- Useful and attractive outdoor spaces continue to be in demand, and so are the skills of trained professionals to create them, according to the 2001 Landscape Architecture Graduating Student Survey. The results recently released by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) indicate that starting salaries for landscape architects have grown by nearly seven percent, employee benefits have expanded, and students are entertaining more job offers before accepting a position upon graduation.
"It's exciting to see statistics validating what we're hearing anecdotally all the time - that the public values what our members do, and that demand for new landscape architects continues to rise. There's been a tremendous explosion in both the appreciation and need for landscape architecture services," said Nancy Somerville, ASLA Executive Vice President.
Continuing a four-year upward trend, starting salaries climbed to an average of $32,900. The majority of respondents (88 percent) were undergraduates completing a bachelor of landscape architecture; remaining 12 percent were completing graduate degrees. Actual starting salaries were $32,400 for undergrads, up from $28,700 in 1999, and $36,300 for graduate students, up from $32,600 in 1999.
Employee benefits also surged this year, with more students than ever receiving major medical insurance through their employer, up to 87 percent. Employer-sponsored 401K retirement plans have also grown tremendously, up to 75 percent from 52 percent in 1997. Geographic location was the primary factor influencing their decision to accept a job, with 81 percent accepting a job in their preferred region.
Professional licensure is also on the minds of graduating students, with a strong majority (86 percent) indicating their plans to seek state registration as a landscape architect. State licensure means a student must have an accredited degree, professional experience, and pass the Landscape Architecture Registration Exam (LARE).
"Students understand that licensure is critical to their professional success, and it's commendable that so many appear willing to take on the challenge of preparing for the LARE, even though in most states they cannot take the exam with less than two years experience," said Ron Leighton, ASLA Director of Education. "Landscape architecture truly is a profession where you never stop learning."
Half of all graduating students are joining private landscape architecture practices. Another 26 percent will go to work at private multi-disciplinary or allied professional practices. Eighteen percent will join design/build contractors, and remainder are split among public sector work and academic pursuits. Over half look to former employers and internship sponsors for jobs after graduation. Three-fourths of respondents indicated that their job was with their preferred type of employer.
More than two-fifths indicate they anticipate going back for additional education after earning some professional experience. Only six percent plan going on for an advanced degree immediately after graduation.
The first professional training course in landscape architecture was established at Harvard University in 1899; landscape architecture degree programs now number more than 75. Only between 1,200 and 1,300 students graduate with a degree in landscape architecture from a mere 58 schools in the U.S. This number has held steady in the last few years, despite the strong job market.
"ASLA is encouraging schools to set up more landscape architecture degree programs to meet this increasing demand," said Somerville. "It's discouraging to think of all the students that are turned away from the profession because there just aren't the slots for them. And landscape architecture students and faculty can make such a contribution to their campus and region. Many landscape architecture programs use their campus as a lab for smart growth initiatives and are involved in pro-bono community design workshops."
Founded in 1899, the American Society of Landscape Architects is the professional association representing landscape architects nationwide. Beginning with 11 original members, ASLA has grown to more than 13,500 members and 48 chapters, in all 50 states, the U.S. territories and 42 countries around the world. ASLA promotes the landscape architecture profession and advances the practice through advocacy, education, communication and networking.