Working without a degree?

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    Andrew Garulay, RLA


    Can you take the math courses and others at a Community College at night and then petition for your degree at CSU? Have you talked with anyone at the U to find out?


    I could take the math at community college, but we’re talking about something in the realm of $600 per course and it’s difficult to find the exact courses you need at the right times, especially with something as exacting as math. I don’t want to air my dirty laundry here too much, so I wont go into the specifics, but there are other reqs that I absolutely cant afford, regardless of time. I’m pretty set on not finishing for at least the next year or more unless someone hands me a boat load of money. I’ve come to terms with it and don’t see it as a big deal, neither does my current boss, though he encourages me to finish.


    I appreciate your point, but in my own defense I think (or hope) that a hiring manager would see my track record of completed projects, awards, and employment history as proven ability to ‘complete something’ over not finishing a few classes for my degree. I don’t know, you could be right though.

    For all intents and purposes I went to CSU, no one needs to know whether I hold the degree or not unless they ask, right? In either case, I see my completion of courses work at CSU as adequate in earning me a position in a firm. What happens if that same architect could grade better, draw better, and manage better than the landscape architect? You would say that you’re going to pay him or her less only because they don’t hold a degree? If the person never completed any schooling I might agree, but if we’re talking technicalities, then I think that’s poor judgement, but if the person is willing to accept that I guess that’s fine.

    Personally, I don’t think any of our current clients at the office I’m at now care one bit about where I (or perhaps even my boss ) went to school. I think they come to us because we help them add value to their projects. Again, I may be mistaken in my very limited experience.


    I absolutely know where you’re coming from Mandy.

    If I could afford to, I would probably go to grad school as well. Though I may go for something like urban design/planning or even engineering. But I get what you’re saying about ‘reigniting/restarting’ I feel the same way, the only difference being that I feel I just need to keep searching for my niche with the resources I have.

    I’ve heard both sides as well. I think my ultimate goal would be to finish the degree so I can one day be a principal/partner.or at least stamp my own drawings, but I think it’s going to be a little while.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    The thing that degree does more so than anything else (aside from licensing) is to get you in the door. You already are through the door and have an employment record to get you the next job.

    It probably would serve you best to hold your position for at least a year before moving on just in case the next position does not last long. Its hard to think that we have to plan our careers around the possibility of an established company failing or downsizing significantly rather than just on our own performance, but we really do need to do that these days. A short stay at a company is OK, but two short stays in a row could be very damaging especially without the degree. Your patience might get tried a bit, but you are probably in a lot better shape than those coming out with degrees right now. You are in, most of them are not.

    To strengthen your optimistic point, I was hired by the current civil engineering firm that I work for specifically to do civil site plan work with zero interest in my landscape architect degree or license (so much so that they agreed to let me run my own landscape architecture business on the side). They hired me over E.I.T.s because of my work experience rather than my degree. We also have someone with a biology degree who is our primary residential septic system designer (monitored and reviewed by the engineers of course) from years as an environmental specialist multi-tasking on residential site design and wetlands permitting. My degree got me in the door at land planning office to get things started, but you’ve already got started.

    Also, no one likes training their competition. While most people are very professional about advancing their employees some are a bit insecure if they perceive a significant competitor emerging (with your graphic skill set, this is pertinent). Not having the degree at this point takes that possible “training the competition” bias away.

    Go back when the economy heats up and you’ll have places to land when you get the degree. If you are working full time for a licensed LA, your intern meter is running with or without your degree in most states. You might be eligible for LARE the day you get your degree.

    You are working. You are in. You are moving forward in your profession with or without the paper. Think about it and pop off the top of a cold one and enjoy the moment (it’s Saturday and 5PM somewhere).

    David Farber

    Yah I have the exact same sentiments on the topic. Eventually though, he is going to hit the door he cant walk through because he doesn’t have the key.


    Thanks for the wise words Andrew.

    David–I take it you’re alluding mainly to licensure? I agree. Eventually, I’d like to finsih the degree and become licensed.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    The beauty of our profession is that you never have only one door in front of you. Every doorway opens to a hallway with several doorways in it. Some are are locked, some are closed, and some are open. Some lead to places you don’t want to go to. Some lead to new places that you never heard of. Few of them close behind you.

    The exception is if you start your own full time company before you get your internship time completed you are very unlikely to get licensed (if you care). Then you will never close down to intern for a few years.

    Working under a licensed LA while you wait out your ability to finish off the degree is without a doubt moving forward. It is certainly better than having a degree and not having a job. It is almost a desirable track.You may at some point have an employer who will give you the time off to go to class if you are in a community where you can do that.

    Alessandro Vino

    Hi there,

    I “ended” the Bachelor degree in 2006 (all courses passed plus thesis) anyhow due to changes in the European system there has been a huge delay in the examination…they kind of forgot about me… The response was given only in 2009. So long story short, I am about to represent a new Bachelor thesis in accordance with the “New standards”.

    In the meanwhile I got a job as Landscape Architect in Norway! The company I work for gave me a 6 months contract due to the “no paper”issue, now they are offering 6 more cause legally they can’t provide a permanent contract as long as I do not get “THE PAPER”. Concerning the salary I am paid as a person with a legal degree, so there’s no loss. The bad side is that with a temporary contract I can’t get paid holidays and other little benefits. The GOOD thing is that in the company i am regarded as a professional and not as a student. So I believe the “paper” is relevant for legal issues but not as much for the real practice, an employer is looking mostly at your skills as Landscape Architect rather than at the degree!
    Good luck!


    Thanks Alessandro.

    That’s reassuring and at least in part what I expected.

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