There is talk nowadays about "getting the government out of the way" of business.
Regulators are sometimes inappropriately zealous, creating a situation never intended by the legislature's enabling legislation. Political pressure, for example, has allowed mountain-top removal. On the other hand, the air that we breath is cleaner than it has been in decades, our waters are clearer and wildlife is largely more abundant.
In this sense, thoughtful regulation creates an elevated, but level playing field for anybody wanting to compete. There are no unfair advantages afforded, say, by dumping toxic sludge.
It's not a perfect system in implementation, but the notion is clear and fair, even as we work to improve it.
Governmental regulation extends to licensing certain professions, including landscape architecture. Is this activity in some way hindering my business?
The short answer? No. Licensure does one thing really, really well: It establishes a level of minimum competency that the public may come to expect when engaging a licensed professional. If you hire me, for example, to design a drainage system, you can be sure that it will work. If you hire a structural engineer, you know that the building won't collapse.
Why? Because underlying all state professional licensing is a simple concept: Licensing is intended to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public. By licensing our landscape architects, engineers, architects and many other professions, we can protect the welfare of citizens. In other words, a level playing field.
How does this work? Well, in Florida, one may not perform the services of a landscape architect without a license; these services are carefully enumerated (you can see links to these rules on my website: www.msadesign.com). In fact, one may not use the term "landscape architect," "engineer" or "architect" without a valid license; you can't even say that you are an engineer, or a doctor or a landscape architect unless you really are. In this way, the public is assured that they are hiring competent professionals.
How does one become licensed? As an example, let's talk about how one becomes a licensed landscape architect. It is a multi-step process.
THE EXAM COMES LAST
Candidates for licensure must have a degree from an accredited institution. This is a grueling experience, filled with all-nighters and brutal, withering criticism. Even though I completed graduate school in 1978, those school days seem like yesterday.
The undergraduate degree is nominally a five-year program, although students commonly need a few summers and often a few additional semesters to complete the coursework. Similarly, the graduate program is three years; in my own case I needed three additional summers.
Beyond formal education, candidates for licensure must work for a licensed landscape architect for two years after graduation. This condition has been difficult for recent graduates because, for those landscape architects who work in construction, business has been deeply depressed, limiting the spots available for graduates.
The licensing ordeal is in two parts, both administered by the Council on Landscape Architectural Review Boards. CLARB (www.clarb.org), as it is called, is a private, nonprofit group that writes and manages the LARE, the Landscape Architecture Registration Examination.
The test is administered each year and begins with three multiple-choice sections: Project and Construction Administration, Inventory and Program Analysis, and Design and Construction Documentation. The concluding two sections are Site Design as well as Grading, Drainage, and Stormwater Management. These last two are "drafting board" style exams.
Additionally, there is a section that is written and administered by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation that covers specific Florida laws regarding our practice.
Does regulation hinder my business? No: Licensure pre-qualifies me and other professionals in the eyes of the public; it sets standards; and it gives the public recourse. In the end, a good return.
I am teaching my Plant ID class at Barron Collier again this summer, starting June 14. See my website (www.msadesign.com) for details and to ask design and plant questions.
Michael Spencer, ASLA, has been practicing landscape architecture since 1979 and is president of MSA Design Inc. Learn more at www.msadesign.com or contact Michael by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is www.msadesign.com. And watch for his forthcoming book on tropical plants.