License or no License

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    Juan Antonio Lopez

    I’m a recent graduate exploring career opportunities and I was wondering what are the pros and cons of being a landscape architect vs. landscape designer.

    Adam Trujillo

    This may or may not be relevant considering the firm you work for but according to ASLA’s latest survey “Being licensed significantly contributed to salary – $77,700 for those holding a license compared to $52,700 without.”

    Also, I’m currently working towards getting my license just to have options later for when I may want have my own firm.  As far as the firm that I work for we are able to get a lot of projects that require stamped and signed plans that a landscape designer would not be able to do.  

    My 2 cents… 

    Jordan Lockman

    A license is not a silver bullet that will give you unmeasured wealth, but it gives you more opportunities. I just got licensed last year (7years out of school) so far it has not changed my life much. However I do now have the ability to sign drawings and it allows me do more on my own. So good to have, but I would not stress about getting it right away. It was always a 10 year out of school goal for me, so I got it done a little earlier than that.


    If you want to go anywhere in a design firm you will need a license otherwise you are relegated to being a drafter. In design/build residential a license is not required. So there you don’t need a license, but it is still nice to call yourself a Landscape Architect to give yourself a distinction from the uneducated designers that flood that market.


    I worked design/build out of school, since there were opportunities for me at the time. I would not let the long term goal of a license deter you from working in one of those types of positions. I learned a lot doing design build and it had really helped to give me experience that I did not get in college. Experience that has really helped me in the design firm I currently work at.



    Darrel Biggs

    get it and live without restrictions….

    Rick Kingsbury

    Yes, and support the profession in the process.

    Alan Ray, RLA

    Dood! did your school not explain this to you???

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    If you plan on being a landscape contractor and designing your landscapes as part of it, there might not be as much a difference as some might think. I know many contractors with LA degrees who went into, or continued existing, business before interning. They do very well. One benefit to no having an LA license as a contractor is that LAs will have you bid on their jobs – when you have a stamp, they don’t for obvious reasons.


    The question is whether the primary business is as a contractor or design.

    Jordan Lockman

    I second this comment. This is a discussion that maybe should have happened when you were deciding between Land. Arch and Horticulture at your University. Maybe when deciding against the two year landscape design/hort. course at the local Vocational-tech School.

    If you have a LA degree you have spent at least double the amount of time in school as the entry level for landscape design without a license. So “finish your degree”(as CLARB puts it) and get the license, even if it is a five or ten year goal like myself.


    Definately get the license.  Studying for the tests and taking them will make you better at what you do, especially grading and site design.  There’s a lot of stuff on the tests that you don’t learn in school and helps you look at things a bit differently.

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