MSLA Degree Requirements

The MSLA degree differs from professional MLA degrees offered by the majority of other graduate landscape architecture programs in North America.  Our degree program focuses on research rather than focusing on design.  To earn a Master of Science (MSLA) degree, students choose to develop either a research-based thesis or a project-based thesis: evidence-based design solutions for complex problems in urban, rural and natural settings.

MSLA Learning Goals

Engage critically with the scholarship and theory of landscape architecture.

Demonstrate advanced critical thinking and the ability to explore ideas in depth and synthesize information with a high degree of competence.

Demonstrate an advanced understanding of landscape spaces, functions, and dynamics, as well as interactions between people and the built and natural environment.

Demonstrate a deep understanding of and the ability to critically evaluate the principles, theories, technical skills and recent research findings specific to at least one of the program’s specialty areas: “Restoration Ecology and Ecological Design” and “Community-Focused Design.”

Design and conduct original research, and communicate the results to scholars as well as to practitioners engaged in landscape decision-making and stewardship.


An acceptable bachelor’s degree is required of all prospective candidates. Applications are screened by the department’s graduate program committee on the basis of university transcripts for all previous work, three letters of recommendation, samples of creative work or writing, and a letter of intent describing how the student’s graduate educational needs can be fulfilled by this program. Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores, though not required, are strongly recommended. Every applicant whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English, must provide official scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the Michigan English Language Assessment Battery (MELAB), or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Application deadline for Spring admission: November 1.
Application deadline for Fall admission: February 1.

Courses and Credits

A minimum of 36 credits, including the thesis, is required. Of these, at least 30 must be for course work. A maximum of 6 thesis research credits may be applied toward the total credit requirement for the degree. Supplemental work beyond the minimum, or courses without credit, may be required to make up deficiencies or to provide a depth of knowledge in the student’s area of specialization.

All Landscape Architecture graduate students are required to take the following set of required core courses:

  • Land Arch 710 (Theories of Landscape Change)
  • Land Arch 720 (Critical Inquiry into Landscape Design Expression)
  • Land Arch 740 (Research Methods)
  • Three semesters of Land Arch 940 (Graduate Seminar)
  • Plus, an additional two courses within a focus area that are selected by the student and their advisory committee

In addition to the required courses, students are strongly encouraged to select course offerings related to their program interests. These courses are offered both by the Department and other academic units on campus. Depending upon the student’s particular interests, they may choose to take courses from more than one area.

This degree also requires a thesis proposal and thesis. Click here for the Landscape Architecture Certification Memorandum to be handed in with your thesis proposal defense. To obtain the Warrant Request Form you have to notify the Graduate Coordinator. If you have further questions about completing your Master’s degree, visit the Graduate School website.