less of a concern on residential projects? 


    Well, I held an LA license in at least (1) State (TEXAS) for over 30 years……had several other states….I think (14) at one time.  While working for a Dallas LA firm for 13 yrs……of course, I was practicing under THEIR “liability insurance”.

    While on my own (since 1991), I was fortunate to have NEVER had a liability problem with any project…..over 300 projects….never carried any “liability insurance”.  Though, I don’t believe it’s all that expense….probably wise to carry it.

    Andrew, you made some very good points in your comments.  Unfortunately in the LA profession, I have come to learn over the years…..most of the public don’t really understand the “difference” between a Licensed LA and one who is not.  I have never practiced illegally….but, I will say, when I market (which is very little now that I am not very active at all)…..I just mentioned that I earned my B.S.L.A. degree @ Texas A&M (1977); passed the National LA exam (U.N.E. back then) and that during my 36+ yr. design career, I was “previously” a License Landscape Architect in 14 States.  That, along with my Portfolio opens the doors without my having the LA License.  I just don’t use the TITLE “Landscape Architect”.  Though, next yr., when I turn 65, I’m planning to apply to The State of Texas for an “emeritus” Landscape Architecture License.  Though, I doubt that I will be designing any projects in the future……other than upscale residential projects.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Bob, I don’t disagree with any of that once you are referred or have been contacted.


    Where I have come to realize that there is a benefit by having the license is when someone is blindly searching for a designer and no nothing about us except finding a yellow page listing or, more likely these days, a web site. There are many websites done by website designers who can make Joe’s Lawn Service look like they have done great design and construction so that a strong portfolio of built work is sometimes (not always) lost in the crowd. Any edge that adds to credibility when all else appears equal might make the difference between getting that call and not getting that call.


    This is especially true, in my opinion and based on the types of projects that come my way without referral, when there are more site design or regulatory issues than planting issues within the project. I’m left to assume that my title of Landscape Architect is what makes me one of the people they call.


    I totally agree that after you and/or others receive that initial phone call or referral it will be your ability to sell yourself and your portfolio of built work that will make or break you and the license will mean absolutely nothing to the potential client.

    Dave McCorquodale

    I think someone told me that not becoming licensed was sort of like being one course/class away from a degree.  While the exam cost of a very real concern, it’s rather small compared to the cost of the degree.  Perhaps paying out of pocket for the exam versus the “easy money tap” of student loans/parent’s checkbook makes it sting a little more than the over-priced tuition did.

    I feel that the license was worth the effort and expense.  Working in high-end residential, the real value for me is the professionalism it carries.  It is the best way I’ve found to distinguish myself from the competition.  Good luck either way.  




    The problem as I see it (especially over these past 4 yrs. or so)… that many people (even in  very upscale residential situations)…..just don’t seem to have OR want to spend the money on “professional LA design services”.  Many in the public don’t seem to CARE (if they even understand the difference) IF a designer is a Licensed in the State or not….they’re more concerned about the COST of the design.

    Landscape Contractors & Landscape Nurseries often times offer LA design services for FREE…though, you and I KNOW nothing is really “free”.  They hide the cost of their design services in the cost of landscape materials and labor………and then, without knowing, the owners are getting (in my opinion) VERY POOR design services.

    Oh, I agree with you 100%…..the LA license is the best way to go for EVERY Landscape Architect.  I just believe that the prestige of being an RLA just isn’t what it used to be.  I may be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that most every State allows ANY designer to produce Landscape Designs as long as they do NOT use the TITLE “Landscape Architect”.


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I think that another reason to get licensed is that it forces us to complete the whole process. Whether or not anyone knows or cares what a landscape architect is, it requires us to gain some education and experience that we otherwise would not.


    I know that in my case I am much better positioned to compete for work that pays me enough as a landscape designer to make a living because the track that I followed in order to get that license gave me experiences that I otherwise would have avoided. Some of those experiences are now the reasons that I am referred work. …. wetland permitting, flood zone issues, retaining wall and stair design, and dealing with parking and vehicular circulation. My thing is residential plantings and hardscapes, but those other issues are my ticket in where others are not so capable or not so comfortable …. not because my license is required, but because of the experience that I was dragged through to get to sit for that license.

    The freebie designers or discounted designers who are going to make the money on the build have always been there and always will be there. I have no problem with that. It is what they do to compete. …. same as it ever was, …. same as it ever was…. Their clients were never going to pay us for design only. They are out of our market. We have to know where we can be competitive and where we are not. Our biggest advantage is such a situation is that we are independent and our plans can be shopped or several bids can be taken. We are on the high ground of not being corrupted by having more to gain by blowing up the cost of the landscape.



    Regarding your statement, “I may be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that most every State allows ANY designer to produce Landscape Designs as long as they do NOT use the TITLE “Landscape Architect,” I think you are wrong.  Your statement would be correct in states in which regulate the profession through a title act.  Most states now regulate through practice acts, meaning you can’t call yourself a landscape architect or perform the services of landscape architecture (which should be defined under the law) unless licensed.  There ARE exemptions to this (residential landscapes a common one) and presumably vary state by state. 



    I have read the LA State Laws in a couple of major states…….reading under the provisions of “exceptions or exemptions”……and you’re right.  It’s probably a (state by state) situation….but, they’re three.  Not just Landscape Design, but also, Irrigation & Golf Course Design.

    I have carefully read the State of Texas LA laws (my home state)….where I was a Licensed LA for over 30 yrs.  But, they have an “exception” that allows persons to perform “Landscape Design” as long as they do NOT use the TITLE “Landscape Architect”.

    Just to make 100% sure, last year, I e-mailed the State of Texas Landscape Board for “clarity” on this issue.  And they confirmed I was correct.  I explained to them that almost all of my design work was high-end residential and upscale multi-family developments.  They did tell me that a License LA would be required (and seal) for “Assisted Living” Facilities……due to the Federal Handicap Laws.  Well, regardless…as long as those ADA law were in effect, I made sure ALL of my commercial projects were in full compliance.

    But, I do think there are several other STATES what have similar “exceptions” as TEXAS.  LA grads just need to be sure they carefully read the State LA laws that apply to them.




    Again, some very good points.  Though, you mentioned “Retaining Wall Design”.  I realize that we

    were all taught as LA students in our Universities to design retaining walls and many other design

    elements (not just planting design).  But, for “structural” elements…..i.e., retaining walls, swimming

    pools, heavy duty arbors, free standing stone/brick walls, etc….For Landscape elements that are

    “structural” in nature, it’s best for LA’s to provide the “aesthetic” design, but NOT the “structural”

    design.  Even if you DO have “liability insurance”.  I would recommend LA’s show the retaining

    wall “look” or whatever it is…and then place a NOTE on the drawing that states “The Structural

    Design for this retaining wall, etc., etc…shall be by a Licensed Structural Engineer“. 


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Yes, Bob, we are required to use structural engineers on walls over 4′. I do the layout plan with top of wall and bottom of wall spot grades, layout of stairs, height of risers and tread width. They do their structural design to match my finish design.


    Most of the non-LA landscape designers in my area have a very difficult time designing grading and retaining accurately because of lack of experience with it. The contractor can wind up having to build taller or shorter walls, or have much steeper slopes than expected, or trapping water, or a 5% slope on a raised patio, or needing three more steps than is on the plan that may encroach into a patio or go half way across a walkway, …. I hear this all the time from the landscape contractors that I work with.

    Trace One

    I have a divergent view than most posters here. I am not interested in being registered – I am not a detail oriented person, and prefer to retain control at the design level and have a registered LA to stamp plans for me. I know many successful Landscape Designers, including Edwina Von Gal and I think Debra Nevins, who do not have stamps, and still retain the highest level of pay scales. I am not a technician and do not want to be one. I have a Master’s degree, which may help me with my post-retirement goal of teaching at a university. But for  now, I just do  not see the value of having a stamp. Also, I am offended that they eliminated history from the registration program – they have basically decided to treat LA’s like technicians, not like professionals who are able to see the importance of art and literature for our craft. So for me, right now, I am not interested in aquiring a stamp.


    As but a humble and detail-oriented technician – really nothing more than your lowly drafting slave who speaks only when spoken to, and then meekly before true designers – so obviously unable to see the importance of history, art and literature in my craft, I applaud your decision to escape the tyranny by taking the unlicensed high road.

    Trace One

    Thank you, in your spare time since you probably work no overtime at all  as a lowly technician, I recommend some history of art or literature courses. Then perhaps you will be as exalted as me.

    Heck, man, the guys I work with might as well be called plumbers – all they do is irrigation plans for designs like everything is  an entrance to a shopping center. So sorry for my perspective, but I stick by it. I am not better than men with stamps. but I sure ain’t gonna put a giant M in the landscape, and irrigate the hell out of a highway. It’s just wrong. The stamp does not teach you that!

    Plus, I said I am not good at detail. Can that count for humility? Some people are, some people are not.

    but I can take the sarcasm, I am used to having the unpoppular point of view. thanks for the reply.

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