What all can you do without a license?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums STORY BOARD What all can you do without a license?

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    What all can you do without a license? Legally?

    Craig Richmond, RLA

    It depends on what state or local municipality you want to do work in. I know a few unlicensed landscape designers who are running profitable businesses. The common denominator with them is they all are talented and well connected. 


    Thanks for the response! Do you know of any examples? 

    I guess I am just curious of what specific elements can I do legally as an unlicensed LA compared a licensed LA? What doors will open when I get my license?


    As Craig said, it depends on what state or local municipality you want to do work in.  Here are links to some of the regulating authorities that you might encounter working in the Memphis vicinity:





    Thanks for the info Rob!

    Dave McCorquodale

    I suppose the biggest difference in my mind is residential vs.  commercial.  I believe you can do anything you want except call yourself a landscape architect in the residential world.  Of course there are municipal regulations that prescribe when a licensed professional must be on board (irrigation, structural/civil engineers, etc).  

    While 90% of my work doesn’t require a license, I really wanted an immediate, distinguishable difference between me and my competition.  My license certainly provides that.

    Almost all of the custom home builders I work with (4 on a regular basis, home value 1.0 mil – 3.0 mil) use certified building designers licensed in Texas.  They don’t use licensed architects.  As Craig pointed out, talent and connections allow these home designers to do very well without a formal architecture license.


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    One thing that I learned over the years is that, at least where I work (Massachusetts), is that it is not the stamp that does much for you, but it is the process that gets you to the stamp that opens doors for you.

    I know more people who are not licensed whom others believe are Landscape Architects than people I know who are licensed Landscape Architects.

    It is the work experience, networking, and observation of the things that are going on around you during that journey that allow you to gain access to getting work more than the ability to execute that work which will make all the difference – not so much the stamp itself.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Tennessee: “Definitions: No definitions of landscape architect or landscape architecture.”

    Like many of the so-called Practice Acts, Tennessee seems to be a Title Act. What I read does not exempt anyone from doing anything as long as they don’t call what they do Landscape Architecture or call themselves Landscape Architects.


    The push to make all states have a Practice Act was a total sham in my opinion.

    Only Maine, Massachusetts, and Illinois don’t pretend to have Practice Acts. The only state that I’m convinced has a Practice Act is Oregon, but I don’t pretend to have read them all.

    The most laughable is Vermont. It is worth a read:



    Very interesting. Just call myself an Urban Designer and I’m good to go!

    Cameron R. Rodman

    Hey Bennett,

    Hope you are well man. Some of these responders have it right. Some do not. First, learn the ‘law’ on what titles or words are protected. That is the name portion. Second, state and location laws/regulations will dictate what you can and cannot do. For instance, in Knoxville, and other parts of TN you have to stamp a legal document or drawing to be approved to design and build certain elements. (a wall over four feet is a good example.) This is not a crock, in any way shape or form. I cannot think of too many LA’s or landscape designers who have been educates on building structurally enginnered objects. This is a safety and welfare issue. It portects the public from incompetence. Licensure is a check point for competency, and yes, protection of future jobs for licensed individuals. You get what you put into it.

    If you want to design for cities and be a planner go that route and get those educational and legal marking. If you want to do residential design, educate yourself and get experience and operate within your competencies. You’re a smart guy. I don’t think that anyone is naive enough to know that there aren’t politics involved in title acts. But for the most part and for moat ppl, it is a way to protect the public and get a piece of the regulatory standards that control who has access the public dollars. 

    Many states will not allow you to design for commercial, institutional, or residential over so many stories without a license. http://www.asla.org/StateGovtAffairsLicensure.aspx

    My thought is this, figure out whére you want to go and what you want to do. Find out how to get there as cheaply as possible, and go. Many designs work under licensed la’s and have a great time and do moat of the same things. Big difference is manuverability, maretability, and pay. Those are big. But, like any job…it helps to know a lot of connected like minded people.

    You’ll do great!



    Thanks Cameron! I am doing great, I hope you are doing well!

    I guess it is different for every state and city, I will have to look at every situation. I think its interesting that TN has no legal definition for landscape architecture. “No definitions of landscape architect or landscape architecture”. Seems like that would make things legally complicated, but I am no lawyer.

    I mean Frank Gehry is doing the greenway plan for the Los Angeles River right now… 

    I am not trying to be negative about the Landscape Architecture license. I respect the people that have this license and hope to have one in a few years. I just want to know what I can do until I can afford to drop 2-3 grand on the test…


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I’m not against licensing. I was just trying to honestly answer the question asked. Based on other threads that you started or participated in I interpret the question to mean that you want to know what you can legally do as a self employed designer in the field of landscape architecture in the place where you live prior to getting your license.

    You may be limited on what you will be allowed to do, but it does not appear that the act itself limits you whatsoever other than calling what you do “Landscape Architecture” of calling yourself a “Landscape Architect”.

    It looks like you can legally do anything that a licensed landscape architect can do in Tennessee based on what I read. That does not mean that municipalities, corporations, other professionals, or individuals will not require you to be an LA to do work for them, nor does it mean that you can do work legally reserved to other licensed professionals such as structural engineering, surveying, or civil engineering.

    I know we as landscape architects are a sensitive profession, but reality is that a lot of state landscape architect Practice Acts are essentially Title Acts. I don’t know how anyone reading the Tennessee rules can come away with any other conclusion. …. and there are a lot of other states that are essentially Title Acts that they label Practice Acts. Much of that was because ASLA had a big campaign to get all states to have Practice Acts so all the local chapters pushed to get Practice Acts in their respective states. Some successfully made Practice Acts that actually define Landscape Architecture and limit whom may practice Landscape Architecture. Most do that and then list exemptions that essentially say “or anyone else”.

    They tried to do it here in Massachusetts, but the landscape contractor lobby is stronger than the Landscape Architecture lobby. I sure heard about it from a lot of contractors at the time. Oddly, that is how I heard about it.

    We are educated and experienced through the licensing process and because of that we should inherently have a competitive edge and I believe we do. I have no problem with competing with unlicensed designers and do not discourage them from making a living.


    I completely agree. Thank you Andrew

    Steve Roberts

    Bennett, As a MS State graduate you should know the answers to those questions. If not I need to come back and teach class (the board doesn’t play the I’m stupid game). Landscape design which means only planting plans is generally not regulated, pretty much everything else is. As an educated Landscape Architect anything that you do can affect your ability to get a license so be very careful what you do until you get your license. I would hate for you to do something before you get your license that would prevent from getting it. One of the first questions in most applications for licensure is about practicing prior to licensure. Can you answer truthfully that you did not practice prior to licensure? That is the question that matters.


    Mississippi State is an exceptional program and the professors were thorough on the subject. But as you know there are plenty of designers, city planners, architects, and engineers that are practicing “landscape architecture” and not getting into trouble. Which made me ask, “what can I do until I get my license?”

    This article made me ask the question.


    “Everything else” is different in every city and state. 

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