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Members of the Professional Practice Networks (PPNs) were recently surveyed about their career paths in landscape architecture. Responses were varied and included many insightful comments and observations, which will be shared and discussed with everyone here over the next few months.

This week, we will focus on responses to the question: How did you discover landscape architecture?

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One person’s answer can serve as a concise summary of the results: “In a roundabout sort of way.” Many of the landscape architects who completed the survey did indeed take the scenic route to their current profession, and a large number said they had never heard of landscape architecture until college or later. One of the most popular answers for how they discovered the field was “by accident.”

Several other trends did emerge, however, with the most popular answer—nearly half of the responses—involving some key experience during college. Other responses focused on the impact of family and friends (approximately 20 percent of responses) and career research during high school (about 12 percent of responses).

Discovered landscape architecture during high school or earlier
For many of those who learned about landscape architecture before college, an early love of gardening, the results of an aptitude test, or the recommendations of a guidance counselor often played a role. Multiple respondents also mentioned assignments to research possible career choices or other school projects that led to a discovery of the field:
  • “I wrote a report on NYC’s Central Park in 1986 for High School Civics; the rest is history!”

Influence of family and friends
Another frequent answer was first hearing about landscape architecture through someone nearby, whether a relative, friend, neighbor, classmate, or colleague:
  • “My brother enrolled in an LA program, and I discovered that it blended design, environment, and construction, all of which I was interested in.”
  • “I loved architecture and the natural world. I had a family friend who I learned was a landscape architect and was essentially paid to combine the two things I love.”
  • “A friend told me that there were people that designed golf courses called ‘landscape architects.’”

During college
Professors, advisers, and introductory landscape architecture classes certainly played a part, but the single most popular answer in this category was that people just happened upon the subject while flipping through the course catalog:
  • “While applying for colleges, I selected landscape architecture as a hybrid between archaeology/cultural studies and design—this was the first time I had seen the word/profession.”
  • “During my college search I discovered that I could combine my favorite subject (art) with my second favorite subject (science) to create my dream job!”
  • “Reading a course calendar (stumbled on it when I was thinking I wanted to be an architect!).”
  • “A love of plants and the outdoors and looking for a profession that would integrate the landscape into architecture. In all honesty, it was a complete stumble through my college career guide.”
  • “An exhibit of landscape architecture models and drawings in the student union of the university I was attending.”
  • “I ran across a flyer posted on campus about an ‘introduction to landscape architecture’ summer class. I had never heard of the profession before that.”
  • “I was instantly hooked when I spoke to the professors about the program and saw the diversity of student projects.”
  • “I had fulfilled all my course requirements and needed more units to graduate, so I could take anything I wanted. A friend recommended a plant ID class. I signed up. Lied to get into the class as a nonmajor. Fell in love and the rest is history.”

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