Landscapes are the dynamic synthesis of natural systems, socio-cultural forces and the physical material of the constructed world. Our master’s program in Landscape Architecture + Urbanism prepares students to think creatively and expansively. We have created a synergy of coursework, active research, practice, and lived experience providing graduates with the tools and confidence to take on the challenges of climate change and environmental justice through the design and planning of landscapes across scales - from small sites to towns and cities, ultimately whole regions and our shared planet.

USC’s Graduate Program in Landscape Architecture + Urbanism explores the complex regional ecologies and cultures of Southern California as our primary laboratory to develop and test how design, policy and planning create formative change. We are thinking proactively about extreme weather events, habitat migration, rapid urbanization, histories of social and environmental injustice, and the role of technology. 

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Our students and faculty conduct rigorous design-research to understand how we have arrived in our current circumstances. With a fuller understanding of how and why we are facing diminishing biodiversity, climate related challenges and social inequity we test innovative solutions to challenge conventional thinking. Whether we are exploring the history of indigenous people on Catalina Island or the lack of parks and urban canopy in South Los Angeles, we imagine a future where landscapes and natural systems shape urban spaces, cities, and infrastructures to create more resilient futures – socially and ecologically. 

The Southern California mountains, deserts, coasts, rivers, and the mosaic of urbanization surrounds us. Throughout our curriculum we explore this rare biodiversity hotspot and the incredible cultural forces that shape our creative economy.  There is no other place with the excitement and richness of people from around the world involved in music, visual arts, film, dance, culinary arts, architecture, and the other fields that fuel life in this vibrant city.  Across the globe we are in a period of great social and physical changes in urbanization. Our research at this scale in Los Angeles presents exciting challenges and opportunities as we plan for the 2028 Olympic games, address the urgent need for equitable housing, and see the first fruits of decades of transit infrastructure construction across the region creating new urban form while we plan for water scarcity, extreme heat, diminishing biodiversity and sea level rise.

Our program curriculum is focused on a balanced core of design studios, media and fabrication, history and theory, performance technologies, plant materials and ecology, construction and practice, and urbanism. It is field based with travel as close as across the street to the Museum of Natural History, in our local environs, and to more distant destinations to experience our unique region and to engage with the communities who live here. The studio sequence begins with local urban sites where intensive field work is critical to site understanding. In the second year we increase scale to territorial and global design-research studios. Our third-year courses are closely coordinated to provide students an in-depth experience in design research to test solutions.  In the fall seminar third year students engage in travel and research to explore a significant topic. In the recent past they have studied the intersection of natural systems and human interventions in wildfire prone lands in the San Gabriel Mountains and the history and future of stormwater as a resource and threat to communities adjacent to the Los Angeles River where over 9 million people reside in the watershed.  In the spring studio these students develop design responses to address urban development, climate change adaptation and social justice. The studio typically involves travel outside the immediate area to establish relationships with sites and communities, or to learn from precedents.

Throughout the program students synthesize their courses in media, history, plant materials, ecology, construction, and urbanism with their studio work. Elective courses in our curriculum come from a wide range of offerings in the School of Architecture and in other schools at USC including those in architecture, heritage conservation, urban planning, spatial sciences, or cinema. In the summer students may participate in international or domestic field study courses or find positions in professional internships. Our students work with colleagues in architecture, heritage conservation, building science, planning, real estate, and other disciplines in the annual Guild, ULI and NOMAS student design competitions where they form strong career bonds. 

Our dual degree programs in Heritage Conservation and Urban Planning in the highly ranked USC Price School, along with graduate certificate programs in Architecture, Building Science, Heritage Conservation, Sustainable Design, Real Estate and Geographic Information Science provide opportunities for students to develop in depth knowledge to prepare for careers across the spectrum of design and planning.

Our landscape architecture and urbanism program is focused on real impact on the ground. Our curriculum, our world class research university, the vibrance of our professional community and the experience of living in Los Angeles come together to create critical thinkers and design leaders prepared to tackle some of the most contested landscapes and environmental questions of our day. 




Qualified students who are admitted to the Master of Landscape Architecture program in the School of Architecture and to the graduate program in the USC Price School of Public Policy may complete both degrees in a highly integrated six semester program.



The Master of Heritage Conservation/Master of Landscape Architecture + Urbanism dual degree program facilitates highly related cross-disciplinary studies in heritage conservation and in landscape architecture at the master’s level. Those enrolled in the dual degree program will learn the histories, theories, and practices of landscape architecture and heritage conservation. Advanced Placement MLA students may complete both degrees in five semesters. Three-year MLA students may complete both degrees in seven semesters.

RELATED LINKS: Application Instructions & Requirements, Application Deadlines, Learning Objectives, Connect on Facebook, Landscape Justice Initiative

“I love teaching landscape architecture at USC because of the complex regional geography we are immersed in, as a laboratory for the exploration of some of the most pressing environmental challenges of today.”

— ESTHER MARGULIES, Director of Landscape Architecture + Urbanism Program


Following is the program curriculum for the 2023-2024 Academic year. For the full course catalog, please consult the online USC Catalogue archive.

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.

Students admitted with no previous professional education must complete 96 units (during three years of residency), including 77 units of specified courses, 10 units of electives, and 9 units of Advanced Design Research. Electives must be part of a curricular plan approved by the program director.


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), GIS and landscape architecture (SSCI 572 or equivalent).


Advanced placement students must complete 66 units, including 51 units of specified courses, 6 units of electives, and 9 units of Advanced Design Research. Electives must be part of a curricular plan approved by the program director.


This curricular track would be for students with the Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch) to receive advanced standing to the Master of Landscape Architecture degree. Incoming students will start the 3-year track requirements and then accelerate in the second year with compressed requirements from those three years while reducing the number of studio requirements (from 6 to 4). This curriculum ensures that students receive appropriate training in design, ecology, plants, media, history and construction required of this accredited degree as well as professional expectations. Due to the compressed timeframe for this advanced standing track, electives units are not required. 


Advanced placement students (with a B.Arch) must complete 66 units, including 57 units of specified courses and 9 units of Advanced Design Research.


NOTE: Acceptance into this accelerated curriculum is at the discretion of the Admissions Committee and the MLA+U Program Director.

96-Unit Sample Curriculum +3
66-Unit Curriculum +2 (Advanced Placement)

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.

The Master of Landscape Architecture and the Master of Landscape Architecture/Master of Urban Planning Dual degree are STEM (CIP code 04.060). International students who graduate from USC’s Master of Landscape Architecture or Master of Landscape Architecture/Master of Urban Planning Dual 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).


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.



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.


USC’s MLA program was first accredited by the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board (LAAB) in 2011. Our accreditation was renewed in 2018 for a period of 6 years, expiring in December of 2022. A one-year extension was granted to the program in the fall of 2022. A visiting team will review the program in October of 2023. A decision from the LAAB is anticipated in the spring of 2024, our current accreditation remains in good standing. 


Our highly desirable faculty to student ratio and tailored curriculums play a central role in supporting student retention and graduation rates. Over the last 6 years 100% of students who entered the second year of the program have earned their degrees on time. 

Student Graduation Rates

% of Entering Students Completing Their Degree within 3 years

2017 - 100%

2018 - 100%

2019 - 93%

2020 - 92%

Number of Degrees Granted

2017 - 12

2018 - 13

2019 - 19

2020 - 16

2021 - 14

2022 - 14

Student Retention Rates

% of Students Who Remained in the Program by the year they matriculated.

2017 - 81%

2018 - 94%

2019 - 94%

2020 - 87% 

2021 - 87%

2022 - 84%  


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 3.70 (on a 4.0 grade point system).


Graduates of the USC MLA + Urbanism program find positions in a wide range of practices, non profit organizations and public agencies. Many graduates begin their careers in traditional practice and as their careers advance they take on leadership roles in award winning design practices, planning agencies and other related fields. The MLA degree program is excellent preparation for digital design and UX positions. 


95% of graduates from 2020-2022 who remained in the United States had a full-time position in the field of landscape architecture as of June 2023


Our 2022 - 2023 academic year faculty included 5 instructors who hold landscape architecture licenses, one licensed landscape contractor and two licensed architects. 


USC has been fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges since 1949, affirming that our University meets the highest academic standards in terms of our mission and the quality of our academic programs. 


Each state has specific education requirements for licensure in Landscape Architecture. These two sites provide detailed information for all 50 states and the District of Columbia Check Eligibility (clarb.org) American Society of Landscape Architects (asla.org)


Information on tuition, related costs of attendance, and financial aid can be found at the following links: 


Current USC Graduate Programs Tuition and Fee Information


USC School of Architecture Financial Aid and Scholarships 


Additional Information on USC Financial Aid https://financialaid.usc.edu/graduates/graduate-professionals.html


Additional Costs

Students should anticipate additional program expenses for personal equipment including a laptop computer capable of running sophisticated graphics software such as Adobe Creative Suite, Auto CAD, Rhinoceros and Grasshopper. Some courses will require textbooks, local and regional travel, materials for physical models and other incidentals. All courses are required to identify anticipated costs in their syllabi.  


Software: All students are provided with free Google storage and Google suite apps through USC. The School of Architecture provides access to student rates for Adobe Creative Suite. Many programs are available with free academic licenses. USC provides ARC GIS at student rates. Large format printing is available free of charge in our School printing center. All required software is available on shared student workstations in the School of Architecture.  

Scholarships and Fellowships

The School of Architecture awards a limited number of merit scholarships based on applicants’ previous achievement. These scholarships are provided as a percentage of annual tuition and are renewed during the students’ degree program as long as students maintain academic eligibility. 


Two MLA students per year receive California Landscape Architecture Student Scholarship Funds. Our students have successfully won LAF student scholarships for research and in the LAF Olmsted Scholar program. The School of Architecture supports student travel via annual travel fellowships. 


Students may find opportunities for paid positions as class assistants and faculty research assistants pending availability. Domestic students may apply for campus work study positions. All students have access to Connect SC, the University’s career center for students and alumni. Firms in the Los Angeles area frequently hire USC MLA students for summer internships. For some students, these positions lead to full time employment following their degree completion.