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 scholarship in urban, rural, or natural settings, by writing a thesis that either:

  1. Addresses an original research question, or 
  2. Creates an evidence-based design, restoration, planning or management solution for a complex landscape problem. 

Each thesis contributes to the scholarly foundation of the field of landscape architecture and/or provides information to practitioners engaged in landscape decision-making and stewardship.

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 Ph.D. programs in related fields to continue working in research and education, or in planning, policy, and environmental law.

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 in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

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. 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). Scores are also acceptable from the Michigan English Language Assessment Battery (MELAB) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

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


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

Mode of Instruction Definitions


Minimum Credit Requirement 36 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 16 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement Half of degree coursework must be completed graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide (
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
Other Grade Requirements The Graduate School requires an average grade of B or better in all coursework (300 or above, not including research credits) taken as a graduate student unless conditions for probationary status require higher grades. Grades of Incomplete are considered to be unsatisfactory if they are not removed during the next enrolled semester.
Assessments and Examinations Contact the program for information on required assessments and examinations.
Language Requirements Contact the program for information on any language requirements.

Required COURSES

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

Graduate Core (All Students Take)

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 21
LAND ARC 940 Graduate Seminar 21
LAND ARC 940 Graduate Seminar 21
An additional two courses within a focus area that are selected by the student and their advisory committee.6
At least 6 credits of Research.6+
Supporting courses, including independent studies, to bring the total minimum to at least 30 credits.8+
Total Credits30

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 Work from Other Institutions

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

UW–Madison Undergraduate

No credits from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the graduate degree.

UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 15 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken as a UW–Madison Special student. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.


The Graduate School regularly reviews the record of any student who earned grades of BC, C, D, F, or Incomplete in a graduate course (300 or above), or grade of U in research credits. This review could result in academic probation with a hold on future enrollment or in being suspended from the Graduate School.


Every graduate student is required to have an advisor. To ensure they are making satisfactory progress toward a degree, the Graduate School expects that students meet with their advisor on a regular basis.

An advisor generally serves as the thesis advisor. In many cases, an advisor is assigned to incoming students. Students can be suspended from the Graduate School if they do not have an advisor. An advisor is a faculty member, or sometimes a committee, from the major department responsible for providing advice regarding graduate studies.

A committee often accomplishes advising for the students in the early stages of their studies.


15 credits

Time Constraints

Master’s degree students who have been absent for five or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence. Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.

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.



Graduate School Resources

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

  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 and Urban Studies.
  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.