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Grad Program: Landscape Architecture

Basic Information

According to the American Society of Landscape Architects, Landscape Architecture is "the art and science of analysis, planning, design, management, preservation and rehabilitation of the land." Graduate programs in Landscape Architecture focus on all of these aspects, though some programs may stress preservation more than design or analysis and vice versa.

Without landscape architects, parks wouldn’t be our respite from urban clamor, roadways could be flooded by rivers, and golf courses wouldn’t roll so nicely. Today’s landscape architects are just as concerned with function and ensuring that their work is compatible with the natural environment as they are with wrangling the placement of shrubs and flower borders. In order to beautify without disrupting the natural environments, they must have not only an eye for design and a talent for problem-solving, but also knowledge of plant life and the ability to analyze diverse elements of their site, from climate, soil and drainage to where sunlight falls on the site at different times of the day. A comprehensive knowledge of the ways in which the community has used an environment or space is also crucial.

Graduate work is often done out-of-doors—students learn about environments as diverse as botanical gardens, playgrounds, cemeteries, and plazas. Studio and classroom work is reserved for theory, history, applied ecology, and construction technology—everything a professional needs to know to make rivers thrive and trees grow tall while people live their lives.

Degree Information

A Master’s in Landscape Architecture (M.L.A.) can take anywhere from two to three years to complete, depending on the undergraduate degree and professional experience of the student. Some programs allow sufficient professional experience to stand-in for formal pre-requisites. The degree will involve a thesis in addition (usually) to oral and written exams.

A Ph.D. in Landscape Architecture (sometimes a subset of Regional Planning) will usually take between four and six years to complete and will require comprehensive exams, a dissertation, and oral defense.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program
  • Will the program’s geographic location provide me with access to the environments that interest me?
  • Who are the faculty members and what are their interests? What sort of access do you have to faculty members?
  • What’s the intellectual tone of the department?
  • What about the students? Where are they from? What were they doing before school?
  • What about the alumni? Have they stayed local? Do they support the school once they've left?
  • With which other departments does the landscape architecture program cooperate?
  • What sort of assistantships, grants, and other financial aid opportunities are available?

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