Working over 40 hours?

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    Mike Mitchell

    I think you’d have to define reasonable. For people that graduate with no debt a salary of 40k might be “reasonable”. 

    I’m hearing from most friends that compensation is stagnant. I applied to a very well known firm in the east coast, having a friend/former classmate who works there try and get me in the door. His response was that Upenn and GSD students were willing to work for “pennies” to get the job. Other friends are seeing no pay increase (even for cost of living) and often reduction in benefits, 401K, etc.



    Thomas J. Johnson

    I wonder how many pennies he’s talking about…? If it’s like 8 million pennies then it might be worth it…

    Elizabeth Renton

    That. Was. Awesome. I wish i could engrave this on a smooth polished stone and anonymously leave it lying around the office somewhere…

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    What is entry level pay in Landscape Architecture these days? Someone said $40k. I would think that is on the high side right now for someone directly out of school, but I really don’t know.


    Yeah the more creative the office the more time you spend working. I’ve worked 15 hour days only to have my idea rejected during crit with the boss. I basically had to start over from scratch. I wasn’t happy, but that’s the nature of the work. Fortunately, not all offices are this insane. If you’re in an interview, you better ask what the work hours are like, and how long people stay with the company. If people come and go, then you know there is a lot of stress working there.

    When I was doing those ridiculously long hours, I was doing it for myself knowing that in the end it will be something good to add to my portfolio. I’m a little older now and I don’t think I can handle that stress anymore, but it certainly paid off. I got an offer with my new firm easy.

    If you work long hours don’t do it for the boss who’s most likely an ass and who has no problem exploiting people. Ignore him/her. Do it for yourself. Just make sure the project is worth it and something you will be proud to put in your portfolio.

    Thomas J. Johnson

    It probably varies a lot based on location. If the cheapest housing you can find (studio) is $1250/month, $40k doesn’t get you far… $400-student loan payment, $70-cell phone, $60-auto insurance, $150-gas, $50-internet, $400 food, $40 dry-cleaning… after taxes, you have a $240 deficit every month and those are just the basics, you haven’t purchased any work clothes, gone to the doctor/dentist, repaired your car, gone on a date, eaten out, or any other “fluff”. $40k really doesn’t go far these days. In fact, it really doesn’t cut it.

    If housing in the area costs $600/month then you’re probably making more like $35k which is only slightly better…

    Either way, entry-level LA jobs don’t pay much, which is expected. You have to learn a lot and get up to speed before you’re worth anything to anybody (another reason I worked my ^$$ off, I wanted to be worth more). Still, I regularly see jobs seeking 8-10 years experience, mastery of every software known to man and offering $50-55k and I think, “you have to be kidding me!” On that salary, you’ll never raise a family, buy a house, own a new car, go on a decent vacation… or save for the inevitable down-turn in the economy. That’s really scrapping by as an adult… especially in Southern California…

    Steve Mercer

    Just 40 hours?  EEK!  You obviously aren’t running your own firm.  If you own your own company and you are just putting in 40 hours you probably won’t own it long… 40 hrs is for sissys!  HA!



    Tim Zhang

    I agree, I work more than 40 hours, PER DAY.

    Thomas J. Johnson

    Spending 15 hours on an idea, only to get rejected by the boss, doesn’t sound like a very good use of time, labor, budget or creativity. Why wasn’t he / she there to guide you in a different direction after say, 3 hours, max? Boss – “Hey, how’s that idea coming along…? Ah, OK, cool. Why don’t we tweak this and do that…Yeah, that looks better. Keep up the good work. Let me know if you have any questions. I’ll check back, in a bit.”

    I think all of the stress, egos and general dysfunctional madness associated with a lot of big name firms is B.S. Are we filming a reality TV melodrama? Are we curing cancer? Sending people to the moon? Gimme a break. Get a grip. It doesn’t have to be that way and it’s actually counter productive and unhealthy.

    Speaking of exploiting people, I wouldn’t be surprised if your boss told you your idea stunk and then turned around and started a new business with it… that’s how those people “work”.


    The boss never had any ideas, his only talent was that he had good
    taste. We did have discussions with other designers and the project
    manager which often goes well, but at the end of the day, the boss made
    the call.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    …The question is not how many hours a business owner works, it is what is the reality out there for people working in landscape architecture. We are no closer to that answer than when I first posed the question.


    Someone of you has to be actually employed in an LA firm, I should hope. Those of you who have jobs with LA firms – 3 simple questions:

    1. How many hours do YOU CURRENTLY work?

    2. How many hours do those EMPLOYEES around you work?

    3.Hourly or on salary (not how much, just either hourly or salary)?


    I bet I get no one to answer all three questions.

    Theodore Tegen

    This forum really needs a “poll” function.


    LA Firm (40-49hr weeks)

    LA Firm (50-59hr weeks)

    LA Firm (60+ hr weeks)

    Arch/Eng Firm (40-49hr weeks)

    Arch/Eng Firm (50-59hr weeks)

    Arch/Eng Firm (60+ hr weeks)


    I’ll go first: Arch/Eng Firm (40-49hr weeks)

    Elizabeth Renton

    i am currently employed so here’s my answers:


    1. currently work 40-50 hours per week. Sometimes more during crunch times, but usually 40-50 average. Late nights, weekends, holidays…at some point i’ve worked them all. Not every single day, but on a somewhat routine basis.

    2. my coworkers hours vary. some are workaholics and put in long hours all day, every day, regardless of the work flow. Some clock in at 8 am sharp and walk out at 5 pm sharp, regardless of the work flow.


    3. we are all on salary. no paid overtime, no comp time, no extra vacation days, no bonus for the last 3 years. we just do what we have to do in order to get the job done and keep the doors open. the economy has been brutal. we’re just trying to stay afloat and survive, so no extra benefits any time soon.

    Thomas J. Johnson



    God forbid you have a family in this career.

    I know this doesn’t help answer the posters questions but i want to add that I have had this conversation multiple times with family over the holidays.


    When will the time come when companies (not just LA) realize the day of low balling employees and working them to the bone with the threat of job loss is going to bounce back. How long can employees go through with putting up with unfair requirements to maintain employment. There is nothing worse than being outcast as NOT a team player because you had to go to the dentist or the doctor or pick up kids.


    I have interned with LA firms while in school, while it was still ‘good’. but since gradutating I have been fighting to find design build designer position that matters to an employer.  Even if Denver had positions (LA) open I am overlooked with a BLA from NY to the CSU or CU students.


    part of me wants to learn spanish, and work my hands to the bone b/c the guys in the field often times make more than the designer(non sales position). While I love this profession and doing this work, I need to be able to make a living. I want to feel that I can pay my bills and put some away for the future. but i don’t see that happening and thats scary.

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