ASLA recently released its annual graduating student survey. This survey was completed by graduating students from 47 accredited undergraduate and graduate landscape architecture programs. The purpose of this survey is to gather information on post-graduation plans.
While the average age for undergraduates and graduates remained consistent with previous years, 24 and 30 respectively, and the male to female ratio also remained consistent, there was a considerable change in the race of respondents. While 70 percent indicated they are Caucasian, this number is down from 84 percent in 2013 and 82 percent in 2012. The percentage of Asian/Pacific Islander students increased to 15 percent, up from 8 percent in 2012. Also, the number of Hispanic students increased to 14 percent, up from six percent in 2013 and just four percent in 2012.
Students enter graduate landscape architecture programs with diverse educational backgrounds. Those mentioned by two or more respondents include: architecture; art history; communications; environmental design and biology; environmental planning; environmental science; fine arts; geography; graphic design; horticulture; journalism; landscape architecture; philosophy; and urban studies.
For the first time, the survey asked respondents about how they were funding their education and any education-related debt. 69 percent of undergraduates indicated their parents or grandparents paid or contributed to their education, while graduate students indicated scholarships and federal loan programs as the top funding sources. The average amount of debt is $23,400 for undergraduates and $35,100 for graduate students. Overall, 49 percent of respondents have $20,000 or more in debt, and a just under a quarter owe $50,000 or more.
Some 90 percent of respondents indicated they plan to seek employment in the profession, up slightly from the previous year, while three percent plan to pursue additional education. Of those looking for a job, 67 percent plan to seek employment in a private sector landscape architecture firm. When looking for a job, the top three rated factors by respondents were geographic location, type of organization, and position description.
More than half of all respondents had been on one or more interviews during their final semester. Respondents expect a salary of around $47,600. Salary expectations increased by $5,000 from 2013. However, the average starting salary reported by those who have already started or accepted a job was $37,300 for undergraduate and $42,900 for graduate students.
The number of respondents who have already started a job and will receive medical insurance is up seven percent to 95 percent. The percentage of respondents is who will receive 401K retirement benefits increased dramatically from 63 to 83 percent. And the percentage who have employers who pay their professional dues has held steady for two years at 27 percent, up from only 3 percent in 2012.
And how did the survey respondents get hooked on landscape architecture? They were most likely to have first learned about the field from talking to a landscape architect or from reading about the field online or in a book, newspaper, or magazine. So in turn: one in four respondents visited an elementary, middle, or high school to talk about the profession.
This guest post is by Susan Apollonio, ASLA Director of Education Programs.