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ASLA Encourages All Licensed Landscape Architects to Use PLA

With the Board of Trustees approval, ASLA is encouraging all licensed landscape architects to use the post-nominal letters “PLA” after their names. As an abbreviation of the title “professional landscape architect,” it will better enable potential clients and the general public to identify licensed practitioners. It will also provide consistent recognition for the landscape architecture profession across the nation.

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Why PLA? To truly establish a designation that can be used universally, it is necessary to avoid words that have specific legal meanings, like the terms registration and licensure. While these terms are often used interchangeably, in reality each has a distinct meaning in the realm of professional regulation. Like the PE designation for engineering, PLA can be used in any jurisdiction where a landscape architect is duly licensed. Most important, the use of PLA can raise the profile of landscape architecture by creating a universally recognized symbol for licensed landscape architects.

The use of PLA by landscape architects is intended as a customary designation, just as similar abbreviations are used today. No legislative changes or rule development for state licensing is necessary, given that it falls under current title restriction provisions that restrict the use of any title (or abbreviation) that indicates the individual is a landscape architect. Further, no state law or regulation assigns specific post-nominal letters that licensed landscape architects must use.

The development of this policy and the discussion of this issue have raised many questions, particularly regarding how such a designation interacts with licensure laws. For more information, see below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why did ASLA adopt this policy?
There is currently no uniform way for a licensed landscape architect to indicate that he/she is licensed. Many use PLA, RLA, LLA, or LA to signify licensure. The lack of a consistent post-nominal abbreviation makes it more difficult for potential clients and the general public to identify a licensed practitioner.

Why did ASLA choose PLA?
State laws and regulations use different terms to denote professional regulation of landscape architects, with many using licensure, others using registration, and several using both. These terms were originally intended to signify different levels of regulation; however, common usage has blurred these definitions for the design professions so that licensure and registration are often used interchangeably. The ASLA Licensure Committee chose PLA for two reasons. First, PLA does not conflict with the existing legal terminology (licensure and registration), thereby allowing for universal usage. States that use registration or licensure may not be comfortable with its licensees using the other term, making PLA a neutral designation that can apply to both terms. Second, PLA is consistent with existing post-nominal abbreviations for related disciplines, such as engineering (PE) and land surveying (PLS).

How would the use of PLA affect existing licensure laws and regulations?
State laws are written to ensure that only qualified individuals hold themselves out as landscape architects. Laws typically reserve “landscape architect” and “landscape architecture” for licensees and sometimes include restrictions on other titles, such as “registered landscape architect” or “licensed landscape architect.” Further, the title protection provisions prohibit any unlicensed individual from in any way holding himself or herself out to practice landscape architecture, which includes abbreviations and other derivations of the term landscape architect. At the present time, no state law or regulation assigns specific post-nominal letters that licensed landscape architects must use. States may be interested in changing rules to specify that the use of PLA (professional landscape architect) is restricted, but it is not necessary because existing language covers use of all iterations of “landscape architect.”

My state uses RLA on its stamp. Can I use PLA?
Yes. The post-nominal abbreviation PLA is intended as a customary designation to identify oneself as a landscape architect with a valid license/registration. As long as the individual has a valid license in the state, that licensee can use PLA after his/her name to signify licensure. The state could choose to change its rules and stamp design to be consistent with PLA, but it is not necessary, and ASLA does not intend to advocate for such changes. It is important to note that a landscape architect should always follow the state specifications for the official stamp.

What is the responsibility of the landscape architect?
As the PLA designation is intended to signify licensure, it is the responsibility of licensees who use PLA to remain in compliance with their respective licensure requirements and only to use the designation in jurisdictions where they have a valid license. Those who are unlicensed should never use PLA.

What is the responsibility of the licensing board?
Because the use of PLA would signify licensure, the existing title restriction provisions will provide the authority for state licensing boards to take enforcement action in the same way that they can currently enforce the use of the title landscape architect by those who are not licensed. In keeping with existing title restriction provisions, state licensure boards alone have the authority to ensure that only individuals with a valid license hold themselves out as landscape architects, including the use of PLA.

How does this policy affect the ASLA designation?
The ASLA designation will continue to denote that the individual has met the qualifications of membership in the Society and has a membership in good standing. PLA does not replace ASLA as a designation, but establishes a supplementary designation that can be recognized by all to signify licensure (e.g., Jane J. Smith, ASLA, PLA).

I am not a member of ASLA. Can I use PLA?
Yes. ASLA intends for the PLA designation to be open to all licensed landscape architects. Otherwise, it could not truly become a universally recognized designation for clients and the general public to identify licensed landscape architects.

Contact ASLA Government Affairs Director Julia Lent at

Comments November 22, 2011 12:54 PM
PLA? Really? This is more confusion that the individual state designations. This suggests PLA-nning, PLA-ying or.......If you really want it simple, just make it LA. Stop thinking too much... November 22, 2011 2:38 PM
Public will be confused and the initials, PLA aren't going to conjure up Professional Landscape Architect as clearly as PE refers to Professional Engineer. Unfortunate this comes so long after PE was established, as for a long time we have been using RLA, or ASLA. I do understand the legality, etc. Suggest more discussion. November 22, 2011 4:21 PM
"Further, no state law or regulation assigns specific post-nominal letters that licensed landscape architects must use." In New Jersey, this is incorrect. NJ requires that if you do designate yourself, you are allowed to put either 'CLA'(Certified Landscape Architect) or 'LLA'('Licensed Landscape Architect... which they began switching over to in 2010) To make sure, I called the office in Newark. They never heard of this. In fact, "xxx" said it sounded like a scam and can result in misrepresentation and a fine. November 22, 2011 9:08 PM
Now is the time to start. I agree with the decision. November 26, 2011 2:00 PM
Another example of ASLA's continuing misdirection. What exactly is the problem that 'PLA' resolves, anyway? Are we still fighting 'professional equality' or 'professional standing' battles? In the same way that planting design has been for decades deprecated by ASLA, this new silliness is meant to emphasize par with the other professions and nothing more. It's as if Washington can't stop screaming 'We're a real profession, too! And our work can be dangerous! Oh! And we have licenses and stamps and stuff!' It's no wonder, really, why there is so much ambivalence towards ASLA. Normally, and depending on circumstances, I find 'ASLA' appended to my name for Proposals or other documents is well-recognized, and MLA, too, is understood as an education level. I won't be using this new 'PLA' appellation. It looks too much like the silly acronyms given realtors, or property managers, or whatever, by appropriate organizations. Is this really where we want to be? Using appended letters as leverage to gain stature? Seriously? November 28, 2011 10:53 AM
To clarify the legal use of PLA in New Jersey (and elsewhere): There was a full review of state title restriction language as a part of the policy development. When New Jersey was a title act, it had restricted only the title "certified landscape architect." With the upgrade to a practice act in 2008, the term "certified" was removed, which means that any use of the term "landscape architect" may only be used by a licensed professional. Note that the language in New Jersey (and similar provisions in most states) is intended to restrict the use of titles by unlicensed individuals, NOT specify what licensees must do. The only area where states are specific regarding what licensees must do is in the seal/stamp design, which does not change with the PLA designation. The NJ language reads as follows: "It is unlawful for a person not licensed as a landscape architect to use the title “landscape architect” or any other title, sign, card or device in a manner which tends to convey the impression that the person is a licensed landscape architect." (New Jersey Statutes 45:3A-1) Using PLA would be conveying the impression that an individual is a landscape architect, which is illegal if you are not licensed. November 29, 2011 11:03 AM
The ASLA should have never allowed permitting the use of ASLA after one's name by anyone other than a licensed, professional landscape architect. The ASLA designation should be restricted to a person who has graduated from an accredited academic program, completed an internship, and passed the licensing exam. This should be the standard for ASLA members and if you are not a ASLA member then you should use LA for a licensed landscape architect. --Case Closed-- Consider the use of AIA or PE by our allied professionals as examples. Students of architecture and post graduate students are not allowed to use AIA after their name even if they are a member of the AIA. They can ONLY use that designation when they become state LICENSED. Professional legal and medical training and achievement are similar and can serve as reference. Landscape architects' behavior and procedures must follow and reflect professional standards. Many think that the newly minted RLA and PLA are poor, as well as confusing or meaningless substitutes. Oftentimes I have heard statements that those letters indicate an inability or unwillingness to pay ASLA membership fees. RLA and PLA do not indicate professionalism to many people within and outside of the profession. The ASLA designation has been around for a long time and is more widely recognized. November 30, 2011 10:03 AM
I agree with lissa. Anyone that pays ASLA dues can be an associate and put the ASLA letters after their name whether or not they have a license. This diminishes the value for all of those that have gone to the extensive effort to become licensed and use those letters. I no longer can afford to be a member. No job. No money. I do still maintain my license. PLA does seem to be an insignificant improvement on RLA or ASLA. November 30, 2011 11:47 AM
A bit of context for this issue: The PLA policy stemmed from an in-depth study and discussion relating to licensure and membership undertaken by the ASLA Board of Trustees, which included a survey of members on these issues. Extensive research among chapters and members supports an inclusive membership base and in May, the Board voted to maintain current requirements and not to require licensure. The question of identifying licensed professionals was raised within that research and discussion, which found that there is a need to identify a consistent way to represent licensure. The use of PE by the engineers provides an excellent model - the use of PE is solely tied to licensure, not a membership organization, which means that any licensee can use that designation. PLA is intended to serve the exact purpose that RLA, LLA, LA, CLA, and PLA already serve, but by selecting one universal designation in PLA, it provides the consistency that the status quo surely lacks. December 8, 2011 3:16 PM
I will continue to use LLA as a Licensed Landscape Architect in Virginia- that is the title regulated by the Virginia Dept. of Professional and Occupational Regulation and what is on my seal. Virginia DPOR also regulates Professional Engineers (PE). Use of PLA would be unrecognizable and a non-regulated designation. December 13, 2011 7:51 PM
The board voted? This matter has such broad impact across the profession. It should have been presented to the membership, those who actually use a professional designation with their names, for a vote. December 15, 2011 3:24 PM
I agree that there needs to be a common abbreviation. ASLA is an organization that anyone can be a member of, therefore, I've seen people (not licensed) put ASLA after their name because they pay membership dues. I personally am not a member of ASLA because I feel that their organization does not provide me the value for the membership fees, instead I am a member of ULI (I do not put ULI after my name). I think they make some good points about PLA. I will use PLA when my business cards run out and I can change my letterhead. At least someone made a decision on the topic. December 17, 2011 4:44 PM
Please forgive me for the lengthy comment. I serve as the VA Chapter ASLA Liaison to the VA APELSCIDLA Board. I’m a member of the VAASLA Gov't Affairs Committee. I have been involved in VA regulatory and legislative matters for 20 years. I was one of the leaders of the campaigns to secure passage of the full title control bill over ten years ago and the practice control bill in 2009. I’ve drafted Code of Virginia language over the years for the VAASLA including the latest licensure bill text. Chapter 54.1-409 of the Code of Virginia does not create the title of "Licensed Landscape Architect." Therefore the Commonwealth does not formally recognize "LLA.” Nor does it recognize or regulate the use of RLA, LA, or PLA by duly licensed persons. In VA there are no “licensed architects” either. You are either an architect by virtue of being duly licensed or you are not. Same for LAs. The APELSCIDLA Board was apprised of the PLA matter at the August 11, 2011, LA Section meeting regarding the CLARB survey. The APELSCIDLA Board Exec. Dir. reported to CLARB that the LA Section was NOT opposed to the use of PLA. The Board has no legal authority to advocate, stipulate or require the use of any post-nomial. Persons licensed by VA to practice landscape architecture and to use the title of Landscape Architect are free to use ASLA, PLA, RLA, LLA, LA, LEED AP, etc., etc. or a combination of post-nomials as long as the regulant does not use a designation that may mislead the public. And, regulants are free to not use a post-nomial designation. I just participated in a recent fire drill effort by the Virginia and Potomac Chapters of the ASLA to convince Virginia’s governor to not include LAs in the list of professionals to be deregulated in his 2012 legislative package. It made a huge difference that we could show the governor a map showing that ALL states regulate LAs. The interior designers were retained on the list owing to being regulated on some level by only 27 states. The value of the licensure map is that it serves as a visual index of each state’s actions, thus floating all state boats. Though I am no fan of “PLA” and have stated my reasons why to the VAASLA prior to the ASLA’s Board’s adoption of the policy, I think we do ourselves more harm than good with the continued inconsistent use of post-nomials across the US. In an ever more global and interstate market, the salad of post-nomials will not serve individual states well as we shift from securing licensure for all states and DC to focusing on responding to sunset laws and increasing proposals/legislation to reduce government regulations including deregulating landscape architects. As the ASLA has clearly stated, we’re not out of woods with the completion of the 50 x 2010 campaign. December 21, 2011 10:37 AM
If I recall correctly, it used to be that one could never use "ASLA" after their name if that person was not licenced. This no longer seems to be the case and I feel that the relaxing of that requirement has diminished the importance of both the licensure and the organization to which we belong. By changing to PLA, the end result of having to update numerous marketing materials, resumes, business cards, etc. will result in an unnecessary burden of additional time and money, which I see as no direct benefit to the profession. December 21, 2011 11:48 AM
FYI, as far as I can tell, licensure has never been required for membership in ASLA. January 3, 2012 4:31 PM
I am not a member of ASLA and actually do not care what they think I should put after my name. I have used RLA for years and will continue to do so unless our California State regulatory agency indicates I can not or should not. Thanks for your opinion ASLA, but it respectfully, only relates to your paying members. I hope they feel their dues are being well spent. January 4, 2012 1:32 PM
I agree that the "PLA" designation is not necessary. "LA" for Landscape Architect should suffice. One shouldn't be allowed by law to say they are a "Landscape Architect" without having a valid license in the first place. In Oregon and Colorado at least, this is the case. The "ASLA" designation after a person's name shouldn't have anything to do with whether a person is a licensed landscape architect. It just means they pay dues and belong to an organization that relates to the practice of landscape architecture. The ASLA surely depends on all the fresh faces coming out of college to pay membership dues (thinking that actually matters to get a job?). Though I do see some tangible benefits of what the ASLA does and the continuing education resources they provide, I have never seen a benefit that outweighs the expense of joining the club. January 10, 2012 5:34 PM
In the world of professional practice, the term 'Landscape Architect' denotes a licensed professional. Adding the term 'professional' is redundant. Shall we suggest Architects call themselves 'Professional Architects' or Civil Engineers, Professional Civil Engineers'. I believe discussion of this subject only serves to diminish the perception of us as professionals to those near and dear; our fellow professionals. I’ve been licensed for 35 years. During my early years of practice I thought long and hard about the term ‘Landscape Architect’. Was it limiting? Did it not tie us to the practice of Horticulture? It was not until many later years while attending the 1999 ASLA conference in Boston celebrating 100 years of our profession, where I became firmly convinced, 'Landscape Architect' is the perfect term for our profession. There is absolutely no need to have to differentiate. January 11, 2012 9:28 AM
To: ASLA From: Those you serve Subject: YFU (You Failed Us) Dear ASLA, Did you even consult those you serve when you made this decision? Were the LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS you serve given a voice or opportunity to help YOU make a truly informed decision? Obviously not. Did you even do one Google search to see what PLA currently represents to the WORLD? Here's a short list: Peoples Liberation Army, Phone Losers of America, Public Library Association, Professional Licensing Agency, Pacific Locksmith Association, Philadelphia Legal Assistance, Predatory Lending Association...and the list goes on. Does this "PLA mandate" from on high really serve your constituency's best interests? Really? Isn't the term "Professional" in front of "Landscape Architect" redundant? Every Landscape Architect whom you serve deserves a retraction on this decision/recommendation made by a VERY FEW. Let the Landscape Architects vote on this. Let our voices be heard. "He that complies against his will, Is of his own opinion still." ~Samuel Butler (1612-1680), in Hudibras. Part iii. Canto iii. Line 547 January 19, 2012 12:59 PM
Have we forgotten our roots and the days when Beatrix Farrand called herself a Landscape Gardener & Landscape Architect? In memory, my membership in ASLA was as important to me as becoming licensed to practice, but really, who needs to know all that? Anyone who earns a professional post nominal like PhD,MD,RN,PE,RLA,CLA etc. should best use them on resumes, business cards, correspondence and other professional documents but post nominals are often over used and add little to one's status or credibility beyond a small niche audience. Although post nominals can help give instant credibility by identifying comprehension of the area one has have qualified in, outside of the medical field, they can be perceived as generally off-putting and pretentious, particularly in our chosen field. Sometimes, when I see someone other than a doctor put a long list of initials after their name, I think, "insecurity!" My vote is to select our best post nominal and use it judiciously; in this case if you are registered, LA should suffice or just use ASLA(if you feel the need to set yourself apart from the herd), if you are a little more insecure, then add ASLA in addition to LA....but the bottom line should be to let your words and deeds and not your moniker speak volumes for who you are. I believe that part of ASLA's problem is that ASLA chapter leadership has been held by the same people for too many years, decades that had lead to self grandisment rather than working for a common good of the society. If we as a society would have stepped up to the plate during "Katrina" or the "Hatian Earthquake"... people would know who we are and what we do. June 20, 2014 11:43 AM
PLA is better overall. I do strongly agree with lisa that people without the license shall not use ASLA. October 31, 2014 12:57 PM
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