We are sustained by landscapes. They provide us food to eat, water to drink, and clean air to breathe, but also with ideas, motivation, and inspiration. Landscapes are our habitats, the places where we work, relax, and engage with others. Landscape architects have the tremendous responsibility of designing these settings. This is no easy task, given the increasingly complex issues our planet faces.
Landscape architects work to restore impaired environments and ensure equal access to healthy environments. They design systems that alleviate flooding and stimulate economies. They guide development of productive, sustainable infrastructures, transforming cities and regions. They consider the past and possible futures of landscapes so as to act meaningfully in the present.
A Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) degree will give you the tools you need to create relevant, research-based works that address the complex social, economic, and environmental challenges we face.
Our MLA students come from a wide range of backgrounds in the arts, humanities, and sciences, enriching our program with diverse knowledge and skills that can be further engaged through landscape architecture. Some students are experienced designers, while others–including second-career aspirants–come from entirely different disciplines.
Following graduation, most of our students pursue professional practice in landscape architecture design firms. Some students pursue Ph.D. studies, and others locate themselves within government agencies or socially- and ecologically-engaged non-profit organizations.
We offer two kinds of MLA degrees:
- a 2-year post-professional MLA for applicants with an undergraduate degree from an accredited landscape architecture program.
- a 3-year professional MLA for applicants who have not completed an accredited landscape architecture degree.
There is one application for both options. During application review, we determine if each applicant to the 3-year program has sufficient credentials, previous coursework, and/or experience to be able to waive specific course requirements, enabling completion of the MLA in 2.5 years instead of 3 years. Upon admission, applicants are informed of the type and anticipated length of program.
Students may elect to pursue joint MLA/Master of Urban Planning or MLA/Master of Business Administration programs.
What to expect
Our MLA program consists of course work integrated with design studios, internships, and in-depth specialization in topics of interest.
Students take a sequence of landscape-technology, methods, ecology, graphic representation, history, theory, and seminar courses to accumulate a breadth of knowledge.
Design studios provide opportunities for students to apply what they’ve learned. We teach design processes that are grounded in research methods, technical knowledge and graphic representation skills. Projects start small and then increase in scale and complexity.
MLA students spend their final fall semester engaged in our Chicago Studio. Sites in Chicago become urban landscape laboratories, places where we explore the catalytic potential of intensive landscape interventions. Students take courses on the Champaign-Urbana campus and collaborate with Chicago-area practitioners to address a variety of key landscape topics such as urban ecology, neighborhood fabric, big data and urban design, sustainability and environmental justice.
Internship. For students with no previous internship or professional experience, a required 3-month internship ensures that students build connections with practitioners and develop the real-world skills they will need for their future careers.
Our students also develop a specialization that reflects their interests and career aspirations. This specialization is achieved through focused coursework or a thesis, an independent design research project guided by a faculty advisor and committee. Areas of specialization undertaken by past graduates include community and urban design; ecological design; cultural heritage, history and design; public health and well-being; energy systems and infrastructure; social and environmental justice; and landscape-based practices of art.
Below is a sample sequence of MLA courses. Students entering the MLA who do not have an undergraduate degree in Landscape Architecture or Architecture take all 3 years of curriculum. Students with an undergraduate degree in Landscape Architecture or Architecture typically begin in the second year of curriculum described below.
Please also refer to the MLA Handbook.
|MLA Studio I||Design Workshop I|
|Design Communications I||Design Communications II|
|Theory + Practice||Landform Design|
|Woody Ornamentals I||History of World Landscapes|
|MLA Studio II||Design Workshop II|
|Site Engineering||Landscape Construction|
|Professional Practice||Research Methods|
|MLA Studio III – Chicago||Design Workshop III|
|Social/Cultural Design Issues||Elective|
International Students: STEM Classification and OPT Employment
Our MLA degree (like our BLA and Ph.D. degrees) is STEM-classifed, so international students with an F-1 visa are eligible to remain in the US for OPT (Optional Practical Training) employment for up to three years and two months after graduation, and those granted an H-1b visa can stay an additional six years (total of 9 years).
The Graduate College at the University of Illinois provides extensive information about the application process and an excellent FAQ section where you may find the answer to questions not addressed below.
The minimum required undergraduate GPA for admission is 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) or a comparable GPA for international applicants. Applicants with an undergraduate GPA under 3.0 are rarely considered. Please include a cumulative GPA in your application materials following the scale used at your current or previous institution. The Graduate College at the University of Illinois will convert your GPA to a 4.0 scale. We do not accept World Education Services credentials.
Applicants whose native language is not English are required to submit a TOEFL or IELTS score as evidence of English proficiency except if one of the following criteria is met:
- Completion of at least two years of post-secondary, full-time study, as defined by the home institution, in a country where English is the primary language and at an institution where English is the primary medium of instruction, within five years of the proposed term of initial enrollment at the University of Illinois.
- Completion of at least two years of professional work experience in a country where English is the primary language within five years of the proposed term of initial enrollment at the University of Illinois.
- Completion of a post-secondary degree in a country where English is the primary language and at an institution where English is the primary language of instruction, within five years of the proposed term of initial enrollment.
The department minimum for admission is a score of 89 or higher on the TOEFL or a score of 6.5 or higher on the IELTS.
- Applicants with TOEFL scores between 89-96 are strongly encouraged to complete an intensive English course prior to enrollment.
- For full status admission, applicants must receive a TOEFL score of 102 or higher or an IELTS score of 7.0 or higher. Students with a TOEFL score lower than 102 or an IELTS score lower than 7.0 are admitted on “limited status.” Limited status will require completion of the English Proficiency Test and, if indicated, one or more English as a Second Language courses during the first year in the program. These courses generally do not extend the time required to complete the program and do not increase tuition costs.
The Graduate College provides information about test score submission as well as about alternative TOEFL formats made available due to COVID-19 pandemic. The University of Illinois’ institution code number is 1836. If asked to select a department code, please select the code for Landscape Architecture, if available, or for Architecture if not, but please note that all scores submitted using the University of Illinois’s institution code will be accessible to the MLA admissions committee. While waiting for official scores to be delivered to the University of Illinois, you may upload unofficial score reports along with your application materials. Official scores must be received before admission can be offered and accepted, but “unofficial” scores (i.e., scans uploaded by the applicant) are sufficient when applications are reviewed by the MLA admissions committee.
The GRE is no longer required for admission to the MLA Program.
There is no minimum or maximum word count for the personal statement. In our experience, applicants typically write around 500 to 600 words, but applicants are free to use as many or few words as they would like.
Letters of Recommendation
Three letters of recommendation are required.
Portfolio submission is required for all applicants now completing, or having previously completed, a design degree. All other applicants are encouraged to submit a portfolio of creative work, but doing so is not required for applicants who do not have a design degree. Upload your portfolio to the “Program Essay” section of the application. Include only your best work, and please include brief texts as necessary to explain contexts in which work was produced. When representing group work, please identify clearly your specific contribution to that work. There is no file size limit for uploaded portfolios. If you prefer, you may include a website url in your personal statement directing the admissions committee to your portfolio online.
Application Fee Waiver
The deadline for applications for matriculation in Fall 2021 is January 15, 2021.
To apply to the MLA Program, please visit the Graduate College Admissions by clicking the link below.
Contact the MLA Program Chair, Prof. David L. Hays, at email@example.com.