ASLA Survey: Landscape Architecture Student Body Slowly Becoming More Diverse, But African Americans Still Underrepresented

ASLA 2015 Student collaboration Honor Award. Reverse Engineering: Reconfiguring the Creek-Campus Interface. Pongsakorn Suppakittpaisarn, Student ASLA; John Whalen, Student ASLA; Qiran Zhang, Student ASLA; Fernanda Maciel, Tianyu He; Mari Mensa; Sarah Grajdura | Graduate | Faculty Advisor: Tawab Hlimi | University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
ASLA 2015 Student collaboration Honor Award. Reverse Engineering: Reconfiguring the Creek-Campus Interface. Pongsakorn Suppakittpaisarn, Student ASLA; John Whalen, Student ASLA; Qiran Zhang, Student ASLA; Fernanda Maciel, Tianyu He; Mari Mensa; Sarah Grajdura | Graduate | Faculty Advisor: Tawab Hlimi | University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

ASLA recently released its annual graduating student survey. This survey was completed by graduating students from 38 accredited undergraduate and graduate landscape architecture programs, a total of 323 students, up 32 percent over last year. 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, 25 and 29 respectively, and the male to female ratio also remained consistent, there was a considerable change in the race of respondents. 68 percent indicated they are Caucasian. This number continued trending down from 70 percent in 2014 and 84 percent in 2013. The percentage of Asian/Pacific Islander students increased to 20 percent, up from 15 percent in 2014. The number of Hispanic students decreased to 8 percent from 14 percent in 2014, but remained well above 2012’s 4 percent. The number of African American and Native American students remained consistent with previous years at just 1 percent.

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. There has been no significant change in this over the last three surveys.

For the second year, the survey asked respondents about how they were funding their education and any education-related debt. 70 percent of undergraduates indicated their parents or grandparents paid or contributed to their education. Graduate students indicated scholarships and federal loan programs as the top funding sources. The average amount of debt carried by undergraduates dropped from $23,400 to $19,800 but rose from $35,100 to $36,600 for graduate students. The percentage of students with more than $20,000 or more in debt dropped slighting to 47 percent from 49 percent in 2014. The percentage of students owing $50,000 or more remained consistent with last year.

For students researching assistance with loan forgiveness, there are several federal loan assistance and forgiveness programs already in place, including the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which would provide forgiveness if a landscape architect is working in the government or not-for-profit, like a community design center.

Some 89 percent of respondents indicated they plan to seek employment in the profession, which is consistent with the previous two years, while the number of respondents planning on pursuing additional education increased from 3 to 5 percent. Of those looking for a job, 65 percent plan to seek employment in a private sector landscape architecture firm.

Respondents were asked to rank a variety of attributes, based on their importance to them in selecting job. The top two rated factors by respondents were geographic location and type of organization, which is consistent with previous years, and the third most important factor, indicated by respondents, is reputation of the organization, up from number 5 in 2014.

More than half of all respondents had been on one or more interviews during their final semester. Respondents expected starting salary decreased by $1,000 to $46,600 in 2015. However, the number of respondents that had one or more job offers increased to 50 percent, from 43 percent in 2014. The average starting salary also increased by $3,000 to $42,900.

The number of respondents who have already started a job increased to 50 percent, up from 41 percent in 2014 and 34 percent in 2013. Two-thirds of respondents who have accepted a job offer indicated that the position is with their preferred type of employer.

On benefits: the percentage of respondents reporting that they will receive major medical insurance was down to 82 percent, down from 95 percent in 2014. The percentage of respondents who will receive 401K retirement benefits also decreased to 72 percent from 83 percent in 2014. However, this number is still up from 63 in 2013. The percentage of respondents who have employers who pay their professional dues has held steady at about 25 percent since 2013. The percentage of “other benefits” reported by respondents was 27 percent, up from 19 in 2014. Other benefits listed include a continuing education stipend, Landscape Architecture Registration Board Exam (LARE) reimbursement, and bonuses.

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. The number of respondents reporting that a landscape architect visited their school to talk about the profession increased, every so slighting, to 2 percent. Of the visits made to a school, 67 percent were to a high school, 20 percent to a middle school, and 26 percent to an elementary school.

Graduating student surveys dating back to 2002 are posted at ASLA’s Career Discovery web site. Also learn more about ASLA’s diversity efforts.

This guest post is by Susan Apollonio, ASLA Director of Education Programs.

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