Some questions from a high school senior

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GENERAL DISCUSSION Some questions from a high school senior

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    Benjamin Payne

    Right now I’m torn between studying architecture or studying landscape architecture when I finally go to college next year. I intend on studying in a field of architecture or a related discipline, but ultimately it comes down to whether I would prefer to design predominantly indoor or outdoor spaces. I have a couple questions regarding the profession itself:


    – First and foremost, how will the state of employment in LA be in the near future? The Occupational Outlook Handbook predicts a “much faster than average” growth of employment (+20% during the 2008-2018 decade), but I could use human feedback on that stat and what it really means.


    – How well are graduate school requirements typically fulfilled if I choose to pursue an M.Arch after a BLA, or an MLA after a B.Arch? Am I looking at two or three years of graduate study?

    Trace One

    buddy, so little of what one ends up doing is ‘design’..If I were you, I would work for a firm in some kind of dog-level work for as long as you can. Both professions spend MUCH more time calculating curve dimensions, road profiles is a good example, or the tedium of making specifications work with your plans..the frustration of meeting clients needs is another good thing to focus on – group think and how you deal with it..

    do you LOVE computer drafting? Can you see if a curve data table has all the same line weights from ten feet away? Does it bother you if they don’t?

    These things will make you happy as an architect or an LA..

    Design has so little to do with what you end up doing..

    Focus on computer drafting and rendering,  and GIS – these skills are bottom line, and if you like that, you can move to square two, in either field..If you DON’T like that, then maybe you should re-think..But work on the computer drafting skills first..

    Jason T. Radice

    You WILL need a masters degree now to get an architecture license, so count on spending at the very least 5 years in architecture school. It is also a lot easier to get into an LA program with an architecture degree and come out with a MLA, as opposed to getting a 4 year (possibly 5) BLA degree and having to spend at the very minimum of 2 years, possibly three or more (depending on the school and the required courses) to get an M. Arch. Depending on the school, you may be able to get a MS-ARCH, but when I tried, they would not let you without a prior arch degree (MS-Arch is not an accredited degree and will not lead to licensure). MAKE SURE YOU ARE SEEKING A PROFESSIONAL DEGREE that will set you on a course for licensure, most firms will not hire someone with a BS-Arch.


    You may be able to split the programs, or get a dual degree. I took a bunch of architecture classes for my 5 yr BLA, and some schools will allow architecture students to take a bunch of LA courses, with some having a combuned program allowing for a dual degree (usually BS architecture and two masters degrees, a BArch and MArch). It TOTALLY depends on which school you choose.  


    You better get a move on with your decision and applications, and visit as many schools as you can before October. Arch and LA are VERY competitive to get into, and most applications are due in January. You’ll have to throw together a portfolio, start that TODAY. It is always a good idea to meet with the program directors to check out the school (bring a resume and portfolio), and it allows them to check you out as well as a potential candidate.  However, the best time to get that done is during your junior year. Good luck! 


    As far as career outlook, both arch and LA are quite bleek for the near future, but that will turn around. The question is how much. Pay no mind to the ‘career of the future’ stuff, it is never right. Do what you love that will actually pay a decent wage.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Do what you love so that you can love what you do.


    No need to hurry. I got my degree at 35.

    Rob Halpern

    The Occupational Outlook Handbook predicts a “much faster than average” growth of employment (+20% during the 2008-2018 decade), but I could use human feedback on that stat and what it really means.

    Given how many L.A.s are out of work today, a +20% growth rate over a decade means that in 2018 there will still be far fewer employed LAs then there were in 2006. So competition for jobs will remain HUGE

    Trace One

    hee! funny, Henry..Actually cynicism, sarcasm and disrespect predate my birth in my family by at least two generations that I know of..It’s genetic, is my excuse!.

    Sorry, Benjamin, but I seriously would spend two years drafting somewhere, and then decide. And I don’t mean drawing with a nice pencil, grades 6b to F, or with prismas..Learn to click on a computer for eight hours a day.Those kinds of jobs generally pay pretty well, actually. Take your big salaries, and travel, as much as you can, to see the famous designs of the human and natural world.

    good luck!!!

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    That is a fact. More importantly, that prognisis was developed prior to 2008. Clearly,they were totally wrong and based a ten year prognosis on very short term data taken at the height of a boom.


    Landscape architecture is like the stock market. It has its ups and its downs. Some areas are more secure than others. Those that go up fast have a tendency to come down fast.

    Trace One

    Plus, it’s a sellers market when it comes to the studenting business – schools are desperate for students because they make money off your federal loans, and then don’t care if you graduate or not, or what kind of job you get. UPenn accepts everyone who applies, so find a program that will NOT put you in debt – change states, if you can get residency and pay a lot less – the CA USC’s have some reallly good undergrad programs that, if you live here, are totally worth the money.

    don’t go into debt.

    If mommy is paying, then good on you!

    Jon Quackenbush

    Nice catch.

    Jon Quackenbush

    Both professions aren’t as sexy as they sound.  Most of the work is administration and drafting work, most often of the design of other more senior members of your firm.  If you have a genuine knack for design, I do believe that you will do more of it than others, but it still does not add up to much time.  Most often, the big ideas are coalesced before you are even awarded the project, or at the very beginning — maybe 1/4% of your time if you are lucky is actually designing something.  The remainder of your time you are making sense of the reality of your design–how it is built.  That is a fun challenge in and of itself, and it is a type of design, but it isn’t sexy curves.

    Honestly, I wanted to do big-D design when I got out of graduate school, and I was on my way, but unfortunately I graduated at the exact moment the economy tanked.  Luckily I have landed a job after a year out of work, but for how long?  I cannot say.  The economy is still limping along and there is a lot of extremely talented competition for marginal work at this moment, so who knows.  I do think that stat you listed is deceiving, it isn’t a field that is going to experience growth, instead we are just hoping to rebound.

    What are you passionate about?  How do you want to work?  Do you have a green thumb or is it made of mortar?  Do you have a sense of superiority about yourself or are you more grounded?  Do you value job security?


    Thank goodness my career hasn’t been as dreadful as some of you have described. If I was always chained to a desk right clicking all day, I would have left the profession a long time ago.


    Perhaps it’s a good thing that young people entering the field don’t start off immediately doing design. When I look back at some of my designs I did early in my career I cringe. I’m thankful only a small number of them were ever built. But I realize I benefited from being able to design early in my career. It depends on what kind of firm you work at weather or not you get to design right away.


    Benjamin no profession is glamorous as they seem looking from the outside looking in. You might see doctors driving to the office in expensive Italian sports cars, but their day to day grind has to be shear misery. Could you imagine being a dentist or better yet a proctologist? No matter what you do, eventually you’re going to have moments or days that are anything but sexy. The secret is finding a career that pays what your want, stimulates you and allows you to be happy most of the time.

    Jordan Lockman

    There is a lot of overlap between the two fields and if I were you I would really research what both fields do. Also I would call and ask for an informational interview at a local Arch and LA firm. That gives you a chance to look at their projects and get a good idea what each profession put into getting it built.

    Something to remember in college they told us that 50% of the class would not be Architects in the traditional sense, I do not have a number for LA’s but for my studio group that is about right. Not that everyone left the field altogether, but with an LA degree some are res. landscape designers(2 yr trade school degree works for this job), developers/entrepreneurs (one friend is renovating old buildings and doing well), Landscape Foreman/company owners,  Construction managers(for construction contractors), facility maintenance managers, and some work for municipalities.So most everyone is working somewhere, but not everyone is going to work their full career as an LA in an office.


    If you want both, Arch to LA is a slightly easier route, but ideally you want to be taking classes that prepare you for this in your undergrad and I would pick the field in undergrad that you like the most. Make a plan ahead of time. Life changes so be prepared for that as well. Remember that more education is not always the answer. Some of the most well off people I know have a vo tech degree and I know many with masters that are struggling. Though all my lawyer and pharmacy friends have money to burn.

    Chad Shaw


    Try to get a job doing something relatively close to either of the fields, save some money, travel, and think about it for awhile…no need to hurry…seriously




    Benjamin,  I see you are from Rock Island.  I would recommend you travel down to Champaign and meet with some of the faculty at U of I.  They have both an Architecture and Landscape Architecture program along with other allied design professions.  They would be a good resource for your questions.  Not that I am cheering on the U of I but I work in a multi-discipline firm with a lot of colleagues who graduated from there.  They seem like pretty competent people.  I am the only person in our Chicago office who is doing any landscape design or site planning.   The other LA’s have modified their career paths to more of the development side of the business.  (Constantly on the phone, pushing papers and putting out fires–someone has to do it.)  The architects range from Interns to Project Designers to Studio Leaders.


    Find your passion and follow your heart.  If design and construction is truly your passion you will have no issues finding employment.  As an aside, in the past two months we have hired 8 new people in our firm.  A few interns right out of school  a couple of civil engineers and a Registered Architect and Register Landscape Architect.  I know of another firm across town that has hired 25 people this year.  It’s not all doom and gloom as you might suspect from reading posts on this site.


    Good luck to you!!

    Douglas M. Rooney

    Jason, I do not think your statement that you must have Masters degree to become a licensed Architect is correct. The 5 year BArch degree(most commonly found at public state universities) is an accredited professional degree that NCARB accepts for their education requirement. Some states including your state of Maryland do not even require an accredited degree and allow candidates to meet the education requirement with a combination of education and work experience. But reciprocity with other states is not guaranteed.  I do agree however that in the current hiring environment, a 4 year Architecture degree will not even get you an interview.

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