Non-RLA’s using the title Landscape Architect

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GENERAL DISCUSSION Non-RLA’s using the title Landscape Architect

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    Heather Smith

    Thanks Trace…you are absolutely correct that I have NOOO idea what you are talking about.

    Trace One

    hee! yes, a putz..sorry to create such a digression on a very serious topic..

    back to work..

    Lana Merrill

    Honestly – I don’t care. I have just as much respect for landscape designers as landscape architects. Call me naive, but it seems like a landscape designer who has attainted a BLA is just as respectable as someone who has a BLA and took the time to get licensed. I feel like you’re almost stating that people who haven’t gotten licensed are …lesser than you. If it’s not affecting you personally, then why do you care so much? No need to start a heated debate on the matter.


    I do agree that it’s wrong when it comes to someone calling themselves a professional landscape architect and they aren’t licensed (OBVIOUSLY because they’re lieing). That’s clear. But in casual conversation (i.e. with a friend or someone you just met), who cares about the technicalities. Odds are, they’re going to end up thinking you’re a landscaper who works at the nursery or flower shop down the street anyway. No need to worry about it.


    And by the way, I’m a “kid” who just got out of school and I don’t call myself a landscape architect. Anyone who has gone through a landscape architecture program is not stupid – they know that they’re not a fancy “landscape architect” until they’ve gotten licensed. Were you calling yourself a landscape architect right out of school? (That’s right, you probably weren’t because you were educated enough to know better …and that’s why you got licensed)


    I was responding to the original post and am guilty of not reading through this lengthy thread. What I initially took offense to was the superior tone in how *earthworker*s post was worded. In addition,some of you ‘professionals’ are acting anything but ‘professional’ with your name calling and condescending attitudes.

    To clarify, when asked, I say that I am a ‘landscape architect’ or that I have a degree in ‘landscape architecture’. I do not advertise my services commercially. Nowhere in the original post was that distinction made.

    I feel your anger and frustration should be directed at the poor advocacy efforts of the ASLA and state chapters. I live in metro-Atlanta and have found that there are not many documents that legally require the stamp of a “landscape architect” which cannot be stamped by an engineer or architect.Some plan sets require no stamp at all.

    Some of you drank the ASLA kool-aid and thought that licensure would bring you a steadier stream of income and clients. Meanwhile you blame your unlicensed associates for your lack of business. That’s like blaming the poor for the US economy being in the toilet.

    When assigning blame for your absence of work maybe, just MAYBE, you should look first to your ATTITUDE.

    Leslie B Wagle

    Did someone blame unlicensed associates for a lack of business? When I joined in, the topic was mostly unlicensed blaming the RLAs for not being able to sit for the exam.


    Nah, it’s just more made up silliness. Just like the misguided folks that think RLAs think they’re better than Landscape Designers. Who came up with that? I guess the economy is causing people to see boogeymen everywhere.

    Leslie B Wagle

    It can be confusing and frankly in my state, the shift from title act to practice act didn’t seem to change anything survival-wise. On the other hand, there will always be alternatives out there for people to use, no matter what you invest in. I hate to make specific analogies because it’s so easy to step on someone’s toes, but if there was no licensing, then we revert to the situation where literally anyone can apply the title to themselves. But in the end, there are people who would rather go to a shaman than a medical doctor (bad parallel I know) … the idea behind a license movement is that, when a term has requirements attached, at least IF people are looking for that training, they know the label means something. There are still ways to operate without it; and there will always be decision makers who confuse it with other fields or got burned once, and actively avoid all of us like poison ivy.


    You said” I’m viewed as some dumb naive clueless kid because I’m not licensed,” yet you have a lot of work. I don’t think anybody here would believe that of a grad, and I even wonder if you can find out if there is a way to get your own self-employment to count. In some states experience is a zero when it precedes graduation (some people are freelancing that early)….but it may actually do you some good now (or get you a percentage type credit) if you can show enough plans to make the case that it’s wasn’t just an occasional fluke, more like serious time.


    Meanwhile, your profile shows you’ve been on here a couple of years, and status must have changed so you might want to update it not to show “student.” 


    And, by the way I think in times like these, that Boards SHOULD reward people doing exactly as you are. I don’t know how hard that would be for them to amend their credit tally systems, but you are more a help to the profession than people who walk away from it. Or if they could allow “mentoring” to count. Then elder people like me in the same region could be put to some use to look over/review work along the way, without having to pay a salary (or charge the exam seeker). Too bad this wasn’t all forseen.



    “I never call myself a Landscape Architect.  I say I’m a landscape designer with a landscape architecture degree.”


    Wonderful! I found it easier to just say landscape designer. I’m usually very informal when I meet people. Besides after you say ‘landscape’ they stop listening anyway. So you could fill in the rest of your title with anything, they’ll still visualize you in a pick-up truck.


    If you’re selling and collecting design fees, you shouldn’t be frustrated, you should be happy as a clam. With money and a little resourcefulness, you can find a way to get work experience under an LA. You just need to stop feeling sorry for yourself, be a big girl and make it happen. If you have the chutzpah to go out on your own and be successful, you really don’t have a problem.


    Such a shame that I could be of value to a firm or an RLA in so many ways but I’m viewed as some dumb naive clueless kid because I’m not licensed.”


    They reason why someone would view you as a dumb naïve clueless kid, is because of statements like this. Kill the poor pitiful me song, life is hard on everybody.


    So I guess you’re in a snit because your career isn’t going according to your life plan. Well… you might need to flow with your current plan because it seems to be working for you. Once you unfold your arms and stop pouting, you’ll be able to see just how fabulous you really are. Stop sabotaging your success with unnecessary worry. Your clients are buying Denise; no one cares about your title.

    Leslie B Wagle

    I was also trying to reply and it wouldn’t go through as her response to my post was deleted, and now it seems her whole account is gone. I briefly did see where she explained that she used “student” in order to deflect any danger, and is still feeling alone and unsure what to do. Now I can’t send what I was going to recommend privately, either. Well, in case she comes back or in case it would help anyone else, this is what I was going to say (having served on a board a few years ago). Salvaged message in italics.


    If as you said, the website says “the law doesn’t apply to contractors, nurserymen, garden designers.  They can do all this stuff without getting in trouble,” then that is the role you would be operating in for now, not practicing illegally if you don’t exceed the job complexity allowed or advertise with the title. But maybe at this point, one step before using an attorney who might get it confused anyway, would be to find out the names of the board members and see if any locally nearest to you can furnish you with any guidance (it might even be good to gather and represent a small group of equally affected people). There is even such a thing as scheduling a face to face meeting with them. They aren’t a secret body and have public access for some business; you just have to call and get on the agenda. But there may already be some precedent cases they have solved already and can clarify if you press for more specifics than the website offers.


    Talented but fragile I guess.   

    Heather Smith

    We have an instance right now in town where a local business is advertising for landscape architectural services…I think we are seeing more of this because businesses are struggling and see it as a tag to lure customers in. We need to protect the use of these terms so that they continue to mean something.

    Wanted to add Lana…yeah I don’t call myself one either. I don’t even call myself an intern landscape architect despite the fact that my husband is an RLA and we own our own business. I rarely help with any designing…there isn’t enough work for me to actually meet the hours that are required even under that definition. Rule follower here!


    I respect Landscape Designers as much as I do Landscape Architects as well. Landscape Contractors and Nurserymen are pretty o.k. too. Respectability, are we in 19th century Europe? If a man or woman goes to work everyday doing whatever, they are worthy of respect.


    I’m sorry. What was your point?

    Jason T. Radice

    Thank you.


    Bryan Milne

    The main take away I get from this thread is that secondary education in landscape architecture (though required to enter the field) isn’t valued by the actual registered licensed landscape architects in practice. It seems that the cost (time and money) is so great and the bar set so high, that those who struggled and continue to struggle to get and maintain their license and registration as a “Landscape Architect” are extremely defensive and angry that anyone should ever even be so bold as to suggest that those who earned a degree in landscape architecture are worthy enough to be granted the right to refer to themselves as landscape architects! It might be the current “law” but I think this is just ludicrous! We all worked very hard for our degrees (which for many of us meant going into great debt) so we could be worthy of the professional title and becoming a practicing member of the profession of landscape architecture. So not only do you have to go through 4-5 years of university education, but you also have to go through another 4-5 years of employment “under” someone who already is a RLA (regardless of their skill level or talent), pass some very expensive and very difficult exams and then continue to shell out more money for continuing education and registration fees for the rest of your life in order to attain the right to use the taboo word “architect” in your title! All while the computer software industry uses the word “architect” for just about every positition and title in their field without even batting an eyelash! I think that if there is such a thing as a “Registered Licensed Landscape Architect” or RLA, then what is wrong with changing the laws such that degree earners reasonably be afforded the right to use the title “Landscape Architect” or LA?” If RLA’s beleive there is so much more training and experience required from work in the “real world” then there must be something seriously lacking and wrong with the secondary education accredited degree landscape architcture programs. Maybe these programs are flat out a waste of time? With good teachers and the right books this stuff (LARE) could be taught and learned in a matter of months and that’s all it should take, no? Multiple years of expertise, mastery and proficiency in the profession can be demonstrated through portfolios of built work, books, articles, research, faculty positions and business success. All of these can differentiate the natural talent and skill of seasoned Landscape Architects. Why can’t the base title (as well as more accessible means for attainment of licensure) be the entry point for degree earners to launch and begin their practice?

    Andrew Garulay, RLA


    I agree with some of what you are saying, but the license and ability to use the professional title is a big incentive to jump through all those extra hoops. Those extra hoops take a lot of effort and commitment which builds knowledge. If you take that away by making it available to anyone, almost everyone would bypass gaining that extra knowledge.

    I’m not saying that people should not be able to practice landscape architecture without a title, but if you look at almost any “Practice Act” they have so many exceptions that those are really are no more than a “Title Act”. It is to some degree a copywritten club that you have to pass the initiation to join. I don’t know if that is good or bad, but it is what it is.

    Basically, not having the title is not holding you back yet you desperately want to use the title. Can you see the irony in that? You are saying on the one hand that you have what it takes to function as a landscape architect (and I’m not saying you don’t) yet you still think you can’t simply because you can’t call yourself one. It can’t be both.

    This is all in your head. I know because I lived the same thing. I did stick it out and got licensed. That process forced me to do work that I would have otherwise avoided, gave me a chance to see that some things that I designed or was involved in producing work for did not look anything like what I thought they would which made me start understanding much better what I was putting on paper, and I saw how regulation, business, and other things were being done that were not anything I was lead to believe in school. There is no way that I would be doing what I am doing now had I not forced myself through that process.

    So, my advice is to settle in your own head whether you want to join the club so you can have the little rubber stamp, or whether you have the skill set to build your career outside of that. It is you who is conflicted.

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with dismissing going after the title of “Landscape Architect” and moving on with your career. I know more really successful landscape designers with LA degrees who did not bother chasing the license that do awesome work than I know licensed LAs doing awesome work in the market that I work in.

    Either chase the license and title, or stop worrying about using the title and just kick some ass a designer. People are going to hire you by your capability and experience, not your title. You just have to find a way to build and document that experience (that is where chasing the license helped me).

    I could stop renewing my license and I don’t think it would impact my business at all. I have to say that in my case the process of getting my stamp was exponentially more valuable to my development than the stamp.

    Good luck with either path that you chose, just get off the fence and go all out on one path or the other. The title is not holding you back.

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