Licensure rant

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    Theodore Tegen

    I will apologize in advance for the rant.


    So Minnesota just decided that they will making the rules for licensure in landscape architecture even stricter than they are right now, and from what I have read of licensure laws, Minnesota was already one of the most strict in the country.


    My story: I passed all sections of the LARE back in 2009, and submitted my application for licensure in early 2010 when I found out the December graphic administration scores.  At the time I had 5 years experience in LA working at an architecture/civil firm as the only LA practitioner, this was all legal of course because my supervisors (and signers of drawings) are licensed PEs and architects.  I also graduated from a non-LAAB LA program (wish I had researched this when I started) in 2004. 


    Of course my application was denied because my experience was supervised by PEs and architects and not a landscape architect.  So my firm is now jumping through the hoops and I am currently working with a supervisor who is a licensed landscape architect.  So the new rules NOW state, that only ONE year of experience will be counted if completed under PEs/architects.  I fear I will never gain licensure.


    This profession and it’s high-horsedness is getting pretty **cking out of hand if you ask me.  LARE and licensure boards are set up to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public correct?  Not to license what it deems “good/talented” professionals.  If the latter were the case there would be far fewer PEs/archs/LAs out there.  So how in the world is a PE/architect less suited to supervise someone training to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public than a licensed LA???  Sorry but PEs/archs deal a lot more with safety issues than LAs do, by far.  So how is experience under them less qualified??


    As for experience, believe me, I have a more diverse and more involved set of experience as a project manager, site planner, urban design practitioner than does an emerging LA who is sitting at a CAD station for 4 years.  Yet the state licensure board somehow feels that this other person is qualified to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public and I am not??  This is absolute bonkers logic if you ask me, and really not logic at all.


    I of course am biased as I am on the losing end of this deal, so help me see some perspective on this, whether you agree with me or disagree.


    My impression is that the law believes there to be a difference in the skill sets as well as the need to protect the profession from arch’s and eng’s who don’t have the diversity of schooling/training. The health and safety piece may be less the intent of the professional and more concerning the likelihood that they confront the exact types of situations that RLA’s face.


    You have my sympathies. I’m a year’s worth of experiece out from being able to sit for the exam and the economy is the problem I’m facing.

    Theodore Tegen

    That’s a good point John, I suppose I didn’t consider the law as “protecting the profession.” 

    Sara Kirk

    I just came from working for 8 years at a strictly landscape architect firm to now working for a PE&A firm, and I can tell you there is a world of difference, especially in the attitude towards environment, sustainable practices, pedestrian design, lack of social science perspective, attention to aestetics, etc. etc….BUT I will say my situation is probably extreme as this is mostly an engineering firm, if it was more architectural it would probably be different. Anyway, just trying to say if I had had 4 years of experience at this place – I would not have nearly the experience in the landscape architecture profession as I gained working under all LA’s for 4 years.  So I can kinda see where they are coming from….

    And the LA firm I worked at before dealt with a ton of safety issues, I would say far more than they do at this Engineering firm I am working at now, so I think that all just depends on the type of work you are doing.

    But maybe that is some of the stuff they are trying to protect against…

    Theodore Tegen

    I can definitely understand your perspective Sara.  My current firm is very much 40:60 Civil:Architecture, so it’s a mixed bag.  Another frustration I have is that when I tried to get some answers and attempt to appeal by explaining some of my individual experience, I receive a reply that says that the board no longer hears appeals, and that I have to go before a judge – for which the board will employ the state attorney general’s office.  WTF they must have really been burned in the past on something like this, though of course they won’t explain that to me.  Everything is just so veiled and convoluted, a guy can’t catch a break.

    Tanya Olson

    You may have a valid complaint about the legality of what they are doing. If PE’s and Architects are qualified to stamp landscape architecture drawings in MN (which they appear to be as they are exempt from the LA licensing statute) they are qualified to provide experience for a landscape architect. I hate to say this as I am rarely an advocate for taking the ‘lawsuit’ route, but having a lawyer look at the statute to check the legality of the licensing board’s actions then a quick letter from the lawyer might get you pretty far. To me the statue as read currently does not say that you have to complete your 5 years under a licensed professional at all anyway…How frustrating! Best of luck. I absolutely agree with you.

    If all else fails, you could get licensed in SD, ND, IA or WI then apply for reciprocity in MN…???

    Theodore Tegen

    Tanya, thanks for the supporting words.  Somehow I missed the connection that you made between PEs/Archs being allowed to stamp/sign LA drawings, but not provide supervision to an emerging LA candidate.  Very interesting.  I have often thought about licensure in adjacent states, and while valuable as we do work in many of these states, I have a feeling the MN licensure board would see right through it.


    As an aside, my firm has had another problem getting reciprocity for a CA licensed architect, who is somehow not qualified in MN.  Bull$hit.  CA is so much more stringent than MN in almost every capacity.  But because of one minor difference between the CA licensure law and the MN licensure law, she basically cannot be licensed in MN.  Absurd.

    Noah Billig

    Well, according to the Board of AELSLAGID’s website,, you should be able to use up to two years of experience under a licensed engineer and/or architect:


    Part 4 – 1800.1500 – Education and Experience –  Subpart 5 – G. “Qualifying experience in architecture or engineering shall receive full credit up to a maximum of two years when the work is related to landscape architecture and is directly supervised by the appropriately licensed professional.”


    This part is from their current website and is exactly the same as the PDF I downloaded from their website a few years back (circa 2007).  The PDF I downloaded around 2007 says it was created March 11, 2005.  Anyway, this seems to be the rule and I think it has been the rule for some time.  Keep in mind that the two years under a PE or RA is, “up to a maximum of two years.”  


    You very well may be more than qualified to be a licensed LA, but the rules are the rules, and they have been in place and posted explicitly on their website for years.  Also, I don’t think the profession is “high-horsed” because it requires supervision under the same profession.  Ostensibly, there are things that one learns under the supervision of an RLA that they don’t under a PE or RA, and that assumption is something the licensing board probably needs to make.  Let’s hope there is a difference, or there really is no need for a separate profession of Landscape Architecture.  Again, you might have more than enough qualifying experience, but look at it from the licensing board’s perspective.  I feel for you, but you’re going to have to get the experience under an LA.  It was in the writing years ago.

    Jason T. Radice

    Not having a LAAB accredited degree is a killer, too, as you usually have to have a lot more time under your belt to even sit for the exam (depending on the state). I had to swtich jobs to get the requisite experience, as I too was working with engineers and architects. I agree with those who said that there is w WORLD of difference in experiences and practices between the professions. You may be well qualified, but the laws are intended to keep those on the margins (say, ANY engineer or architect) from taking the exams by having their collegues sign off on the experience credits. It’s also to keep landscape designers who don’t have the education from getting licensed quickly. Then it would be like the LEED exam used to be, buy a book, pay for the exam. BOOM, you are a LEED-AP. You can’t sit for the ARE’s or the PE exams without following the strict rule, they can’t sit for ours. Unfortunately, you are stuck. Sorry for your situation, and good luck. You might try looking at getting al license in another state with more lax requirements if you can find one.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Part of not seeing this coming might be because you did not go to a LAAB accredited school and were left in the dark about the licensing process. I went to a small accredited program out in the sticks and we were absolutely well briefed on internship and licensing standards in the nation despite the fact that the state that it was in did not require internship.


    You don’t know what you don’t know, but it is more common than not that internship is only credited to working full time in stints of at least 6 months at a time under direct supervision of a licensed landscape architect (often with some minium years of practice). Many states allow partial credit for working under another professional limited to a portion of the requirement (like MN). Few states allow you to sit for the exam prior to meeting all of the other requirements for licensing.


    The thing that really bugs me about this case is that you have someone who states that he was the sole practitioner of landscape architectural work, yet thinks he has received equal “internship” as someone working under direct supervision of an LA. That is not an internship. It is being a landscape designer. Add that to not having an accredited degree and some still have empathy? I just read tons of rants about engineers and architects “taking our work” and “not having the skills to do landscape architecture, and now some think that this guy should sue the licensing board for not giving him full internship credit because he worked independently in landscape design under the same roof of Archs & Engs? All last week Archs and Engs were worthless and now you think they make interns who work without their supervision? I don’t get it.


    I’m one of the few who has no problem with architects and engineers doing landscape plans if people want them to do it, but I am really surprised by the lack of consistency here? Read the Minnesota Practice Act. It does not make engineers and architects into landscape architects. It allows them to design landscapes. It also allows:

    Nursery operators or other small business people preparing

    landscape plans appropriate to the normal operation of their business.

    So Joe the flower arranger should be able to approve landscape architect interns as well?


    We are so inconsistent at wanting respect for our profession and whining about it being not so easy to get licensed. Thankfully, licensing is pretty darn consistent all the way across the country. If you look and see what it takes to get licensed, if you follow that clear path, and if you have the ability to get it done, you will get licensed. If you seek short cuts, or don’t understand what you need to do, you won’t.


    The good news is that whether or not your state has a Title Act oor Practice Act, there are so many exemptions that not having a license is not going to legally stop you from very much. You won’t get to call yourself a Landscape Architect or get your very own rubber stamp, but it is not likely to be the biggest obstacle in your business or career as an employee. There are bigger things to worry about other than getting licensed.


    If you want it, go get it., but don’t expect the rules to change to accommodate you. It won’t happen.

    Jonathan J. Bob

    Just because you are licensed in one state, it doesn’t automatically guarantee reciprocity even if the state has a reciprocity agreement.  I was licensed in NJ in the 80’s (the first year they had licensing), met the education and experience requirements and passed the UNE.  In 2005 I applied for licensing in NY via reciprocity.  I had to prove my education (easy to do) and my work experience under a licensed LA.  This was more difficult because for 4 years of my employment there was no such thing as a licensed LA in NJ and while i did meet the work experience under a licensed LA,  20 years later he was a competitor of mine.  He turned out to be a stand-up guy and had no problem signing off on my work experience.  I got my NY license just before they changed the requirements.  In my opinion it’s all BS.  Aside from some state specific requirements (plants, etc.) that are necessary for obvious reasons, there should be 1 national standard for licensing.

    Jason T. Radice

    I totally agree they they should make reciprocity easier. Why do you have to prove your education and your references when you already did it with your state and CLARB to even SIT for the exam? And to pay CLARB an abscene amount of money annualy just to keep a few kilobytes in a database, then pay AGAIN to transmit the info. I could do the same service for a heck of a lot less. I could see having to take specialty exams, but where they do not exist, it is just easier to check your state’s license database kept by your licensing board.

    Susan Suddjian

    You can research licensure requirements in other states and perhaps get your license there instead, and transfer it through reciprocity.  That’s what I did!

    Tanya Olson

    I still think he could potentially have a valid ‘restriction of trade’ complaint made unlawful by the Sherman Anti Trust Act, particularly if there is some way he can show that the intent of the 5 year internship is to reduce the number of licenses in the state which is illegal. The law was not made by the board. All laws, while perhaps written by the board, are enacted by the state legislature and are required to meet constitutional and federal challenges.

    A 5-year internship may be found unreasonable particularly compared to other professions that are tasked with public welfare – a medical residency is only 3 or 4 years depending on the program, with only a 7 year residency for neurosurgery. Could a 4-year resident in emergency medicine get hired as a GP – yes. Same thing here. Theodore can easily illustrate that the LARE is heavily based on engineering and architectural health safety and welfare standards because the things we do that affect health safety and welfare are crossovers between the professions. There is almost nothing on the exams particular to landscape architecture.


    MN has a long record of making restrictive laws only to repeal them – but NEVER without public pressure. If landscape architects in MN want to reduce the internship time to bring it more in line with the rest of the country, then they have to go talk to their legislators and get them to sponsor an amendment to the practice act. If you read the whole act you will see that there are pages and pages of repealed sections. I’m certainly not suggesting that he sue. What I was saying earlier is that a letter from a lawyer versed in anti trust law would probably indicate to the board that they can expect some heat from within the profession if they don’t take a more careful look at the restrictions they’ve placed on the right to practice which is protected by law.


    I guess in the end, I disagree with you that the law is the law. The law is almost entirely political and has been written to accomodate whomever lawmakers favored at the time. I’ve been heavily involved for many years at the state level working on licensure laws for other professions also tasked with protecting the public. What the law is depends on the attitude of the governor, the makeup of the commerce committee, department of health, the general acceptance of nationally standardized testing, etc. AND the pressure they recieve from lobbying groups, individual constituants, etc.

    I just don’t see this as black and white like you do or that the rules are infallible. Too much evidence to the contrary.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    The fact still remains that he did not go to an LAAB accredited school and has not interned under a licensed LA at all.


    I think MN rules are excessive, but I don’t think that any state is going to accept a degree from an unaccredited school and only experience in an engineering office. Some will not require any internship, but will require the accredited degree. Some will allow no degree at all, but require several years of direct full time experience under a licensed LA.


    You either believe that it is important to regulate landscape architecture or you don’t. You either believe in standards for licensing or you don’t.


    How many of you people with accredited degrees and a year in an LA office inder your belt are going to like the idea of someone with an unaccredited degree and no time in an LA office getting licensed when you can’t. I know one member on Land8 with several years of working in LA offices who is a few credits shy who probably would not be thrilled with the idea.


    Someone suggested studying up on the rules in different states and finding what is doable. That is fine. In this case, he is not even close to the requirements in the state that he is applying to. The simple answer is to work three years under the LA that they brought in and he’s all set.


    I’m surprised that more peple who have gone through the process are sympathetic. I’m even more surprised that those of you who are close, but can’t get it are.

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