Which has a better employment outlook?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums EDUCATION Which has a better employment outlook?

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    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I agree. I think we are all doing it to one extent or another.

    There are some very specialized designers/contractors in my area  addressing regulated issues as the mainstay of their businesses. The regulation in my area has spawned this as a very viable business. Make no mistake, the ones that thrive are the ones helping the developers get what they want. The mechanism for the most environmental improvements on residential sites in my area is alteration of wetland buffers because it triggers the conversion of previously developed buffer and/or conversion of invasive plants to improved native plant buffers. …. no development = no improvement.

    Any landscape architect or designer has to address these issues when working in these areas. The economy over the last several years has limited the development/redevelopment of residential homes in my area to the higher end properties adjacent to coastal and freshwater wetlands …. the big money properties.  … meaning most of the work going on around here has wetland protection regulations attached to them.

    My point being that whether you want to a specialist or not, you have to know the regulations and how to respond to them. It is standard practice and has been for quite a while in many places.

    Mark Di Lucido


    I’m a little late in seeing this thread but find the dialogue between Trace One and Lauren timely and interesting, and I think it’s a tremendous resource for you—a passionate real-world discussion of some very big landscape design issues which also may help inform your career direction. I like Trace One’s feistiness and I think it’s good for a newbie like you to hear about all our LA experiences, good, bad, and ugly. I also relate to Trace One’s frustrations. In my neck of the woods there are plans for another encroachment into the grandest canyon of them all (NYT article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/10/opinion/sunday/two-development-projects-threaten-the-grand-canyon.html?_r=0 ) This planned development is technically outside of the national park but visible from some viewpoints therein and so will certainly affect view-sheds and probably the integrity of other natural aspects of the Canyon. This riles me no end but I know I’d be a hell of a lot more riled if it happened inside the Park. Which means without the foresight of folks 100 years ago and without what the NPS does today, the most sublime spectacle on earth would be the biggest development travesty on the planet.

    Though its mandate is different, the Forest Service performs some similar conservation/protection on parts of the forest, for which I’m grateful. I wish we could restrict grazing leases, quad-riding yahoos, and development pressures more than happens now but without any FS efforts the resulting capitalistic free-for-all would be a disaster.

    But back to your question, I can’t offer any wisdom for choosing between academic paths but regardless of your path, do yourself a favor and read Steve Mouzon’s ‘The Curse of the Craftsman’, http://www.originalgreen.org/blog/the-curse-of-the-craftsman.html This is something I wish I’d read when starting out.


    Yes  Better Employment 


    Laura Stabell

    You might want to look at environmental engineering. It can combine sustainability,aesthetics and scientific solutions to problem solving.

    Barbara Peterson

    I’m curious: what ‘brought’ you into environmental sciences in the first place? You say that you want a career involving sustainability and design but was it a love of the outdoors, a desire to “do something good in the world”, or “what”? Perhaps by reflecting on your free time interests, you may narrow down which route would be best for you.

    It’s “funny”, I am putting together a presentation about “what is landscape architecture” for my son’s 9th grade architecture course and asked other LA’s on why those chose the field. There were lots of different reasons but several mentioned that they chose the field because it “involved everything outside the building” and that it addressed all of a person’s senses. No one has mentioned that they specifically wanted to work on sustainable projects but interestingly most (if not all) of them do even those doing residential design: they “push” native or low-water adapted plants, reduction in turf areas, changes in irrigation methods, installation of bioswales, use of permeable paving, use of recycled materials, etc; a couple are LEED certified and one is working on her LID certification.

    I can’t speak to interior design or urban planning but I have found that landscape architecture is a very diverse and interesting field. What works or doesn’t work for one person, might not be right for another. Are there long hours: yes. Are you going to have annoying clients or contractors: yes. Are you going to get “rich”: no, but then I honestly don’t know anyone who got into the field thinking that they would. Will you have annoying, frustrating days where you just “want out”: yeah…but I’m sure that every profession has that (at least according to my non-design field friends).

    Have you contacted any LA firms in your area and stopped by to talk?  If not, do that: look on their websites to see what types of projects they highlight, and visit those firms whose projects align with your interests.  Bring a “list” of question so that you can gear the conversation toward your interest in sustainability. Yes, they will probably only show you the positive, fun side of projects / the field, so take some of the enthusiasm with a grain of salt…but enjoy the visit and ask lots of questions.


    Hi Barbara, thank you for your reply. It’s difficult to pin one exact answer to why I chose environmental science and want a career with sustainability and design. I suppose the main reason is yes, I do love being outside. I grew up with a family that encouraged camping, hiking, riding bikes, playing in the yard, etc. That love of being outside never escaped me. As for the design aspect, throughout the free time of my childhood and teenaged years, when I haven’t been outside, I’ve been inside doing some sort of art/craft project, usually tying in with nature. I sketched trees, wrote stories about rescuing injured birds and living in forests, and made crafts using things I found outside. I collected fossils, rocks, crystals, shells, bird nests, broken egg shells, pieces of driftwood, and all sorts of other outdoor treasures.

    I suppose I just really don’t want your typical grown up desk job. I’d like to have some movement (literally) in my profession. I feel like something related to LA or UP will allow me to not stay cooped up in an office building 100% of the time. I’m not so naive to think I won’t ever have to be in an office, though.

    I chose my major in environmental science also because I feel like it is a good, broad, employable degree. It’s also a good basis for many graduate programs. So, if what I receive a graduate degree in doesn’t have a strong market, I have my bachelor’s of environmental science to fall back on as a safety net.

    Devid Sapher

    Well your full details is really good. I thin landscape is the good one.


    Thank you for your response, Ben!

    I guess a desk job is just about guaranteed for any newbie before working his/her way up the ranks. I’m not afraid of having one for a little while to pay my dues… I just don’t want one for the bulk of my career! I think I would get bored very quickly. I don’t know how accountants, financial analysts, etc. do it!

    It’s been over half a year since I created this post, and my interests have shifted a little. I’m now leaning towards sustainable urban planning and development for graduate school. I’m entering my sophomore year, so I still have awhile to make a decision, and I’m sure my interests are likely to shift again! I’m currently exploring graduate program options to see what’s out there and what peaks my interest.


    Hello Kristen;

    I believe your interest in “sustainable design” is a very noble one.  ALL LAs should be mindful of this issue with every design project.

    However, and part of where I’m coming from is that I’m “old school”…but, I have noticed that University Professors (who are, as we all understand) are mostly, not all, are Liberal.  I’ve heard other LA students and LA grads talk and write about how they’re very interest they are in getting involved with “sustainable designs”.  But, Kristen, most “sustainable design work” that I’m aware of is Gov’t design work. Though, I know now that in some Cities & States, there are “rules & regs” that make some Landscape Architectural Design projects “sustainable”. 

    But, I can tell you from experience, most developers are NOT into “sustainable designs”.  The initial costs ADD major costs to a development…and unfortunately, most developers are looking for the LEAST costly path to get their projects designed and built.

    Because, at least in my opinion, “sustainable design” work is not main stream Landscape Architecture (though, I’m sure ASLA will argue with me on that point)..as they too, I believe have been pushing this “sustainable design” movement for the past few years……it would be extremely difficult to earn a living from it…unless you want to go to work for a State Gov’t or the Federal Gov’t…They have been pushing “sustainable – green energy design, etc.) for the past 6 plus years….and still are.

    I intend absolutely no disrespect for ANY University LA Professor…they all have very difficult and challenging jobs.  But, I feel they are a bit too into “ideology” and are not as in touch with “real world Landscape Architecture” as maybe they should be.  I wish that every University LA department would invite Owners of LA firms to come & speak with the Senior LAs…..and hold Q&A seminars…give LA students perspective on the REAL world of Landscape Architecture & what they can expect after they graduate.

    I would highly recommend that you do some extensive “research” and see just how much “sustainable design” work is being produced…and by WHO?  Before you spend a lot of money, time & effort studying “sustainable Landscape Architecture”, I’d be sure there really is a strong market out there for it.  Spend some time looking at web sites of the TOP 25 Landscape Architecture Firms in the U.S….look at their portfolios….as well as TOP firms in several major cities…that would give you a pretty good feel for what types of design projects these LA firms are working on. My bet it…….you won’t find many of them designing “sustainable LA projects”…but, I could be wrong.

    Good Luck to You!!!

    J. Robert (Bob) Wainner


    Thank you for all your input, Bob!

    I truly appreciate it. It has been over 6 months since I created this post, and my interests have shifted a bit, as they will probably continue to do as I advance into my upper division courses in undergrad.

    My current major is environmental planning & administration. However, for graduate school I am considering (still reading & researching) pursuing urban planning, but an urban planning program with some courses on land use and sustainability issues. I’ve read quite a bit about the urban planning field now, and it seems like a good fit for my interests and skills. I’ve made some connections in the field, and I will be able to attend a local urban planning conference to get a feel for the work. We’ll see how things go!

    Kristen Barre


    Hello again Kristen;

    Although I briefly “considered” a Masters Degree in Landscape Architecture, I felt that gaining “experience” after earning my B.S.L.A. was an important career move.  And, after a few years, then, possibly go back and get my Master’s.

    And, I can now say…38 yrs. later, gaining experience was the right decision.  When I was considering hiring an LA, it didn’t matter to me if they had a Masters Degree…I wanted to see their Design Portfolio and determine their level of potential.  Drawing, sketching ability, autoCAD computer skills are not something everyone can learn.  For many LA’s, drawing & sketching skills and even design is a “gift”. 

    I was surprised to read on an INDEED LA job board a few weeks ago, that an LA graduate has been searching for an entry level position for the past 4 years….and still no luck.  I’m not sure if it’s the grad’s skills, portfolio, resume’, etc. or just the economy or a combination. 

    I can tell you from experience, DESIGN fields don’t pay well until you have many years of experience.  Actually, with me, I really didn’t feel I was earning a descent income until I went out on my own at age 41, with 14 yrs. of exp. (and having designed & produced 300 projects). 

    Remember too, what one of the earlier commenters stated…with EVERY design field…classes are LONG, the Degree programs are very intense, starting salaries are quite low AND when (and IF) you can get an entry level design position, the hours are long. For all of my 40+ LA career, I was putting in 9 to 14 hr. days.  I actually logged in over (4) yrs. worth of over-time.  Landscape Architecture (and most other design fields) can consume your life…it pretty much did mine.

    Passion, Dedication & the willingness to give up a lot to succeed are a MUST with every DESIGN profession.

    Best Regards,




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    Just a NEW thought here concerning your “potential career path”.

    As much as I have enjoyed my lengthy LA career…..to me, Landscape Architecture just isn’t all that it once was.  Not sure why, though.  Maybe the economy….or that so many various types of companies, like Landscape Contractors, Design-Build Companies, Landscape Nurseries….are offering low LA design fees…or FREE design services.

    During my LA career (1977 up until just recently)…..opportunities were pretty good out there….those, those last 8 yrs. were a bit difficult for almost every LA out there.

    I would seriously “consider” Interior Design.  Taking some good “hand drawing” classes….autoCAD and other computer software programs for sure.  It just seems that…..Interior Designers will at least always have those high-end Residential clients.  LAs can’t even depend on that type of client so much anymore.

    I met a young woman (she earned a degree in Architecture in 2015)….we worked together on an area project.  She created her own “design firm”…..her business card says “Designer”. She has a web site and seems to be doing VERY WELL for herself…but, I don’t have any idea HOW…..she has very limited professional experience…but, that’s not stopping her.  Normally, I think it’s best to get at least (5) yrs. of professional design studio experience…regardless of which design field you go with.

    I personally would not have chosen “Interior Design”……but, in today’s world……to me, it looks like a better career path than being an LA.  So, I would at least “consider” this over an LA or Planning design career.




    P..S. here, Kristen;

    I GOOGLED “Land Planning” jobs…..came across INDEED.com.  There is a thread on that site called…..”Are Urban Planning Job opportunities increasing or declining?” 

    There are a TON of comments……you really should read.  

    MANY very NEGATIVE comments from people who have earned various types of PLANNING degrees…..and they don’t sound happy.  These are comments from people in the know.  Some even have e-mail addresses who you could write to for their advise.

    One guy, who has been an Urban Planner for the past (20) years said…BIG MISTAKE….don’t do it.

    Well, of course, nobody can predict the FUTURE for any design field or any profession, for that matter.

    Best Regards,



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