Bachelor’s Programs

    The USC undergraduate architecture program has been committed to the fundamental concerns of the built environment for over 100 years. Rooted in Los Angeles but embracing a global outlook, our programs encourage progressive, cultural thinking about architecture and its role in social change. 


    The USC School of Architecture nurtures its students, supporting your interests, challenging you and helping you transition into the professional world of design and architecture. The unbeatable combination of a world-class research university, Trojan spirit and Los Angeles – a center of architectural culture – will present you with an education that will forever change your life.


    Beyond design studios and other classes, there is much going on at the School, including student events, lectures, exhibitions, global travel opportunities and workshops. The School is a constant hive of activity and invention, and the deeply knit undergraduate architecture community progresses our ideals into the future built environment.


    The Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies program begins intensively with architectural studies in the first two years and provides a mix of architectural and general university studies throughout the program. The curriculum includes a core program in the first two years identical to the Bachelor of Architecture professional degree program. The last two years provide the opportunity to explore many aspects of architecture and related fields and to develop individual strengths and interests.


    Students take an introductory course in specialization in the second year, which provides an introduction to related fields and alternative degree options. Students can elect to move into the four-year non-professional B.S. in Architectural Studies program with a degree plan identifying electives fulfilling an area of concentration. The program is concluded with a seminar with all degree candidates, allowing for collaborative work on areas of common interest.


    The Bachelor of Science in GeoDesign is an interdisciplinary major offered by the Spatial Sciences Institute, the USC School of Architecture and the USC Price School of Public Policy. This degree treats planning as a globally relevant framework for collective action, the spatial sciences as a platform for supporting science-based decision-making, and design as a vehicle for solving the world's wicked problems. This degree prepares students for professional careers and/or graduate study by engaging them in the acquisition, representation, analysis, modeling and visualization of spatial information set in the context of the built environment and policy. The underlying spatial principles, methods and tools can be used to support sustainable planning, facility and infrastructure management, the design of livable and healthy communities, and a series of regional planning applications to address pollution, water and energy needs, and the impact of population growth on the environment. The major electives provide students with opportunities to explore one or more facets of the built environment and a series of complementary analytical and visualization tools in more detail. Finally, the major is structured to provide students with sufficient elective credits to explore minors or other programs at USC so they can broaden their education to better prepare themselves for the next stage of their lives.


    The Minor in Architecture provides the flexibility of complementing a student’s major with an area of specialization. Taking a minor in the School of Architecture is a unique opportunity for a student to stimulate his or her imagination and learn creative approaches to problem solving.


    The Minor in Architecture or Landscape Architecture provides the flexibility of complementing a student’s major with an area of specialization.

Master's Programs

    Under the vision of Dean Milton S. F. Curry and the directorship of Wes Jones, the Master of Advanced Architectural Studies [M.AAS] has been redesigned as one of the most innovative and experimental programs anywhere in the world. By bringing together several of the most renowned and progressive faculty, the program aims to set a new standard for postgraduate education internationally.


    This one-year, three-semester post-professional degree is intended for individuals who have completed a professional degree in architecture (B.Arch/M.Arch). Working across disciplines and at multiple scales, the program moves between real-world issues and innovative architecture proposals. Pedagogically, the program has a dual emphasis, integrating architecture and urban theory with cutting-edge design research and collaborative experimentation on issues of housing and urbanism, domestic life and technological adaptability. 

    Building upon the legacy of the Case Study House Program, the theme of dwelling and urbanism is a central focus. The degree program examines the 21st century city and the diverse social and cultural landscape of Los Angeles, looking beyond the single-family home to study topics of broader significance, such as homelessness, that Los Angeles and other major cities are experiencing. Conceived of as an urban laboratory that tackles the challenges of our time, the program teaches students to develop innovative solutions through critical and creative speculation and demonstrates that social issues and architectural excellence do not have to be mutually exclusive.


    The Master of Architecture program brings together renowned, progressive academic faculty and award-winning practitioners to set new international standards for postgraduate education, placing the School in a key pedagogical position to combine influences from all corners of the global architectural community. The M.Arch draws upon a 100-year tradition of groundbreaking architectural design in Los Angeles by its distinguished alumni and faculty, exemplified by the Pritzker Prize laureates Frank Gehry and Thom Mayne. 

    The graduate program is built on three levels. The first level is dedicated to introducing essential disciplinary knowledge and the basic skills required for the NAAB-accredited degree. The second level builds upon this foundation with increasingly refined vocational knowledge and advanced professional capability. The final level culminates with a year of individually directed work, with master classes and a directed design research project (thesis) focused on the student’s emergent architectural interests. All three levels draw on the University’s extended resources and the inspiration of Los Angeles. Firmly rooted in an investigative mode of critical, professional practice, the program’s aim is for every graduate to be prepared for the challenges of the 21st century.


    Building Science at the USC School of Architecture recognizes that exemplary architecture requires innovative responses to natural forces. The integration of the study of building sciences with knowledge of current practice and new technologies creates synergistic and holistic architectural design that satisfies performative goals.

    Building science strengthens architecture through technology. The Master of Building Science program addresses the need for a new generation of design professionals prepared to bring appropriate technology to the design of a sustainable environment. Within this context, the program emphasizes: 1) The integration of planning, design, and technology to form a coherent, interdependent force for the appropriate construction of urban places; 2) Recognition of the ecological importance of energy-conscious design and construction as well as the social value of places in which natural forces and systems are utilized rather than suppressed; 3) The development of research and design methods suited to the complexity of building in urban settings and effective in the use of extensive information.

    This two-year degree program includes the opportunity for each student to complete a thesis-based research project that is supported by research seminars and electives from architecture, engineering, and other related fields. Students are individually guided through their study and thesis. Past thesis research topics include building envelopes, BIM, computer-aided architectural design, energy analysis, lighting design, human comfort, seismic sustainability, structural systems, tension structures, generative computing, and zero net energy buildings. Many papers based on thesis work have been co-authored by faculty and students and have been published and presented at professional conferences. This program is intended for students with a background in architecture, engineering, or related areas.


    Los Angeles provides a unique laboratory in which to learn and challenge conservation issues. As a relatively young and diverse global city, it is the ideal place to explore a relatively young and diverse global discipline. Our wealth of recent past resources raises a new set of research challenges and the city’s richly distinct communities woven throughout the tapestry of the built environment push us to acknowledge the many layers of history and meaning revealed in the city. It is also a place forever seeking the new, providing opportunities to protect the best of the past while embracing the landmarks of the future.

    Embedded in the USC School of Architecture, heritage conservation students are instantly part of a multidisciplinary environment, linking landscape architecture, building science, architecture, and conservation. 

    The program curriculum is designed to expose students to a broad range of topics including materials conservation, policy and planning, conservation theory, global conservation efforts, architectural and landscape history, best practices in resource documentation and evaluation, sustainability, and historic site management. Students are also encouraged to take advantage of the many academic resources in the broader University, including taking courses in real estate, regional history, urban planning, and spatial sciences. Program faculty are leaders in the field, a blend of academics and practitioners that grapple with conservation in real time, seeking creative solutions that balance the integrity of the past with a sustainable future. Through this broad exposure, students begin to formulate their professional path within the discipline.


    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.  

Certificate Programs

    The focus of this program is on understanding the broad and complex role of architecture within the urban context. Studies focus on cities throughout the world where conditions of increasing density, environmental challenges and cultural complexity require design initiatives that support amenity, sustainability and cultural meaning. The certificate is open to graduate students not pursuing a degree in Architecture.


    Building science at USC recognizes that exemplary architecture requires a creative response to natural forces, based on informed good judgment in the areas of architectural technology. The Certificate in Building Science is intended as a supplement for students enrolled in graduate course work in architecture, landscape architecture, his­toric preservation, urban planning or related discipline.


    Ideal for professionals who wish to augment their academic credentials in order to facilitate their work on heritage conservation projects, the 14-unit certificate program includes four core classes that impart the fundamentals of the discipline. The certificate is also an ideal complement to a graduate studies in architecture, landscape architecture, building science, planning, public art administration, geography, anthropology, or other related disciplines.


    This program is intended to introduce at the graduate level the basic subjects inherent to the field of landscape architecture: plant materials suitable to urban conditions; urban utility and transportation systems in relation to topography, natural drainage and pathways; plant and wildlife communities; as well as inquiries about landscape infrastructure and ecology, and the history of human settle­ment in the evolution of urban landscapes. Southern California and Los Angeles provide an exceptionally valuable natural and socio­cultural laboratory for landscape architecture studies. 


    This multidisciplinary program provides students with the tools necessary to understand and quantify the sources of energy use in buildings and landscapes. Studies emphasize improving sustainable design choices regarding natural and man-made systems considering the performance of the built environment, the reduction of its embodied and operational energies, and the influence of other resource issues.


    Sustainability is an imperative for our planet as climate change, population growth and dwindling oil supplies are all reminders that our resources are finite and we need a new paradigm to adjust to these global changes. The built environment represents the majority of our energy use and design can help reduce both the embodied and operational energy of our buildings and urban landscape.


    This certificate provides students with the tools necessary to understand and quantify sources of energy use in buildings and landscapes and to use design of natural and man-made systems to reduce their energy use. This certificate will give students the background to help them make sustainable design choices through informed decision making that considers the performance of the built environment related to the energy required to make it, the energy it absorbs or releases, the energy required to maintain it, and the energy required to replace it. Environmental, economic and socially responsible solutions will be explored through the coursework.


    With increasing urgency, organizations and governments require leaders to design and implement sustainability-focused policy and planning practices that help communities improve in the present without compromising the future. The USC Price graduate Certificate in Sustainable Policy and Planning develops analytic and methodological skills and provides students an interdisciplinary curriculum centered on key environmental and sustainability issues in policy and planning. See the USC Price School of Public Policy, for course requirements.

Dual Degree Programs

    The Master of Planning/Master of Advanced Architectural Studies Post-Professional dual degree program facilitates highly related cross-disciplinary studies in architecture and in planning at the master’s level. This program offers students interested in developing a career in urban design an opportunity to make more substantial commitments in both disciplines and to achieve a more coherent and extensive knowledge in the design of built environments and public policy. This dual degree program normally requires five semesters in residence.


    The Master of Heritage Conservation/Master of Planning dual degree program facilitates highly related cross-disciplinary studies in heritage conservation and in urban planning at the master’s level. The primary objective of the dual degree curriculum is to impart to students a basic familiarity with the origins and development of the philosophies, theories, and practices of planning and heritage conservation. This curriculum has been developed so that students will graduate from this program with a broad practical knowledge of the laws, regulations, and policies that apply to planning and conservation practice in the United States and internationally. This expertise will include knowledge of urban design, public policy, and architectural and planning history and theory. Students will be expected to understand the critical methodological tools necessary for a professional engaged in the investigation, interpretation, and evaluation of the urban built environment.


    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 five-seven semester program.

Summer Program

    The Summer Short Course in Heritage Conservation offers clusters of lecture and field-based learning sessions about the fundamentals of the discipline in an intensive two-week format. Taught by a team of practicing professionals in fields ranging from conservation and engineering to economics and law, the course also includes visits to historic sites, such as the Gamble and Freeman Houses, the laboratories of the Getty Conservation Institute, and current rehabilitation projects. Designed for those interested in a career change, city officials needing to brush up on the basics, or students interested in learning more about the field, the Summer Short Course can be taken in sections or as a complete for-credit course.