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

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 multilayered proposals using design thinking to address extreme natural and social conditions affecting people, infrastructure and the environment. 

USC offers an exceptional opportunity to study the entirety of the built environment in an integrated design research setting. Full-time faculty are actively engaged in research topics that include urban ecology, cultural agency, alternative infrastructures, climate change adaptation, and environmental justice. Part-time faculty come from some of the most active and innovative practices on the West Coast. Students come from a wide variety of undergraduate majors including architecture, environmental science, visual arts, liberal arts, and urban planning. Our graduates utilize their skills in design, communication, and critical thinking to take on complex issues and projects. 

The MLA program curriculum blends design studios, media and representation, history and theory, construction documentation, plant materials and ecology, and urbanism. The studio sequence builds 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. Second-year studios provide opportunities to examine design responses to climate change impacts and collaborate with architecture students in an integrated setting.  

RELATED LINKS: Learning Objectives for this Program.


Following is the program curriculum for the 2018-2019 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