How many with degree in LA??

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by mrbray101, Jan 28, 2006.

  1. mrbray101

    mrbray101 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 251

    Currently I am attending the University of Florida for the Landscape Architecture program. I was curious if a lot of you have a Bachelors degree in LA and have your own proactice. My goal is to get my degree and have my own practice where I do all of the designing and installing in house. Do any of you do both like this? Thanks for replies in advance.
     
  2. LandscapePro

    LandscapePro LawnSite Member
    Posts: 138

    mbray,

    lol The Landscape Architects I know wouldn't dream of touching a shovel.

    Mike
    La. Landscape Contractor #2576
     
  3. mrbray101

    mrbray101 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 251

    well i am just curious whether or not anyone does this or not. I enjoy the work aspect as well as designing. Would it be a profitable venture or is it more profitable to concentrate solely on designing.
     
  4. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,749

    I have a BSLA and I am a registered landscape architect. I was a landscape contractor before I went to school (I got my degree at 37). I have worked both in design only offices and in design/build.

    One thing that you have to understand from the business angle is this. The money comes from the marking up of labor and materials. Now, you get your hands on that money a few different ways. But, no one will be interested in handing it over to you unless they value what you are doing for them. A client is not going to want to pay you, as a designer, a big percentage on top of the contractor's price because you draw great plans and have a degree.

    A contractor surely does not want to give you any of his profit. Think about it. You are going to spec things that he has to find, he has to price, and he has to build. Then you are going to want to have inspections, meetings, and to some degree you will be interupting his management of the job. In other words, he'd be a lot happier with you out of the way.

    That leaves you two ways to get a hold of anything more than your own hourly rates. One is to have your own design/build company. The other is to be develop a very good reputation as a project manager. That means you have to know how to build it,have to hire the contractor, have the personality to boss around a contractor, and the ability to check their work and control whether and when they get paid. That is no easier than running your own crew. It takes much of the same experience.

    One reason that you do not see a lot of registered LA's owning a design/build is that those that have the experience before they get their degree go into design/build right away. That does not give them the chance to intern under a registered LA full time for two years in order to apply for the license. The other is that if you get a degree and then work in an office, you do not get the experience to run a landscape contracting company.
     
  5. mrbray101

    mrbray101 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 251

    AGLA: thanks for the post, very helpful information. Im am only in my second year of school and its a 5 year program. You seem very knowledgable so I hope you would mind asnwering a few questions.

    I have slowly been gathering information from all the people envolved in this career that I meet, professors, etc. My goal is to eventually own a small design/build business, at least right now thats what I want. In your opinion, after I graduate what would be the best thing for me to do. I have a lot of money put away from my great grandparents that was for college but I havent touched any of it and dont plan to since I make enough with my business now. This could be used to start a business down the road.

    Basically what I am trying to figure out is right after school should I try and get an entry level LA position somewhere, open my own practice,etc.

    And in the meantime, I work a full time job during summer in addition to cutting my own lawns that i have yearly. Ive been working for a lawn maintenance place that last couple summers, should I work for a landscaper or someone that does hardscaping or something similar to gain more knowledge in the field or would I just be doing boring grunt work for someone like that?

    Hope that you can answer some of my questions, the wording of all of this is a littly confusing I think. Thanks again for the reply.
     
  6. LandscapePro

    LandscapePro LawnSite Member
    Posts: 138

    AGLA,

    That was a very good explanation...

    mbray,

    After getting your degree, you can come to Louisiana, pass the test, get your license, and hang out a shingle.

    LOL I know it's not that easy, but my point is there is no internship required for a license here if you have your degree.

    agla, makes some very good points. I wish more LA's had some "shovel time". Some of the things you see on plans nowdays are just crazy....

    Mike
    La. Landscape Contractor #2576
     
  7. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,749

    If you want to get the most out of your degree and you are young enough to invest the time in it, I would recommend that upon graduating you intern with a landscape architecture firm and work toward getting licensed. The sooner you clear that hurdle, the less likely that you will not get licensed at all.

    In the mean time, I would recommend working for a big well established landscape contractor that does the kind of work that you hope to do. Keep your eyes open to what is going on around you. Watch the foremen, the laborers and the management and try to understand how they all think. The more you learn about them, the more of an advantage you'll have in running your future company. Understand that the faces will be different when you have your company, but the same things will make them happy or piss them off. Of course you should be learning how to build landscapes as well. It is not imperative that you have to learn to do every skill with your own hands, but it is important to know when the crew is doing a good job or a bad job. You can't learn that stuff at school.

    You won't find out about pricing or crunching numbers as a grunt on a construction crew, but you can learn that later. What you can't learn later is the perspective of all the other people that will be working for you. That will always be guarded from you as the boss. It will be totally unguarded when you are just a summer helper on a work crew.

    Pay attention to the materials they use, the methods, the order they do things, and stuff like that. Keep a journal that you can write stuff in every night.

    After you finish school, intern, and pass the LA exam, you can make the determination of whether to go into business at that time or try to grow into a project manager (PM) position with the LA firm. But at least you'll have your license and all the options are open.

    If you act as a PM, you will be sertting yourself up to be able to be able to either manage your own design/build jobs or to be able to design and manage the subcontractors that you hire for your clients. You will network with a lot of people - potential clients, suppliers, contractors, etc,... and you will be getting very familiar with pricing and a lot of the business end. When you decide to go into your own gig, you won't have to be mowing lawns and taking on any small jobs to keep busy and then try to grow into getting those bigger jobs because you will be in a position to do those right away (although you will have invested a fews years into gaining that experience beforehand).

    The alternative is to start your business right away, forget about the license (because you'll never intern), and start out trying to get whatever work you can and then try to build up to what you really want to do, .... if you can.
     
  8. mrbray101

    mrbray101 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 251

    Thanks for the great advice man! I also wanted to tell you i checked out your resume website and it is pretty cool. Your post was really helpful to me. I printed it out and am going to save it in my filing cab with other random things that Ive accumulated over the year. I really appreciate your help on the subject, you seem to be very knowledgable and I thank you for all the time you put into the posts helping me. I guess I will look into getting a job with a landscape contractor over this next summer.

    One more quick question if you dont mind. After getting the degree, Am I correct in assuming that I am officially a LA but just not licensed. What benefits does the licensure include. Im just not really sure about all of that. I have to do a full semester of interning in the program but havent heard anything about having to intern for 2 years afterwards. Thanks again, I appreciate the advice.
     
  9. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,749

    Am I correct in assuming that I am officially a LA but just not licensed?

    That depends on the state that you are in. If there is a license it is one of two types.

    Most are what they call "title law" in which you can not call yourself a landscape architect, your work landscape architecture, or use those terms in your advertisement unless you are licensed (you can't use the "title" in other words).

    The second type of license law is called a "practice act". That means that you have to have a license to practice landscape architecture. Only a few states have this type. This allows an LA to do certain defined things that someone without a license can not do. You also may not call yourself an LA under this type as well. ASLA and other landscape architecture special interest groups are pushing for this type of law everywhere. I'm mixed on this one because there are some groups that want to exclude designers from doing some of what they do which I think is unnecessary. Other states use the practice act to allow landscape architects to do some things that have previously been restricted to civil engineers such as grading, drainage, and road design. I'm all for that as long as the standards for licensure ensure that the competency is there.

    There are only 3 or 4 states that do not license landscape architects. Florida is not one of them. In those states anyone can call himself an LA.

    My opinion is that you will by pass the bog down in elevating your business by getting licensed and getting the project management experience in higher end or commercial work out of an LA office. There is too much competition in building up a contractor business to a high end level. The other way is to get in with the people that are already there and them moving latterally to start your own gig at their level. They will train you and you'll get familiar with everyone involved at that level. More importantly, they will get to know you, too.

    When you start out as a laborer or foreman in a landscape company, you will not likely see the business end of things. You won't see the contracts, the pricing methods, the legal stuff, costs and overhead. Al you'll get is how to build. As an LA you'll get that business opened up to you because you'll be doing it.

    You won't be posting questions about how to get big jobs on this site in ten years. You won't be asking how to price something, or where to get it, or if something is legal or not. You'll have that experience.

    Read posts on message boards like this and you will see that most guys that start out on their own early hit a point where they are trying to "get over the hump". It will happen to you as well. It happened to me years ago, so I know what I'm talking about. It is better to start on the other side of the hump.

    You can't get inside someone else's business once you're in your own. All you can rely on is the school of hard knocks which has no professor. You rely on yourself to teach yourself - the blind leading the blind. You can make it. Plenty of guys do. Even more of them don't.

    Having an LA dgree won't gain you much as a contractor unless your clientel needs the skills that you have learned. Simple middle class landscape plans can usually be done by most landscapers. The average customer is not very interested in paying more for someone because they have a stamp or a degree. Not until you get to the people who need or want what your experience brings. If your cruising around in a one-ton with a mowing trailer, you'll look like one of the many out there. That is where all the time invested to make the connections and for others to connect you to that next level pays off.

    One thing that is seldom understood by those going after the LA degree is this. Drawing plans is not where the money is. Seeing it through to completion is. Those that want to stay away from the construction, at least managing it, have little real value. You have to manage projects to make more than a wage. You sound like you are not shy about that. That is good.
     
  10. mrbray101

    mrbray101 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 251

    Hey man thanks again, this is all really starting to make sense to me. This is the kind of information that the professors do not really talk too much about. I know what you are saying though it makes good sense. I guess a regular designer will be able to me descent money and probably be capped off eventually but designing and overseeing the completion of the product is where the real money can be made. Thanks again for all the great posts. I'll look forward to reading more of your posts in the future. Its really nice to run into someone like you that actually cares about the profession and others getting into it. Thanks for all the time you put into the responses. -Brandon
     

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