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Thread: ASLA and other certification questions (Was:need some direction...)

  1. #1
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    ASLA and other certification questions (Was:need some direction...)

    Greetings!

    I am a new student of UC Berkeley Extension's Landscape Architecture Certiciation Program. My career objective is to get into physical planning and design. I am particularly interested in principles of sustainability, New Urbanism, infill development and TOD.

    In addition, I am also considering pursuing an MUP in-state, with a specialization in urban design, in order to become AICP certified. My background is in international political economy at a small private school.

    My questions are:

    1) How important is it to have the ASLA certification if you are looking for a long-term career in the private sector that may include consulting or self-employment?

    2) Does anyone have any impressions, negative or positive, regarding the UC Extension Program? What about SFIA's Ecological Design Distance Learning?

    3) Would it be a waste of time and resources going back to school for an MUP with my stated objective, since I would likely acquire the necessary experience on the job?

    I am interested mainly in working in the private sector, perhaps with a design develop firm. Any advice would be appreciated.

    Thanks!

    Moderator note:
    Please use descriptive thread titles, not teaser titles, in the professional forums. Thank you and carry on. ~Gedunker
    Last edited by Gedunker; 19 Sep 2007 at 12:25 PM.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Stay in the landscape architecture program and take some planning electives. Site design, which includes urban design, can be learned on the job. If you were wanting to focus more on policy or research, the MUP might be a good dual degree to have. You can't come out of school AICP certified, you have to have at least 2 years of full time planning experience if you gradauted from an accredited graduate planning program.

    http://www.planning.org/certification/experience.htm

    It sounds to me as if site design/urban design does not constitute for planning experience. Maybe there is someone on here who has used this experience to sit for the exam. T

    Most landscape architects have the initials ASLA. If you wanted to set yourself apart from them, you could become registered (RLA), help write the LARE exam (CLARB) or become a fellow (FASLA). Again, this takes time to earn these distinctions (and there are a few others I think I left out).

  3. #3
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    What is your BA in? There are plenty of planning related extension courses through UCs Berkeley and Davis. Look into them, too. When I lived and worked in the Golden State, I took plenty of extension courses and found them very timely, relevant, and useful. Good luck!

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    Thanks for the feedback!

    My BA was in Int'l Political Economics, minored in English. It seems like Davis now has all the planning courses, and Berkeley has focused on LA. If I ever move closer to Davis, maybe Sacramento, I will definitely take some planning classes, and will look out for any electives here in the BA.

    It seems like the Extension program has a good reputation, even though I'm a sucker for credentials. Hoever, keeping a job while receiving a discount education is a great deal!

    Does anyone have any insights on working for a design build firm, or am I asking the wrong crowd? Are there any LAs that are working as planners/designers, perhaps at the regional level, who would like to share their experiences...

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    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    ASLA = More important than AICP, IMO

    MUP = You dont need a Masters, just get some experience and the license.

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    The UC Extension program is accredited, but not by the ASLA.

    If I were to go through an ASLA accredited MLA program I would probably need more design experience (ie, half the extension program), and would still have 3 more years of school. I'd be in my early 30s by then and just starting out...

    Alternatively, the extension proram would take more like 4 years, but I would hopefully begin working at a design firm at the same time. I would not be eligible for ASLA certified, correct?

    So, what makes having the ASLA credentials better than RLA, etc?

    Also, I'm leaning towards finishing the extension program, but would like to know if anyone has any opinion on why an MLA program would be a better choice.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by bebop3000 View post

    So, what makes having the ASLA credentials better than RLA, etc?

    .
    Registered LA is what i meant. yeah, licensure good, certs. only OK.

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    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    ASLA after your name just means you are paying your dues to the ASLA. They have various levels of membership, like student and associate. I've never actually been a member, though I'm licensed in a few states now. There aren't many design/build firms out there that do actual buildings or residential developments, though sometimes I think that's what I'd like to start. When LAs say they are in design build, they usually mean a landscaping company that does primarily residential garden design. It can be a good way to go if you like garden design and want a lot of control over the final product. I like large-scale projects, so that means a large civil or LA firm.
    Adrift in a sea of beige

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    Thanks for the clarification. I said design/build because I thought I would like to work with a development firm (since they have control over the projects) but realize it would likely mean compromising certain ideals. I am mainly interested in the large-scale site planning and design.

    This is why I would like to pursue a degree in Urban Design. They are usually attacehd to Urban Planning planning programs, and I figured that would be a great background to have when seeking employment in a design/planning firm such as EDAW.

    Are you able to become AICP certified as an LA without an educational background in planning?

    How important is it to have an MLA, as opposed to an extensive portfolio through an accredited extension program and work experience?

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Landscape architects can become AICP certified, but they have to be working in the capacity as a planner, not a landscape architect, to be elligible to take the exam. If you graduate from a non-planning program, such as your LA extension program, you will need four years of planning experience to be elligble to take the AICP exam. Again, see the earlier link I posted for AICP elligbility requirements.

    I am planning on taking the AICP exam next year (been working as a land use planner for a few years now) and am also looking into MLA programs (I want to work for at least 3-4 more years in planning before pursuing the MLA).
    You don't even need a college degree to take the AICP exam (just 8 years of full time planning experience). I, too, am a big stickler for credentials, which is why I am working now as land use planner for several years before pursuing the MLA degree. Then, I hope to weave both fields together

    IMO, urban design is a form of site design (basically it's the site design of public places such as squares, plazas, streetscapes, etc.) and I have seen this type of work done more by landscape architects and architects than planners. Not all urban design courses, certifcates, or degrees are the same: some are affiliated with planning, architecture, landscape architecture, or a combination. Some place more emphasis on studio work and others place an emphasis on theory. Some focus on design and others focus on construction/technology. An MLA or MArch offers more flexibility in design, and most firms know what to expect from graduates of these programs. Several of the principals in my office, who are practicing landscape architects, have greated the urban design degree with mixed reviews.

    I know several LA's with just BLA's who own their own firms, and they are doing just fine. However, as a land use planner with an accredited bachelors of planning, it is a lot more difficult (though, not impossible) to move up the fooc chain without going back to school (I am debating about pursuing a second planning degree along with the MLA because I would like to focus more on site design after school).

    All of the LA's I know either have a BLA or MLA (and I "think" most of these degrees are from accredited degree programs) so I don't know how much weight an extension program would have). If you want to teach landscape architecture at the college level, you will need to earn an MLA (preferably from a program which requires a masters thesis). Unlike planning, there are more LA professors with an MLA because the profession is not as research-based as planning or other degrees). I think you should setup informational interviews with firms where you would like to work after school (you mentioned EDAW) and find out their opions regarding the extension program).

    Finally, the CLIENT ultimately controls the projects. Design-build firms offer design and construction services under one roof (as opposed to other firms where one consulting firm will design the project and then receive bids from contractors for construction). I agree that most design-build landscape firms focus on landscape installation. A project involving site design may include several different consulting firms under one team (planning/landscape architecture, architecture/interior design, engineering/surveying, or any combination).

    Hope this helps-
    Last edited by nrschmid; 19 Sep 2007 at 5:35 PM.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by bebop3000 View post
    Thanks for the clarification. I said design/build because I thought I would like to work with a development firm (since they have control over the projects) but realize it would likely mean compromising certain ideals. I am mainly interested in the large-scale site planning and design.
    i used to work for one of the biggest developers in the country. The LAs do the sketch plans, ordinance revisions, landscape plans and the civil engineers and designers do the actual site plans.

    Planning is neither of this.

    Fyi...this type of work does not count towards AICP either.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Wow. Lots of good questions, so I'll try to answer them one-by-one:

    Quote Originally posted by bebop3000 View post
    1) How important is it to have the ASLA certification if you are looking for a long-term career in the private sector that may include consulting or self-employment?
    As stated above, ASLA doesn't certify anything. The letters simply indicate membership. I personally support the organization, and believe in what they do, so choose to support them and use the letters after my name.

    What *is* important, however, is licensure. That's up to the individual states. The UC Extension program has a good reputation - they got a glowing write-up in ASLA magazine a few months ago. No, I don't think they're accredited, which poses certain problems for licensure *outside* of CA. AFAIK, CA accepts the degree towards CA licensure just like an accredited BLA or MLA. This is good - it means you can sit for the exam, and per the ASLA article, the passage rate of UC grads is pretty good.

    Now, the bad: it won't do you much good *outside* of CA. From what I know, you'd have a hard time getting reciprocity from other states. If you're only working in CA, or aren't working for a firm that does national work, no problem.

    I'm registered in VA, so also use CLA, which is the VA term. If I had to limit myself to just one abbreviation after my name, it'd be CLA - it has more meaning in a professional setting.

    Quote Originally posted by bebop3000 View post
    2) Does anyone have any impressions, negative or positive, regarding the UC Extension Program? What about SFIA's Ecological Design Distance Learning?
    See above. UC has a good reputation in the profession. No idea about SFIA.

    Quote Originally posted by bebop3000 View post
    3) Would it be a waste of time and resources going back to school for an MUP with my stated objective, since I would likely acquire the necessary experience on the job?
    IMHO, if you want to be a physical designer, you need a physical design degree. Landscape architecture and architecture are most common, but I don't know much about the urban design / planning programs.

    If you *know for sure* you want to stay in CA, the UC programs seems like a good route. It's geared towards adult learners and non-traditional learners, and makes it (easier) to hold a job at the same time. If you may want to work outside of CA, an accredited degree seems like the best route.

    Hope this helps. If you have any questions about landscape arch., feel free to ask here or me directly.

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