Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)

Graduate Program

The objectives of the MLA Program at the University of Illinois are to provide each student with specialization relevant to the central priorities of contemporary landscape architecture as well as fundamental research skills and proficiency in the traditional core methods of the profession. Specialization is developed and articulated through required and elective coursework and the MLA thesis, drawing on the unique strengths of our department and campus. The faculty of the Department is distinguished internationally for wide-ranging scholarly, professional, and creative expertise involving community and urban design; ecological and sustainable design; architectural and landscape history and methods; cultural heritage; social psychology and behavior; social, economic, and environmental justice; and public health, among other areas. Two-thirds of the core faculty have doctoral degrees. Affiliated faculty members represent numerous University units. Students may also pursue a joint MLA/MUP program.

Our students come from diverse academic backgrounds in the arts, humanities, and sciences, not to mention the design disciplines. Some are recent graduates, whereas others are experienced design practitioners or second-career aspirants from entirely different disciplines. Those with an accredited undergraduate degree in landscape architecture enter a two-year program. Students with other undergraduate degrees take prerequisite courses in the foundation skills related to landscape architecture and should expect a two-and-one-half to three-year program. All MLA students are required to complete a thesis. All MLA students (except those with BLA degrees and one year of practice) will be required to complete a three-month professional internship. All master’s students are expected to graduate within five years of their initial registration.


Application to our MLA program is made through the Graduate College. Financial aid is available through the University. Interest in financial aid can be indicated on the graduate application form. In addition, a number of scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships are available to graduate students.


Graduate studies consist of an integrated program of course work, studios, and thesis research/development. Courses provide information about critical issues and methods, and studios provide opportunities to apply and explore those through design. The thesis allows each individual to pursue an issue of particular interest in greater depth.

To obtain the MLA degree, each student must complete all degree requirements, including deposit of the thesis, within five years from the beginning of enrollment in the program. After that time, requests to complete degree requirements, including the thesis, will be denied.

To ensure that appropriate knowledge and experiences are gained, the MLA curriculum includes required prerequisite and core courses along with recommended and elective courses. Prerequisite and core courses must be taken for a grade; credit-no credit is not an option for those courses. More information about course requirements, including sample course of study sequences, can be found in the MLA Handbook.


Through coursework and the MLA thesis process, students develop a specialization that reflects their interests and career aspirations in keeping with the wide range and rich potentials of contemporary landscape architecture. Examples of specialization undertaken by past graduates include, but are not limited to, community and urban design; ecological design and technology; cultural heritage history and design; public health and well-being; energy systems and infrastructure; social, economic, and environmental justice; and landscape-based practices of art.

In all cases, specialization involves the development of in-depth understanding of theoretical and practical issues pertinent to the area of inquiry, including critical questions and concerns, historical and conceptual models, and potential implications. Work is undertaken in the media, formats, and range of scales appropriate to the area of inquiry.

Students pursuing the joint MLA/MUP degree program may combine a specialization with additional study in the Master of Urban Planning program.


All incoming MLA students meet with the Assistant Department Head prior to registration for the first semester. At that time, courses are selected. The Graduate Coordinator and the Assistant Department Head assist with technical issues such as registration, funding, and the certification of course work as meeting degree requirements.

Graduate studies consist of an integrated program of course work, studios, and independent thesis research. Courses provide information about issues and methods, studios apply that information to specific projects, and the thesis allows individuals to pursue an issue of particular interest in greater depth. The University's on-line course catalog (available from provides a complete list of landscape architecture courses along with brief descriptions of each.