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Take a look at your business card. How do you identify yourself as a landscape architect? RLA? LLA? CLA?  How about PLA?

Last fall, ASLA approved the Universal Designation Policy, which encourages all licensed landscape architects to use the post nominal letters “PLA” after their names. As an abbreviation of the title “professional landscape architect,” PLA allows potential clients and the general public to better identify licensed landscape architects.

Until now, there has been no uniform way for a licensed (or registered) landscape architect to indicate that he or she is licensed. Many use RLA, LLA, PLA, LA, or CLA to signify licensure. Those who have not yet been licensed often use MLA or BLA. Some landscape architects licensed in more than one state face choosing between LLA and RLA.

Currently 30 states use licensure nomenclature for professional regulation of landscape architects, while only 13 use registration. The rest use both. For the licensee stamp, states are split evenly between ‘licensed landscape architect’ and ‘registered landscape architect’ while many  states use ‘professional landscape architect’ or just simply ‘landscape architect.’

Post nominal letters are more difficult to track. As a marketing tool to quickly convey credentials, designations are not regulated by the government and they have evolved as licensure terminology has evolved. As landscape architects began to be licensed in the 1950s, registration was the common terminology and RLA was initially the best way to convey credentials. Over the years, LLA has emerged as licensure terminology took hold, with far more states using those terms to convey practice act licensure and the use of registration trending more toward title act licensure. ASLA is encouraging the use of PLA to prod the evolution toward one universal designation for licensure.

Why PLA? PLA will best allow the profession to reach the goal of one universal designation. One of the chief obstacles of achieving that goal is that registration and licensure have distinct legal meanings. Each state has specific uses of these terms or do not use them at all. For example, it is unlikely that someone in a registration state will use LLA. Many states that advocated to upgrade their laws from title act to practice act changed this terminology from registration to licensure to achieve the practice act. In these states, the term RLA may in effect be a demotion. Since “professional” does not have a legal meaning it can serve to mean any duly qualified landscape architect.

The use of customary designations is a time-tested way to demonstrate qualifications. While some may avoid the “alphabet soup” associated with today’s professional credentials, many landscape architects prefer to use these designations. Unfortunately, the evolution of licensure credentials have produced a mishmash of combinations that hurt the profession’s ability to be known and understood as licensed professionals. By promoting the PLA designation, ASLA is seeking to raise the public profile of the profession and bring clarity to the credentials used by landscape architects.

by Julia Lent, Managing Director of Government Affairs

2 thoughts on “LICENSED TO DESIGN: PLA

  1. R W Gibney RLA September 20, 2012 / 5:28 pm


    I still not have heard who will enforce this PLA designation and prevent non-LAs from using it? NYS (for one) has no intention of enforcing a privately granted suffix. If someone who is not registered in NYS and uses RLA – they can be prosecuted. Fraudelent use of PLA will come with no consequenses except to further confuse the public – at least in my state.

    Several non-LAs and others that do not meet the ASLA’s requirements for full ASLA membership are using the ASLA suffix without fear of any consequences. They will be happy to add PLA in order to further compete with RLAs.

  2. dave K. LLA. RLA March 7, 2016 / 5:23 pm

    This is a VERY slippery slope. Just because ASLA has deemed it so, doe not make it legal.
    I know 1 person, who used the denotation ‘PLA’ when he was NOT, a licensed landscape architect, and he was fined 10 grand. I know of at least 2 other people, who have the schooling, but have not sat for the exam, who call themselves PLA’s. According to 2 different states, they are breaking the law and are subject to a fine. Don’t do it.

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