Should I major in landscape architecture?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GENERAL DISCUSSION Should I major in landscape architecture?

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    George McNair

    The problem is that arch/la professors tend to guide students toward traditional career paths in la/arch and there just are not enough jobs/projects right now to support all of the new grads that want to practice design right out of school.


    Recession seem to occur every 30 years and LAs get hit hard during these times.   Be ready to weather the storms.

    Michael Tracy

    Well I don’t want just the positive, I want the truth, if it’s really hard finding work and you think it’s only going to get harder then I want to know that.  If you think it’s going to bounce back and things will be easy in 4 years then I want to know that.  I just want honest opinions and experiences.


    Its not going to bounce back in 4 years, or even 10 in my opinion. The game has changed and the profession needs to adapt and its going to take a while. The average LA student probably isnt going to find a sustainable career in traditional practice in the coming years. Nursing isn’t looking to good anymore either.

    We just need to change the way we do business and market ourselves individually.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Success depends on three things.


    First that land is being developed or re-developed.That is where the biggest problem is right now. That is likely to change, we just don’t know when.


    The second is having a skill set that matches the needs of the people doing the development or re-development.


    The third thing, and this is also a very difficult thing to accomplish when little is going on, is to develop the knowledge, experience, and reputation to compete for the work that those developers or re-developers are looking for.


    The overall reputation of the profession of landscape architecture does not do much for either of those three things. Educating every Tom, Dick, and Harry about the unique skills any landscape architect has won’t do that. Making it illegal for everyone else to do things is neither ethical nor is it going to happen. People developing land don’t care what your title is. They concern is getting plans that meet their needs, go through permitting quickly, and controlling overall costs on a project. If you get side tracked with other agendas, you will be passed over for those who do not. If you brand yourself with other agendas, the same thing happens. Keep a good handle on the difference between idealistic and realistic. It is OK to be idealistic, but opportunities come only from what others are willing to pay for. Know the difference and balance your idealism with reality to the degree that suits you knowing the limitations of opportunity that comes with that. 


    Your biggest obstacle, like everyone else entering the profession, is the opportunity to gain experience because there is so little going on right now.

    Trace One

    My point is that fulfilling the requirements of CEQR and NPDES are huge employers of LA’s, and will only continue to get bigger in the design process for all projects, unless you are on a very small scale. If you do not enjoy filling out forms, filing forms, and public meetings, you may have trouble getting work.

    These laws have nothing to do w ith design, or design constraints, and everything to do with bureacracy.

    I think every LA should learn about this stuff early on, so that they grasp what is going on in the world. IMHO..Little gardens are nice, and I hope some people make a living at it, but far far more people are working away at Visual Impact Statements and Stormwater pollution requirements.

    If you don’t know about that, you are missing 60% of the job s in LA, that are steady and have health bennies..Perhaps if you are a trust fund baby you can design on your own, but most of us are not.

    With these laws in mind, plus zoning and historical preservation requirements, in there will be no diminishment of employment for LA’s at all..It is just not as fun as the little design problems..b ut it is core to the profession.


    LOL, I shouldn’t write about communication when I’m multitasking on my iphone.

    To clarify, I think a design education does two things for you other programs don’t.  The first is you learn how to solve problems using a design process.  This can be applied successfully to non-design problems.  You don’t learn to solve problems this way in a social or natural science degree program.  The other thing you pick up in a design program is the ability to communicate complex messages to wide audiences.  I have found both abilities extremely useful in a range of non-design work scenarios.

    George McNair

    Agree completely.

    George McNair

    I like your positive attitude and what you say happened around 1982-1983 during this recession. The development activity slowly came back. If you could weather the storm you were fine.

    George McNair


    “MHO..Little gardens are nice, and I hope some people make a living at it, but far far more people are working away at Visual Impact Statements and Stormwater pollution requirements”  hmmm…………..

    what about big gardens? 


    Medium gardens?…………….


    what about HUD housing? What about Oregon Planning?…………………..


    ” Perhaps if you are a trust fund baby you can design on your own, but most of us are not.”

    Most of my 65 years I have worked hard and some money at the end of the rainbow is a God send.

    Being retired at 25 from a trust fund is no sin………………..but one must live with himself.


    When I was a Forest Service Landscape Architect in 1973, we switched from doing RV Parks to Visual Inventories of Seen Areas as applied to logging. We also did Impact Statements prior to RV Park and Rock Quarry approvals. This level of work did not provide the same degree of satisfaction as Site Planning. Was bored and later went to work for a Site Planner – RLA in Medford, Oregon.  


    Your points of mockery does bring up some good points. You do pin point very good areas for LAs; especially duirng these times. CEQRs apply to California and NEPA is federal. Yes, the landscaping end of the profession is slow, and you are right, we have to adapt to the current trend.

    Heather Smith

    I would pick another major. Check where you want to live for what health care jobs are available…there are nursing gluts. Also, law grads are struggling to find employment. I would look into science and medical fields…that is just me though. Of course you want to do something that makes you feel fulfilled as well…but if you are looking for a well paying, consistent career LA is not it.

    Heather Smith

    I don’t think it will be useless…but many of the government cut backs directly affect us. LA is often seen as the icing and is the first to go. I am not sure anyone in my studio has a job in LA that hasn’t left the country, and I graduated in 2009.

    Michael Tracy

    I’m pretty convinced I shouldn’t go into LA but I’m still not completely sure.  I was never so sure about LA or A its self but I figured I knew a pretty good amount of it.  I’m looking more at architecture and wondering if thats doing better then LA.  I was stupid and didn’t complete my other college applications once I got accepted into my favorite.  They don’t have that many majors available and I really don’t want to wait to go the spring to go to college.  I’m just at a complete loss and really stressed, I feel like I’m having a mid-life crisis at 18 lol.

    Wyatt Thompson, PLA

    The effects of the national economy on our profession is real. Its severity is regional. The Midwest, where I’m located, has weathered the storm much better than either coast. There certainly have been layoffs at some of the larger firms that employ landscape architects. At the same time, I am personally aware of a half dozen new LA companies that have started during the recession (some due to layoffs, some by choice of the founders). Our city just hired a new Park Planner who is an LA. Many existing firms have found ways to keep their people employed, either by diversifying project types or encouraging employees to develop additional skill sets. There are four landscape architects where I work and we’re all busy. I just heard from a friend who had too much overtime last week so he took today off to go storm chasing. I’m not saying that it’s all roses out there, but it’s not all doom and gloom either. If you’re someone who hasn’t found an opportunity to work in the profession in the way that you thought you wanted to, I can believe that you’re frustrated and concerned about the profession and your decision to enter it. That doesn’t mean that landscape architecture as a category is a dying industry with no future.

    Michael, it sounds like my high school experience was very similar to yours. I, too, took lots of art and drafting classes in high school. I actually went to college to major in architecture, but changed after the first year because the breadth of this profession seemed more dynamic. I am glad I continued on that track and can say that I am happily working as a landscape architect today. There are parts of my job that I didn’t really think about when I was walking through the halls admiring the site plan renderings other students had done. There’s paperwork and billing and permits and coordination with allied professionals and contracts and clients who want their project yesterday. There is also great satisfaction that comes from seeing an idea in my head, putting it on paper, watching it get built, and then seeing people experience and enjoy the place that I helped create. That is why I’m a landscape architect. PM if you have questions.

    George McNair


    Relax, think clearly, and don’t panic. If you like cad, then civil engineering is similar to LA.  You can do bridge design, factory layout, road design, dams, drainage systems, waste water treatment, water treatment plants and the list goes on. Electrical engineering is really big in the computer field. My sister-in-law designs electrical circuits for pace makers and uses cad all day long. Mechanical engineers work for manufacturing plants and use cad all day long. All of these area are doing better than LA or A so listen, then leap my friend and your stress will go to the wayside. You can do it…………..have faith.

    Is it Autocad that you have been doing? This is what you need to know.

    George McNair

    agree and well stated……………..

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