How to Move from Practice to Academia

Working in landscape architecture academia can be a rewarding experience, allowing you to shape the professional’s future through research and teaching. Many professionals have often wondered about moving into academia but often get sidetracked by the pressures of practice. There is a need for more professionals in academia, and the following sets out some essential tips to assist in this career transition.

Get your feet wet

Have you been thinking about becoming an academic, but you don’t know where to start? The best way is to connect with the local landscape architecture faculty and seek out opportunities to participate, such as guest lecturing, studio critiques, or portfolio reviews. This starting point allows you to gauge whether you like teaching, including preparing, presenting, and discussing landscape architecture with students and others.

Following guest lecturing or critiques, you can look to become an Adjunct Professor who lectures on one topic or supervises a research student through their thesis, allowing you to gain more insights into working at a university with students.

Joining a Faculty

If you wish to transition from practice to academia, you can become an Assistant Professor or Professor of Practice. Many universities look to appoint Practicing Professors who are licensed in their profession to make the connection between their curriculum and practice.

Sometimes, there is a misconception that your only job as an academic is to be a lecturer. However, there is more to being an academic and more than just preparing curriculum plans and lecturing. You will be required to undertake research, write & publish papers, teach through lectures, and participate in the faculty’s operations, such as committees, review boards, and accreditation panels. Being part of a faculty can be rewarding as it allows you to work with your colleagues and build relationships through common areas of expertise.

Space and Time

While working as a practising professional, you often do not realise that you often undertake research during projects for site analysis, studying communities or looking into a design topic such as water-sensitive design. In academia, you have the time and space to examine specific research focus. During the research process, you have the opportunity to work with other researchers and students in developing ideas with different approaches and then testing and tweaking them along the way when working with communities or other organizations.

More flexibility

Being an academic allows you more flexibility to structure your day, work week, and year. You can set goals and objectives that align with your research and the faculty’s objectives. Although you may still have to maintain timesheets and reporting, you can set your deadlines and won’t be pressured by clients demanding shorter programs and chasing fees.

No need to say goodbye to practice

Many professionals think that once you enter academia, you have to say goodbye to your professional practice. However, many universities encourage academics to maintain a small practice while teaching and researching. The ability to maintain a practice will enable you to be involved in both worlds of studying and practising landscape architecture.

Rewards beyond research

When working in academia, the biggest reward is not seeing your research published but seeing the growth of students from having basic knowledge to leaving with the ability to study and design landscape architecture. The knowledge that your impact on students can transform their lives and the many lives of people they will come into contact with and design places for.

Working with students is not all transforming lives; it has its challenges that come with teaching people with different learning abilities, personalities, and backgrounds, however, that is also part of the reward of having to develop various methods and approaches to get the best learning outcomes for students. Also, it can be challenging to remind students often that they are gaining knowledge and skills to be a practising landscape architect, not just a degree with scores.

Where to start?

You’ve decided to explore the possibilities of becoming an academic; the first step is to connect with your nearest university with a landscape architecture program. Speak with various faculty members and start your journey by becoming involved with the current program. These connections will stand you in good stead when adjunct and tenure opportunities become available.

This article was written by Damian Holmes, Editor of World Landscape Architecture, based on a conversation with Diane Jones Allen (University of Texas, Arlington) and inspired by From Practice to Professor, Navigating a Career Switch presented by Jessica Canfield, Diane Jones Allen, and C.L. Bohannon at the 2023 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in Minneapolis.

Thank you to Diane Jones Allen for taking the time to discuss the topic of professionals moving from practice to academia.

Image Credits: Diane Jones Allen

About Damian Holmes 3231 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at