Pursuit of MLA w/ Unrelated Undergrad

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums EDUCATION Pursuit of MLA w/ Unrelated Undergrad

Viewing 6 posts - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)
  • Author
  • #151529
    Delisa C.

    Hello Everyone,

    I apologize in advance if there have been similar discussions but I’ve searched and searched and could still use some advice.  I’m nearing completion of my BA in Psychology and only recently discovered the field of Landscape Architecture. I was never completely sure what I would do with a psychology degree but was interested in the field of study so I went for it. I’m honestly a bit bummed that I didn’t learn about LA sooner, otherwise I would’ve definitely chosen that for my undergrad to begin with.

    My concern now, is that I’d love to go for my MLA after finishing this degree and when I get out of the military in a few years. I’ll be going to school in California and have seen a few programs specifically for students with unrelated undergrad degrees. I’d like some suggestions on how to make myself more competitive for these programs having no LA experience/education. Not just to help my chances of being accepted but also so that I’m not going in with zero foundational knowledge. I was considering taking a one-year certificate program or something similar just to learn more and also for the chance to add some landscape-related projects to my admissions portfolio. Any other advice/suggestions/similar experiences would be highly appreciated!

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I am of the opinion that a BLA is more useful than an MLA without undergrad study in LA. It is like becoming an officer without basic training.

    It depends what you want to do with the degree. If you want to be an LA in the private sector, I recommend an undergraduate degree. If you want to teach or work in the public sector, you’ll probably do better with the MLA.

    The reason being that people enter into the profession as production workers whether we like that description or not. We are not hired as designers, but to get work done for the designers in the firm. Then we progress from there. A person without having developed production skills through the rigors of undergraduate studio time is not the ideal person to bring into a firm when there are tons of people who have and a growing amount of those who have and also have a MLA.

    My opinion only.

    Michael D. Mason

    In my experience most MLA programs admit students with a wide degree of backgrounds both academically and professionally. I got my masters degree and none of my classmates had a bachelors degree in landscape architecture. Some had architecture degrees though but most were interested in the field and chose to pursue a masters in it.

    during your masters education work hard on learning the skills you will need to be productive in the workplace. And use your psych background to help inform your understanding of LA.

    Landscape architecture is not a field in which there is one way to do things. Collaborate with others and learn as much as you can.

    I entered a career discovery program to learn more about the design field and found it to be extremely helpful.

    Good luck.


    My opinion echoes the previous commenters. From what I’ve seen, the typical employee with an MLA is behind those with a BLA. My personal belief is that it stems from exactly your concern: no foundational knowledge/skills. What I’ve seen and experienced in school and professionally was that those going for an MLA either had no background in landscape or design, or held a BLA and were more interested in an academic career as opposed to a career in practice.

    That being said, taking some sort of certificate program–or at least basic drafting and/or design courses on the side–would definitely be a plus. I don’t really know anything about those programs, but if you’re really interested in practicing, that could really help you on your way. As Andrew pointed out, most of us do begin our professional careers as productions workers–CAD monkeys, to use a bit of jargon.

    I’m glad you stumbled across landscape and have taken an interest in it. My own personal interest has always been the effects of landscape on health and wellness, so it seems to me your background in psychology could be a great influence on your design. Also, colleges and universities really seem to revel in having MLA students with a wide variety of backgrounds, so don’t think of a non-design background as a handicap.

    Good luck!

    Tosh K

    A few things you could do: correspondence courses in project management, software (AutoCAD, Revit, Adobe CC, Microsoft office – the more you know the more competitive post-graduation), find reading lists from history/theory courses and read through them, draw/sketch/photography (for application to a program), there may be some horticulture related correspondence courses as well.  I suggest correspondence courses as I know a lot of military folks that take advantage of that while enlisted.  Neither a BLA nor MLA is comprehensive in teaching you everything you need to actually practice landscape architecture, so the more you know before you enroll, the more you’ll be able to dive into the topics you want and the better prepared for working at the end.

    My military veteran classmates were very mature and handled time management very well and it is a great benefit. My undergrad degrees were in engineering and humanities, both have served me well in practice (and in school).

    Chrissie Bradley

    Schools like UC Berkeley and Harvard have “career discovery” programs in landscape architecture (and architecture and urban design) that put you through an intensive bootcamp-type program: a crash course in the software, a broad survey of the methodologies, a sense of what grad school studio culture is like, and you leave with a slick design portfolio.

    Worth a look! 



    (Full disclosure: I manage the UC Berkeley summer program)

Viewing 6 posts - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.

Lost Password