Types of Entry-Level Roles? Place for ppl w/o BLA or MLA?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE Types of Entry-Level Roles? Place for ppl w/o BLA or MLA?

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    I am a young adult (30,f) considering changing careers and going into LA. I’d appreciate any feedback about the profession and my situation.

    I understand I will need to obtain a Master’s degree in the field to become a LA, but in the meantime, as I continue to consider committing to a grad program, I’d like some more exposure to the profession, to make sure it’s a good fit for me. Right now, I’m looking for LA assistant & support-type roles at various architecture, engineering, and design firms in my area, but am not having any luck. I have a bachelor’s degree and my work background is in social work and community development, so I do not have the technical computer skills (AutoCAD, Adobe Suite, Rhino, etc) required to do some aspects of the jobs, but I figured I could be trained in those programs and still be of use. I have worked in landscaping and flower farming for a few years, and am trying to move beyond that into a less physical role. An unpaid internship is not feasible, as I am an indpendent adult and need to support myself.

    I’m wondering: am I wrong to think I can be of use without having a BLA or MLA? Is it not the norm that firms would provide on-the-job technical training in computer design programs? Is there a standard entry-level/supportive role I should be looking for that I don’t know about? I’m trying to guage how realistic it is to expect that I could fit into a firm at this point in the game. I’d really love to be mentored and use my established skillsets to work with teams, but passion only gets me so far.

    I’d appreciate some feedback! Though it would be discouraging to hear I’m truly not an ideal candidate for a firm at this point, I’d rather be realistic and know that now, so I stop looking for jobs in the field.

    Leslie B Wagle

    I’ve heard of firms hiring people who were 2- 2 1/2 years into their B.S. but there are a couple of considerations here. 1) No, they wouldn’t likely take the time to train you in the software (others may be more current on this but I am thinking about a parallel in times past when the job applicant usually had basic hand drafting skills). 2) Any time you spend working would not count heavily towards the work requirement to eventually apply for a license. I know that wasn’t in your question, but it means you wouldn’t really be getting “experience” other than seeing what working LA’s do in a particular office by being around them.

    There might be another route, which is to get a few community college “landscape design” courses, or even a 2 year associate’s degree. These programs train people to be competent enough in design and plant knowledge to work for larger design-build firms which furnish plans for their clients. You might even like what that leads to, and make it your field. You just wouldn’t be qualified to do more technical work (public parks, transportation, campus type) and most likely not many larger commercial private projects (multifamily, hospitals etc.). A possible benefit is being able to earn a living with just “the interest” to start with, baesd on your landscaping/flower farm experience. For example, big contractors may design and install “color beds” for shopping centers, etc. However a downside is that not many credits from these programs directy transfer to L.A. programs. They are designed more for companies that do residential and grounds upgrades/maintenance. That goes for the sideline or after-courses career as well. That doesn’t mean the experience isn’t valuable. It always helps to know more about how the growing, estimating, and installationo processes work.

    Check on any promises about course trnasfers a program makes by cross-checking with L.A. schools you may be thinking about or are likely to attend if accepted.

    I hope others chime in who may have had more recent experience. I got credit for plant materials but not much else from a prior horticulture degree when applying to a later LA program. And I spent a year in a nursery after the horticulture but prior to starting LA courses. After the second degree, being hired into an office did happen but I know our state board only gives partial credit towards licensing if post-graduation work is not in an LA firm (i.e. work for a contractor, engineer, or architect).


    Thanks Leslie. Getting experience from “seeing what working LA’s do in a particular office by being around them” is exactly what I’m looking for. I’m not willing to fork out money or commit to any course – be it at a community college or graduate school, until I have a better idea of what it’s like working in the field. This was my approach to other vocations (worked as a paralegal to see what it’s like being a lawyer/at a law firm) and it saved me from making a big mistake of pursuing a graduate degree in a field that ultimately would not have been a good fit for me.

    I apprecite you points about education & licensing though, and your advice about checking with grad programs to see which specific credits will transfer is good. I will keep that in mind.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    The difficulty is that it is a profession that at the support staff level could be compared to a trade like plumbing or electric work. There are several industry specific skill sets or knowledge criteria that anyone who has gone through an undergrad program in LA is going to have quite a bit of exposure to. That in itself puts any person who has had some of that miles ahead of you in getting their foot in the door. But even in the absence of such a candidate bringing on an untrained person takes the employer or a staff person out of their job role in order to train a new person who has not demonstrated any commitment to the profession other than wanting to try it out.
    You are basically expecting to get an education while being paid by your teacher. This profession, regrettably, has a built-in mechanism to exploit people coming into the profession – that is internship requirements to get licensed. A new hire will more likely be someone with a bachelor’s degree in LA from an accredited university that will be trained in the latest software, is very committed to the profession, and will work peanuts.

    That is just the reality of it.

    If you want to do residential landscape design most landscape architecture offices are not going to be the best place to get yourself going in that. You will get more targeted training by taking landscape design classes from adult ed courses. Look for a design/build contractor who is doing what you hope to be doing and work for them even just as a laborer. Ask questions. Show enthusiasm. Pay attention to all aspects of what that person does and learn from it.

    Leslie B Wagle

    It’s hard to “be unsure and reluctant to invest so asking for payment and training together” in any profession….medical, engineering, law, etc. when others have done some training first. That’s why I suggested finding a slot where your other horticulture-related experience might be of use. For example, an LA firm may have a botanic or sustainable garden to plan within a bigger context that could use someone with direct experience if you found a summer-long short niche like that and then got past the door to see a firm in action. I spent one summer doing the reading/research needed and writing them on cards (today it would probably be making word software notes) from which information label would later be made for plants in a botanical garden. I had some L A credits by then, but not really any great drafting skills. But it was in the campus park & planning dept. of the university where I was a student, and I was sitting one partition away from the grad L.A. assigned to produce the site plans for a new stadium. The following summer when I could draw a little bit, I got hired by the Instructional Media Center to draw up some overlays of a pond system to process wastewater by use of algae an it also wasn’t “designer” work but helped me watch real trained illustrators at work on media that variou faculty people sent orders for (to assist in their lectures as slides etc.) If you can’t find a niche like that then another angle might be to just call and ask if a local firm would allow you to come in for a half or whole hour to learn a little as a potential future student, ie. get into an office “tour,” of course at their conveniece. I think a generous one would be glad to talk about their past and current work and let you sit a few minutes next to one of the project staff. And I think before going,or if nothing like that opens up…. look around in ASLA.org and click on “the Dirt” or their introductory page for people to learn about the field:

    I certainly think it’s important to get a taste before a deep dive and lack of grasp that it is a challenging curriculum often has hit students hard who didn’t know themselves or the nature of the course work. But on the other hand, for other people it is a highly varied and potentially rewarding field.

    Tim Daugherty

    To be blunt I’ve never hired anyone without a BSLA degree. It’s not that those 4 years of college teach someone a craft that we couldn’t on the job, but it’s the initial litmus test about how serious someone is towards this career. It also strengthens the profession to have more people integrated into the academics of being an LA, eventual licensure, etc. We’re already facing an uphill battle on the need for registration. Saying you don’t need an LA degree to practice doesn’t help that cause.

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