• Curriculum
  • Accreditation
  • Retention and Graduation Rates
  • STEM-Designated Degree Program

Landscapes are the intersection of nature, social conditions and the built environment. The Graduate Program of Landscape Architecture + Urbanism at the USC School of Architecture explores the role of Southern California and global geographies as generators and solutions to the world’s most pressing environmental challenges of climate change, social and environmental justice and the role of technology. In our program we research these issues and develop multi layered proposals using design thinking to address extreme natural and social conditions affecting people, infrastructure and the environment, especially as these issues present themselves in our everyday life.

Our program curriculum is focused on a balanced core of design studios, media and representation, history & theory, construction documentation, plant materials and ecology, and urbanism. The studio sequence is designed to build design and communication skills within the process of understanding site, context and strategies for intervention. We begin with small local urban sites where intensive field work is critical to site understanding and build up to a year-long investigation of relevant topics and site investigations in the third-year design research seminar and studios. Students synthesize their coursework in history, plant materials, ecology, construction and urbanism with their studio work. Second year studios

provide opportunities to investigate design responses to climate change impacts and options to collaborate with architecture students in an integrated setting. Elective courses in our curriculum come from a wide range of offerings in the School of Architecture and related real estate, planning, GIS and cinema courses offered at USC.

We are fortunate to inhabit one of the most culturally and environmentally diverse geographies in the world. We are located within an hour’s drive from the Pacific Ocean, the San Gabriel Mountains and the western edge of the Sonoran Desert. Los Angeles is the most vibrant and diverse city on the West Coast of the US. We are known as the city that is constantly reinventing ourselves. At the beginning of the 21st century we are engaged in efforts to re-define our City and our relationship to natural systems. We are optimistic that this generation, with the benefit of increased attention to the qualities and power of the landscape will prove to be more resilient than the last.

RELATED LINKS: Learning Objectives for this Program.


Following is the program curriculum for the 2019-2020 Academic Year. For previous years, please consult the online USC Catalogue archive.

Students admitted with no previous professional education must complete 96 units, including 70 units of specified courses, 16 units of electives of which a minimum of 10 must be from the School of Architecture, and 10 units of Thesis. Electives must be part of a curricular plan approved by the program director.

Advanced placement students must complete 64 units, including 39 units of specified courses, 15 units of electives of which a minimum of 10 must be from the School of Architecture, and 10 units of Thesis. Electives must be part of a curricular plan approved by the program director.


The USC Catalogue is the document of authority for all students. The program requirements listed in the USC Catalogue supersede any information which may be contained in any bulletin of any school or department. The university reserves the right to change its policies, rules, regulations, requirements for graduation, course offerings and any other contents of this catalogue at any time.


LAAB Accreditation

The three year first professional degree program in landscape architecture received its initial accreditation in 2011 by the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB). We were visited by the LAAB review committee in early November 2017. Our program was granted the maximum renewal until December 2022. USC MLA Accreditation.



Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB) accredited programs are required to provide reliable information to the public. Programs must report on accreditation status and its performance. This information is to help potential students make informed application decisions.



The three- and two-year programs in landscape architecture are accredited by the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board. For more information on LAAB, see: ASLA Accreditation.

Retention and Graduation Rates

A highly desirable faculty: student ratio plays a central role in our high retention rates. Faculty members continually support and monitor student performance to ensure timely graduation. Approximately 24 students are enrolled each year, primarily in the first professional degree curricula, with 1-4 in the post-professional degree program. The student retention and on-time graduate rate is 96%.


47 students matriculated into the 3-year professional degree in the past four years.

— 16 students earned the degree in three years.

— 26 students are in progress to complete the degree in a timely manner.

— 5 students departed from the program after modifying their degree objectives.


As of 2016 Advanced Placement Status requires previous LAAB Accredited Degree

34 students matriculated into the 2-year professional degree in the past four years.

— 24 students earned the degree in two years.

— 3 students earned the degree within three years.

— 7 students are in progress to complete the degree in a timely manner.


USC requires students to maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 to earn a graduate degree. The average grade point average (GPA) of Master of Landscape Architecture students is 3.51 (on a 4.0 grade point system).


Close to 75% of recent graduates find employment in landscape architecture within 6 months of graduating.

STEM-Designated Degree Program

The Master of Landscape Architecture + Urbanism degree is a STEM program in Environmental Sciences (CIP code 03.0103). International students who graduate from USC’s Bachelor of Architecture or Master of Landscape Architecture + Urbanism degree may be eligible for a 24-month extension of post-completion OPT (for a total eligibility of up to 36 months). The 24-month STEM OPT extension is adjudicated (approved) by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


    Individuals who have completed a four-year Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree, or its equivalent, with no prior accredited degree in landscape architecture, are eligible for admission to the program. Preference for admission is given to those who have completed a balanced undergraduate education that includes study in the arts, sciences and humanities. Preparation in the visual arts is strongly encouraged. Education in the visual arts, such as drawing, sculpture, graphics and/or basic design, is recommended before beginning the first semester of study. Courses in the humanities, ecology, history of art, landscape architecture and architecture are strongly encouraged, although not required. Please see the 96-Unit Curriculum +3.


    Applicants who have completed an undergraduate professional Landscape Architecture degree, or equivalent, may be granted advanced placement of two semesters, subject to the review of the MLA+U admission committee. Applicants granted advanced placement may be able to waive certain course requirements for the MLA program by demonstrating equivalencies in required courses. The program director and faculty in charge of the specific curriculum areas will determine the studio and professional course requirements for each MLA student admitted with advanced placement. The following courses are prerequisites to be completed prior to matriculation or, on specific notice, in the first year of the program: history of landscape architecture (ARCH 565 or equivalent), landscape architecture construction (ARCH 534, ARCH 635 or equivalent), plant materials (ARCH 537, ARCH 538 or equivalent), media (ARCH 539 or equivalent). Please see 64-Unit Curriculum +2.


Calvin Abe, FASLA

President, Ahbe Landscape Architects

Gerdo Aquino, FASLA


Pamela Burton, FASLA

President, Pamela Burton and Company

Mia Lehrer, FASLA

President, Studio MLA

Co Founder, LA Mas

Charles Dwyer 

US Army Corps of Engineers

Joseph Edmiston 

Executive Director, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy

Mark Rios, FAIA, FASLA

Creative Director, RCH Studios