Landscapes are the dynamic synthesis of natural systems, sociocultural forces and the physical material of the constructed world. The Graduate Program of Landscape Architecture + Urbanism uses the complex regional geography of Southern California as its primary laboratory to generate and test responses to the planet’s most pressing environmental challenges, including resounding impacts of climate change, rapid urbanization, social and environmental injustice, and the interface of nature and technology. Looking regionally and globally, we conduct rigorous design-research to develop multi-scalar innovations in performative regional infrastructures, equitable urban frameworks and public spaces, and healthful biophysical systems. We focus on pressures of urbanization and how to utilize landscape strategies to shape those systems, spaces, cities and infrastructures to imagine more resilient futures – socially and ecologically. 

We are fortunate to inhabit one of the most culturally and environmentally diverse geographies in the world - within an hour’s drive from the Pacific Ocean, the San Gabriel Mountains and the western edge of the Sonoran Desert. Clearly Southern California offers a wide range of landscape challenges to which we apply design exploration, strategic thinking, technical resolution and creative expression. Those challenges include increasing water scarcity impacting urban and agricultural territories, warming temperatures, rising sea levels, reduced biodiversity, wildfire-flood-debris flow cycles, as well as deeply institutionalized practices of discrimination that have marginalized and burdened communities of color, and rapid urban development that is leaving many populations behind or displaced. More optimistically, there is an increasing investment in public space, urban nature and environmental resilience in our region, which is characteristically experimental and creative.

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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 and hands-on. The studio sequence begins with local urban sites where intensive field work is critical to site understanding and builds up to territorial-scale design-research studios. Students synthesize their courses in media, history, plant materials, ecology, construction and urbanism with their studio work. Second-year studios provide opportunities to investigate design responses to urban development, as well as climate change causes and impacts, and have options both to travel outside the region and 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 other courses including those in urban planning, spatial sciences, art and cinema. We have a number of international opportunities to study other geographies – both during the summer global studies programs and studios within the curriculum.

Our curriculum is increasingly focused on opportunities for applied research that has real impact on the ground or in shaping policy. The aim of the program is to develop critical thinkers and design leaders unafraid to tackle some of the most contested landscapes and environmental questions of our day. 

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.”

— Alison Hirsch, Director of Landscape Architecture + Urbanism Program


Following is the program curriculum for the 2021-2021 Academic Year. For previous years, please consult the online USC Catalogue archive.

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.


Advanced placement students must complete 64 units, including 50 units of specified courses, 5 units of electives, and 9 units of Advanced Design Research. Electives must be part of a curricular plan approved by the program director.

96-Unit Sample Curriculum +3
64-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 + 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).


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.


    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), GIS and landscape architecture (SSCI 572 or equivalent). Please see 64-Unit Curriculum +2.


    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. 

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


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