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Progress Towards a Uniform Licensure Standard for Landscape Architecture

The Uniform Standard will improve the landscape architecture mobility model, provide for increased equity in and access to licensure, improve the defensibility of landscape architecture licensure requirements, and ensure the continued protection of the health, safety, and welfare of the public and the environment.

Elizabeth Hebron

2022-05-11

Multiple events throughout the last several years have shaped today’s licensure reform environment. For example, the 2015 North Carolina Dental Supreme Court vs Federal Trade Commission ruling called for greater state oversight of market participant (licensee) led licensing boards, and a 2015 Obama Administration Report detailed a framework to encourage states to remove licensure barriers and increase mobility. These events and several others brought about an influx of funding to state and national anti-licensing organizations and reform-minded legislators who are now driving legislatures to look for new ways to reduce regulation and create more economic opportunity.

In the last six years, a significant evolution of licensing reform proposals and tactics has emerged nationwide, oftentimes in a bipartisan fashion. Licensing reform proposals have evolved from direct attempts to deregulate professions, including landscape architecture, to Consumer Choice Acts and Right-to-Earn A Living Acts, to establishing review commissions or formal sunrise/sunset reviews, and to the new favorite -- Universal Licensing.

While direct deregulation is self-explanatory, many of these other measures are designed to lead down the path of deregulation or, in the case of universal licensing, forcing states to accept the “lowest common denominator” for qualifications for licensure.

For the profession of landscape architecture, obtaining licensure is often thought of in terms of successfully accomplishing the “Three E’s – education, experience, and examination.” A current evaluation of state statutes reveals that for initial licensure all states will accept an LAAB-accredited degree and require passage of the Landscape Architect Registration Examination.

However, the experience requirement for those with accredited degrees varies significantly from state-to-state, ranging from zero to four years. Additionally, nearly eighty percent of states offer at least one alternative educational/experience pathway in lieu of an accredited degree. Furthermore, oftentimes a state will also have differing requirements for initial and reciprocal licensure. Amidst the occupational licensure reform backdrop, differing licensure requirements and restrictive access to the profession is difficult to justify and defend under today’s political and public policy scrutiny.

As a profession, landscape architecture can expect to experience more frequent and rigorous legislative reviews, and coupled with the trend of universal licensing, there will continue to be increased attention to the differing requirements and pathways for initial and reciprocal licensure.

Questions will be asked and justifications will be required to explain to policy makers the current requirements and pathways, and in some cases why they may differ (sometimes significantly) from a neighboring jurisdiction. Noting the lack of data and research to respond to these threats, the changing wants and needs of stakeholders, and advancements in technology, the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards (CLARB) undertook the development of a Uniform Licensure Standard for Landscape Architecture, which is being proposed for inclusion in its Model Law and Regulations.

ASLA stakeholders provided significant input throughout the development of the proposed Uniform Standard. The ASLA Licensure and State Government Affairs Committee provided recommendations to CLARB and representatives from ASLA staff and ASLA volunteers participated in the CLARB Uniform Standard work group. The Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture also actively participated in the work group.

The proposed Uniform Standard, developed by the work group, contains the following key elements 1) highlights an accredited degree and provides inclusive educational pathways 2) provides justifiable, data-driven, requirements for experience and 3) supports an accessible licensure examination. The proposed standard promotes and supports defensible, consistent, and equitable requirements for landscape architectural licensure by which all candidates, in every jurisdiction, could be evaluated against. Should it be adopted by the CLARB membership in April, the Uniform Standard would become part of CLARB’s Model Law.

Many professions have Model Laws. They exist primarily to help provide public policy uniformity and harmonization from state-to-state while balancing the needs of professionals practicing in multiple jurisdictions under the unique framework of state licensing laws and regulations. In the case of landscape architecture, like all Model Laws, the CLARB Model Law will be used as guidance to encourage consistency and uniformity in legislative language.

Rather than continuing to operate in a reactive mode, the Uniform Standard offers a defensible, proactive approach to the evolving landscapes of policy making and the profession. The Uniform Standard will improve the landscape architecture mobility model, provide for increased equity in and access to licensure, improve the defensibility of landscape architecture licensure requirements, and ensure the continued protection of the health, safety, and welfare of the public and the environment.

For questions about the Uniform Standard, please contact ASLA Government Affairs or CLARB.

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