Professional Credentials: Who We Say We Are

Last time, I talked about all those lovely credentials we can earn and some of the reasons for going to the trouble to add them behind your name in business correspondence.

Today, I want to look at the most important one: Landscape Architecture licensure/registration credentials. Landscape Architects have been feeling the pinch of ambiguity for a while now, and in an economy such as this one has been, that ambiguity translates to a financial pinch as well. This has been a popular topic of discussion for a while, but we can’t seem to agree on how to solve it. Perhaps our tremendous diversity and small numbers have something to do with it, perhaps not, but we’re all keenly aware of the misconceptions that we are fighting.

Whatever your opinion of the root causes, there is at least one thing we can do as part of the solution: use the same letters to represent the accomplishment of having earned the title of Landscape Architect.

So what do we use?! Across the country, most Landscape Architects use one of the following: PLA, RLA, or LLA. Your state may use the term “licensure” or “registration” in their language which may influence your choice of acronym….or perhaps when you passed all those exams, a colleague just told you what to use. Well, now the ASLA has taken a stand and is encouraging the use of PLA (Professional Landscape Architect) as industry standard. They are working with the states to adopt it; not insisting that the states change their licensure / registration process, language, or seals, just to adopt PLA as standard for the acronym.

Part of the issue is that “registration” and “licensure” are terms used by states to indicate the processes that someone went through to become a Landscape Architect, and each of those terms has a distinct meaning. Additionally, there is the question of what to do if you hold a “license” in one state but are “registered” in another. PLA is already used in some places, and covers all bases, so it seems a good fit.

Here’s the deal: ASLA does not mandate letters for LA’s (states don’t all, either, it seems to be driven more by local common practice). Additionally, using the letters “ASLA” as part of your credentials denotes only that you are a member of ASLA. They don’t have anything to do with the licensing exams or keeping your credentials in good standing. They are, however, a nationwide professional society, and that’s good enough for me.

One of the arguments for PLA is that Engineers use PE as their professional designation and the majority of laypeople seem to recognize it, bolstering the argument that PLA could be an easier leap for the general public than something else.

SO- if you’re struggling like many of us with the ambiguity of your profession, maybe you could give it a try. I’m ordering new business cards to make the switch, and I would encourage anyone else to do the same. It isn’t easy, I’ve grown fond of my old letters, but at least it is a start.

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