Who is going to take your place when you retire?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GENERAL DISCUSSION Who is going to take your place when you retire?

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    Thomas J. Johnson

    I’m sure there are paid internships… I had one during spring semester Junior year. It paid OK and I was a “Landscape Architecture Intern”, not “Staff Level Landscape Architect”. Most summer internships also have an agreed upon termination date, when the student goes back to school. I know that there are also schools where you take a semester off to fulfill your internship requirement, while still paying tuition. I guess it varies school to school but I would say that paid internships are the exception, not the norm.

    Here’s an example of an “internship”. It is “unpaid” and has “intern” in the title. I don’t know how one affords to live in NY City while working for free, but if you can do it, more power to you…

    Please email your cover letter and resume to Leslie.Nusblatt@parks.nyc.gov
    The Planning & Parklands office is seeking interns to participate in the preparation of Park master plans. Internships are unpaid, but they will be tailored to the academic goals of the institution and the student. Interns are given a broad range of professional development opportunities and will be allowed to operate at their highest level of ability. The office is in the Arsenal, located at 64th and Fifth Avenue, in Central Park.

    I’m just a big fan of clarity and honesty. I really don’t like it when I feel like I’ve been intentionally mislead…


    Sounds like most internships are for the privileged few. Thanks for opening my eyes.

    Tosh K

    I believe they can legally not pay you if you are being compensated with academic credit. It can provide a student with a means to learn the practice of a profession in an office environment. I find it rather distasteful but so long as the work is not something billed out to a client, it can make some sense. The way I see it, an unpaid public internship allows public institutions to get work done that previously was done pro-bono for firms that had incentive to land paid work. A firm might offer planning studies or small scale schematic design in hopes of landing the contract, especially for low budget clients like municipalities. When the economy was good, the fees from other projects could cover this type of work. It often prevents smaller offices from being competitive to larger ones though.

    My understanding is that paid internships are the norm for students on break (summer, winter or taking a semester off). If a student decides to be enrolled (either for insurance or financial aid -hey, loans may pay the bills while a low-paying internship might not, say in NYC), then it could be unpaid and give academic credit. I could see a student thinking, “hey, I need 3 more credits to be full time, but the electives suck (or wants to gain “real life” skills)” and opting to work for 3 credits.

    I TAed for credit my last semester instead of work study – rather than take another class to go full time and get paid some lousy wage, I opted to take credits and free up time for my thesis. Oh and I needed that loan money to pay bills, hence needing full-time status


    Big Thanks Tosh!

    Heather Smith


    Jonathan Smith, RLA

    It’s great to know that I can blow my top, write a page of almost incomprehensible jibber jabber and have other people articulate my frustration add to it and create an interesting conversation of it all.

    I think what I’ve drawn from all your comments is this:

    1.) I should be grateful for the success I have been afforded by geography, circumstance and hard work.

    2.) Experience under a licensed professional prior to venturing out on your own is very important, and will lead to greater success in the long run. To be honest, I really wish I would have had this opportunity and it causes me no small bit of anxiety to venture out on my own without ever having the guidance of an experienced mentor. I’d gladly give up my license for a good three year stint in a professional office, but I refuse to sit around and watch my enthusiasm for something I really love dwindle while I wait for the economy to recover and reabsorb all the experienced, unemployed LA’s out there.

    3.) We need be better prepared to meet the challenges of the future. We need academic programs to stress the importance of internships, perhaps require them (sorry TJJ) and assist students in gaining this experience. There’s no sense in making something a requirement if it’s not feasible. I also think we need to work on better positioning our profession. Everyone knows what an architect does or a civil engineer does, but when I say I’m an LA people rarely know what I do.

    Thanks everyone for perspective gained and food for thought.


    ‘Oops! Heather/John your attitudes inspire me and I think it will take you both places.

    No, thank you.


    Man! The tandem photos keep throwing me off.

    Wyatt Thompson, PLA

    I was certainly paid while I interned. And so were 95-100% of my classmates, even the ones working in quasi-public/public institutions. We also all got academic credit while we were working. Now maybe that’s unusual; maybe my college program was just awesome; maybe that doesn’t happen as often now that the industry is where it is. Regardless, my internship was my first exposure to the “real world” of a design studio and incredibly beneficial both for the hands-on experience and the contacts I was able to make.

    AR Coffeen

    good discussion guys!

    let me address a few points:

    1) The data i’ve been studying has been collected from various sources as i stumble across it. There’s not one great place with this kind of information, so i am sure it’ll be worth my time someday.

    2) I am on the verge of starting my own design build company but I am holding out to see how a few things develop and to better establish the business plan.

    3) speaking of business this comment made me laugh, “So let me guess firms are supposed to hire young LAs to work on imaginary projects just so they can get experience. Sounds nice, but that’s just bad business. Maybe I’m missing something.” You are missing something, business 101, buy low sale high and you have to spend money to make money.

    From my 8 years of management and economics experience, before the partial switch to LA, the one thing that always holds true is that you invest when the market is low, ie spending the money to hire young talented LA’s at a discounted rate while you can to help you GET new jobs. Then, as the market gradually returns and the demand starts to gain on the supply, as it inevitably will, you aren’t playing catch up and having to pay more for a less talented/developed individual.

    All i know is that if you think adding a young enthusiastic designer who can create eye catching graphics and provide new innovative ideas and ways of thinking to your team for the purpose of growing and advancing you business by going outside your comfort zone and chasing more jobs is bad business, than that’s a company i don’t want to work for anyways.

    4) Also unpaid internships are only feasible to somebody enrolled in school where student loans, more often than not, are substituted for income. I would take an unpaid internship right now if I could afford it because my ultimate goal of investing the time and money into in a 3 year masters of landscape architecture degree was to get licensed. Now it’s proving much more difficult than planned.



    AR, you can’t hire young talent when you can’t even afford to pay the staff you have. A kid may be able to do great graphics but companies need employees who can do that and land new projects, manage them and not need hand-holding to make sure they don’t screw up. Young designers aren’t an investment right now. They are a liability. Sorry to say.



    Our program also required that an internship be completed. Wasn’t there a few who didn’t get their diplomas until they had worked out of school for a few months? (They went to Italy and had trouble getting an internship in the summer before their 5th year)

    Makes me wonder how the students are doing these days on that requirement

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I agree with Earthworks. Offices don’t need big populations of creative designers within the ranks because as a percentage of the overall office hours most of the work is other than creative design work. That is not done by newer staff and interns. New staff is usually initially brought in to assist in production in order to free up more experienced people for detailed design and contract administration I should think.

    Free internships are only another obstacle to those out in the job market trying to make a living. It will drive entry level pay rates down and why hire a newbie if you can keep getting freebies from the university. If you get this ball rolling it won’t stop. Universities will love it because it gives them a reason to add a year of tuition and it will spread like wildfire (just like MLA’s are right now for the same reason – watch for U’s dropping BLA accreditation soon).

    Jonathan Smith, RLA

    I can see your point. Ahh. Frustrating.

    Jonathan Smith, RLA

    Ha, ha! Yeah, let’s both move to Elko…

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