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Thread: How important is a MLA?

  1. #1
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    How important is a MLA?

    Hello all, I'm new to the forum so please excuse any stupid questions I may have.
    You can check out my post in the new members area to get a little info if you wish.

    I'm looking into a career change to Landscape architecture, and although I have combed the internet, I still am not sure which niche I'm looking for.

    Being 30 years old, I'm nervous about starting a new career 7 years when I finally graduate. So my question is this. Do I really need an MLA or will I be just as well of with a BLA? Ultimately, I want more doors open for me down the road and of a higher payscale wouldn't be bad either, so I'm not opposed to getting my masters. But I don't want to put off starting my career any longer than I have to.

    Any information would be appreciated.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    A ton of landscape architects just have a BLA their whole lives, including company owners. Most of the time they only go back for an MLA later to teach landscape architecture in college (the MLA is the highest degree in landscape architecture). There is a bias towards landscape architects who have a BLA instead of an MLA because some firms assume that undergraduates have had a few more years of studio than the graduate students, and have picked up more hands-on skills. This is a myth: there are plenty of MLA programs that can teach just as much if not more than the undergrad (K-State is one of them). The reverse is true is planning: most employers prefer an MUP over a BUP even for entry-level jobs (although it's not a proven fact that all planners fresh out of planning graduate school know tons more than planners fresh out of an undergraduate planning program since most of planning is learned on the job).

    What is your degree/background in? I would say just save yourself time, money, and headaches and go for an MLA. It is going to be very intense anyway, so why put yourself through a few extra years of hell. If you really want to separate yourself from other landscape designers out of school (and move up the ladder faster) I would recommend learning as much as you can about plant material, and taking as many landscape construction courses as possible. Otherwise, you move up the ladder fast by demonstrating talent and consistency in your drawings, as well as being in the right firm at the right time.

    Hope this helps-

  3. #3
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Do it, and go for the MLA. With a little research, you can find a program that allows you to enter w/out a BLA but may require more study (it would typically be 2-3 semeters rather than years).

    Also, since you're going in as an older student (like I might be doing soon), an MLA would be more accomodating regarding an adult's schedule meaning work and family.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by zmanPLAN View post
    an MLA would be more accomodating regarding an adult's schedule meaning work and family.
    Disagree with that. With an MLA there is SOOOOOOOOO much to learn to such a short time, that if anything, it is even more intense than a BLA. Graduate students (including at least 2-3 students who were also raising a family) at UGA's graduate program were putting in 50-70 hours a week in studio at the end of the spring semester when I visited there in April. Several landscape architects at my job said that you will not have any time to even have a part-time job during the school year because the demands are too intense (one of the few options is becoming a teaching assistant, but even then that cuts into valuable studio time).

    As for raising a family, one of my co-workers (a landscape architect) worked her current job and taught a landscape graphics course at the local community college while her husband was working on his MArch (they have twin daughters). I give both of them a lot of credit, but the student/parent needs to be VERY VERY disciplined: no goofing off, get the work done, and go home. I imagine it's tough for any parent to go back to school, but even more so when going for an engineering or design degree.

    Part-time is not really an option for MLA programs. Most of the courses are only taught once a year and it is almost impossible to transfer credit from one MLA program to another. If you go part time, you are bound to forget more of what you learned in studio, which can haunt you when start taking the LARE 2-3 years out of school.

    Some programs require summer studios, which means you can't do a summer internship. I know a few third year's who have been able to do an internship during the school year, but that's because they have finished their studio work and are working on their thesis, so they have a little, but not a lot, of flexibility in working outside of class.

    Bottom line, I don't think MLA/MArch programs are as forgiving with other obligations (family, work, etc.) as maybe an MUP. Although, Zach, you had a very good impression with Washington State's MLA program. Are they more flexible at that school?
    Last edited by nrschmid; 25 Jun 2008 at 5:33 PM.

  5. #5
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    I'm sorry, I didn't give enough information the first time. I currently do not have a degree. The last time I was in school was for graphic design in 1998 and I only attended 2 semesters.

    With my wife working, I can afford to concentrate on earning a degree without having to work.

    The options I have been rolling around in my head are as follows

    earn undergrad in Real estate and Urban development then masters in Landscape Architecture

    earn undergrad and masters in LA

    earn just undergrad in LA

    Hope this helps to clear things up.

    Thanks again

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Thanks for the update. What interests you about real estate and landscape architecture? Why did you leave college? What are you doing now?

  7. #7
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    What interests me in real estate and LA?
    Well, I'm a people person, I love networking, selling products or ideas, and I love to help people. I enjoy design and think that I would love to improve the areas in which people live and visit.

    I left college due to any unfortunate series of events and while I was out of school I found a job manufacturing DRAM which payed very well and didn't consider going back to school. Then I was layed off.

    I'm currently working in another manufacturing plant which is closing it's doors in early September.

    At this point the career paths that interest me are
    Working as a Landscape Architect for a developer
    Owning my own design/build firm
    Working in the public sector revitalizing urban areas

    But these are subject to change with the more I learn.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    In your situation, a BLA would be most appropriate - As others have pointed out, the MLA is mostly for people without a design background, or who want to teach (like me).

    You might also consider a landscape design degree. They're typically more horticulturally oriented, and focus more on the small-scale side of things. That's also the area where the selling and working directly with people comes into play. It has a further advantage of being more common. There's roughly 60 accredited LA (BLA or MLA) programs in the US - there's far more hort. programs.

    Since your wife is working, finding someplace that pays her well while you go to school becomes critical. In VA, you have limited options for a LA degree - UVA offers only the MLA, and VTech offers both the BLA + MLA at Blacksburg, and only the MLA at the Alexandria campus.

  9. #9
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    Thanks everyone for your help.
    I'm starting to look at schools outside of VA to earn my BLA.
    With all of the good elementary schools in Ohio, I'm considering moving up there to attend Ohio State.

    Time will tell.

    Thanks again

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