Council Ring surrounding a fire pit at the end of Picnic Point, Lakeshore Nature Preserve, UW-Madison campus

The study of landscape architecture investigates how designers, planners, and restoration and preservation specialists create, conserve, and manage built and natural spaces and outdoor-indoor relationships to support thriving human cultures and communities, and ensure the survival of Earth’s complex natural systems. We engage the sciences, arts, and humanities to respond to current issues in cultural, environmental, and natural systems stewardship and management; human health and well-being; and community development.    

The MSLA degree offers course work providing an understanding of the scholarship and theories which underlie landscape design, preservation, restoration, and management.  

Students then use this information to engage in interdisciplinary scholarships in urban, rural, or natural settings, by writing a thesis that contributes to the scholarly foundation of the field of landscape architecture and/or provides information to practitioners engaged in landscape decision-making and stewardship. Our MSLA is not an MLA, which is a professional degree that prepares students to become landscape architects. In contrast, the MSLA, by pushing the boundaries of specialty areas within landscape architecture, prepares students for a host of professions in the private and public sectors.

We currently specialize in two areas: 1) Restoration Ecology and Ecological Design, and 2) Community-Focused Design. We welcome applicants with or without previous training in landscape architecture or related design fields. Graduates move into positions in public agencies and private firms specializing in biological/cultural/historical landscape conservation, ecological restoration, and/or community design and planning. Many also enter PhD programs in related fields to continue working in research and education, or in planning, policy, and environmental law.


Please consult the table below for key information about this degree program’s admissions requirements. The program may have more detailed admissions requirements, which can be found below the table or on the program’s website.

Graduate admissions is a two-step process between academic programs and the Graduate School. Applicants must meet the minimum requirements of the Graduate School as well as the program(s). Once you have researched the graduate program(s) you are interested in, apply online.

Fall Deadline February 1
Spring Deadline October 1
Summer Deadline The program does not admit in the summer
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Not required
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not exclusively in English, must provide an English proficiency test score earned within two years of the anticipated term of enrollment. Refer to the Graduate School: Minimum Requirements for Admission policy:
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Applications submitted by the deadlines listed above will be considered for limited Department funding.

A bachelor's degree is required of all prospective candidates. The department’s Graduate Program Committee screens applicants 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 School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Program Resources

Financial support for graduate students is available through research and teaching assistantships, and competitive Graduate School and departmental fellowships. Most teaching assistantships are awarded to students who already have professional landscape architectural design training and experience.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements

Mode of Instruction

Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions

Accelerated: Accelerated programs are offered at a fast pace that condenses the time to completion. Students typically take enough credits aimed at completing the program in a year or two.

Evening/Weekend: ​Courses meet on the UW–Madison campus only in evenings and/or on weekends to accommodate typical business schedules.  Students have the advantages of face-to-face courses with the flexibility to keep work and other life commitments.

Face-to-Face: Courses typically meet during weekdays on the UW-Madison Campus.

Hybrid: These programs combine face-to-face and online learning formats.  Contact the program for more specific information.

Online: These programs are offered 100% online.  Some programs may require an on-campus orientation or residency experience, but the courses will be facilitated in an online format.

Curricular Requirements

Minimum Credit Requirement 36 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 16 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 18 credits must be graduate-level coursework. Refer to the Graduate School: Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement policy:
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
Refer to the Graduate School: Grade Point Average (GPA) Requirement policy:
Other Grade Requirements No other grade requirements.
Assessments and Examinations Students must demonstrate their competency in the theories, methods, applications, and ethics of their chosen specialty within the multidisciplinary field of landscape architecture through the writing and defense of a thesis.
Language Requirements None.

Required Courses

Students pursue either a focus area in community-focused design or restoration ecology and ecological design. All students in the MS in Landscape Architecture program complete a common core, while additional courses within their focus area are chosen in consultation with their advisor and advisory committee. 

Common Core (all students complete)

LAND ARC 710 Theories of Landscape Change2
LAND ARC 720 Critical Inquiry into Landscape Design Expression2
LAND ARC 740 Research in Landscape Architecture 13
LAND ARC 940 Graduate Seminar 23
LAND ARC 990 Research6
An additional two courses within a focus area that are selected by the student and their advisory committee.6
Supporting courses numbered 300 and above, including independent studies, to bring the total minimum to at least 36 credits.14+
Total Credits36

May substitute a different course in Research Methods if approved by the student's advisor.


Taken over three semesters for 1 credit each time.

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Prior Coursework

Graduate Credits Earned at Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to transfer no more than 9 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. Coursework earned ten or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Undergraduate Credits Earned at Other Institutions or UW-Madison

No credits from other institutions or UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to transfer.

Credits Earned as a Professional Student at UW-Madison (Law, Medicine, Pharmacy, and Veterinary careers)

Refer to the Graduate School: Transfer Credits for Prior Coursework policy.

Credits Earned as a University Special Student at UW–Madison

Refer to the Graduate School: Transfer Credits for Prior Coursework policy.


Refer to the Graduate School: Probation policy.

Advisor / Committee

During the course of your graduate program, you will work closely with a Major Professor and a Faculty Advisory Committee.  They will offer advice and assistance as you work your way through the program and help you to successfully achieve the two degree requirements listed above.  Details can be found in the Graduate Program Handbook (link in Contact Information).

Credits Per Term Allowed

15 credits

Time Limits

Refer to the Graduate School: Time Limits policy.

Grievances and Appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

Students should contact the department chair or program director with questions about grievances. They may also contact the L&S Academic Divisional Associate Deans, the L&S Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning Administration, or the L&S Director of Human Resources.



Professional Development

Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

Learning Outcomes

  1. Engage critically with the scholarship and theory of landscape architecture.
  2. Demonstrate advanced critical thinking and the ability to explore ideas in depth and synthesize information with a high degree of competence.
  3. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of landscape spaces, functions, and dynamics, as well as interactions between people and the built and natural environment.
  4. 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 focus areas: Restoration Ecology and Ecological Design; and Community-Focused Design.
  5. Design and conduct original research, and communicate the results to scholars as well as to practitioners engaged in landscape decision-making and stewardship.
  6. Describe and apply principles of ethical and professional conduct.