Landscape Architecture (PhD)

The doctoral program in landscape architecture offers opportunities for advanced study and scholarship in ecological landscape planning, sustainable urban design, and design history and theory. Landscape planning is primarily concerned with assessing large landscapes and directing their policy, management, and land-use patterns to meet social and environmental ends, while design typically addresses smaller areas in greater detail.

Because the profession is broad and diverse, the landscape architecture PhD pursues robust development of academic, analytical, creative, and integrative capabilities that can continue to grow throughout subsequent careers. Accordingly, the program emphasizes the following:

  • Advanced expertise and understanding in a focused topic
  • The ability to form integrative conceptual models of landscape issues, problems, and solutions
  • The ability to critically analyze deficiencies in knowledge in the field and identify needs for new, original contributions
  • The ability to form and investigate operationally bounded questions
  • The ability to independently design and execute a complete, intensive research project
  • The ability to fully document a research project with high-quality writing and illustrations

The integrative nature of landscape design as a science and an art entails development of innovative models and methods for design, education, and research. The program offers students the opportunity to develop skills as innovative educators by working with faculty members as teaching assistants, and to teach courses under faculty guidance. The close and supportive relationships among scholarship, teaching, professional growth, and artistic achievement foster excellence in design education, research, and practice. Scholars follow many routes, and the program provides substantial flexibility to tailor students’ programs to individual needs.

Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this program, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate advanced expertise and understanding in a focused topic.
  • Demonstrate the ability to form integrative conceptual models of landscape issues, problems, and solutions, particularly with regard to the student's area of specialization.
  • Demonstrate the ability to critically analyze deficiencies in knowledge in the field and identify needs for new, original contributions.
  • Demonstrate the ability to form, investigate, and answer operationally bounded questions.
  • Demonstrate the ability to independently design and execute a complete, rigorous research project.
  • Demonstrate the ability to fully document a research project with quality writing and illustrations.

Landscape Architecture

Length of Program and Steps to Completion

A PhD in landscape architecture requires a minimum of three years of full-time graduate work, including one year of residency. Depending on background and research goals, students can expect to complete the degree in three to six years, with a norm of four to five years.

The student’s program of study depends substantially on his or her prior degrees.

Pre-Defined Table
Degree Held Credits to Expect to Complete for PhD
MLA or MArch 68
BLA or BArch only 80
Master's degree without professional environmental-design degree 86

Courses for the doctoral degree include design-studio experience and subject-area courses to provide a foundation in landscape architecture sufficient to support a student’s goals, research, and advanced coursework.


A student’s program of study is developed with the major professor and a second doctoral advisor.

PhD Required Courses, Work

Course List
Theory, Research, Investigation 1  
LA 601 Research: [Topic] 6
LA 605 Reading and Conference: [Topic] 6
LA 617 Introduction to Landscape Architecture Theory 4
LA 620–621 Landscape Research Methods I-II 8
Doctoral colloquium 2
Outside analytic-synthetic courses 2 4-12
Electives 3  
Advanced Electives: 500-level and above landscape architecture courses in design theory, history, criticism, preservation, planning, and ecology 4 8-12
Supporting Courses: courses typically taken outside of landscape architecture 4 12
LA 603 Dissertation 16
Total Credits 70

At the completion of course work, normally the end of the second year, each student submits a written comprehensive exam, followed by an oral comprehensive exam. The examination committee will consist of three faculty members, two from landscape architecture and one from an outside department or program, who will prepare and administer the written and oral comprehensive exams. Once students have passed both comprehensive exams, they will be advanced to candidacy. Each student must submit the dissertation proposal within three terms of the exams. A student then forms a dissertation committee consisting of four members, with a minimum of two from landscape architecture and at least one from another field related to the student’s area of research. The dissertation committee must approve the student’s written dissertation proposal following a scheduled, public proposal presentation before the student undertakes the dissertation.

Some credit requirements may be waived or satisfied through transfer credits which must not have previously been applied to any graduate or undergraduate degree. No more than 15 credits may be transferred. Successful completion of the doctoral program is a matter of proven excellence through substantial, original contributions to the field and not the accumulation of a specific number of credits.