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Master of Landscape Architecture Program Information

3-Year First-Professional MLA Program

The Master of Landscape Architecture Program (MLA) is an accredited three-year professional degree designed for individuals who have completed the bachelor’s degree in a field other than landscape architecture. The program offers a studio-based curriculum integrating design, ecology, fabrication, and representation. Emphasis is given to developing mastery of design through a series of design studios that investigate a range of landscape scales from sites to regions. The program seeks applicants whose academic and professional interests focus on the civic landscape.

The program is offered through the Washington + Alexandria Architecture Center (WAAC) in Old Town Alexandria, which operates as the metropolitan extension of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies (CAUS) in Blacksburg. Established in 1998, the program’s location within the National Capital Region enables interdisciplinary collaboration with architecture, natural resources, and urban planning programs and contact with myriad public and private cultural and artistic institutions (e.g. American Society of Landscape Architects, the National Building Museum, the American Institute of Architects, the Library of Congress, and the museums of the Smithsonian Institution). For further information contact Laurel McSherry, NCR-MLA program director,


Individuals are admitted to the Master of Landscape Architecture Program on a competitive basis. Applicants who have completed a four-year baccalaureate degree, or its equivalent, are eligible for admission. Applications are reviewed by a faculty committee and evaluated on the basis of previous academic performance, relevant experience, and evidence of potential to successfully pursue graduate-level work in landscape architecture. Preference is given to candidates with high academic standing and whose record reflects a balanced undergraduate education in the arts, sciences, and humanities. Although our students have varied educational backgrounds and experience, college-level courses in the natural sciences, ecology, and the visual arts (e.g., drawing, sculpture, printmaking, and/or basic design) are strongly recommended.

Admission with Advanced Standing

Applicants with previous education in design, a professional undergraduate degree in architecture, or who have substantial equivalent coursework in landscape architecture, environmental design or landscape design may be eligible for admission with advanced standing, subject to the review of the admissions committee. In such cases, a transcript review will be conducted to determine if applicants seeking advanced standing have satisfied the requirements equivalent to foundation coursework up to, but not exceeding, 30 credit hours. Any foundation requirements not satisfied upon enrollment shall be taken in addition to graduate-level directed elective credits.


A minimum of 80 credit hours, typically six terms of full-time study (or its equivalent), is required. For students with advanced standing, this requirement may be reduced to no fewer than four terms. Under special circumstances, students may enroll part-time thereby reducing their course load and extending their studies over a longer period of time.

Requirements for the Award of Degree

Admitted candidates will be recommended for the Master of Landscape Architecture professional degree upon satisfactory completion of a minimum of 80 credit hours including thesis. A typical course of study includes 30 credits hours of Foundation Studies and a minimum of 50 credit hours of MLA Studies. Foundation Studies prepare students to perform at the graduate level and include introductory course work in history, theory, design, technique, and natural systems. Foundation Studies takes nominally two terms to complete. MLA Studies is comprised of a minimum of 50 credit hours and includes a sequence of required studios, core coursework, and directed electives. Studios introduce the thematic interests of the faculty and highlight different approaches to design with respect to inquiry and process. Directed electives, which support the development of a particular area of mastery, may be taken from various areas of study including but not limited to landscape architecture, architecture, visual arts, natural resources, and urban affairs and planning. Graduate Studies culminates with a design thesis directed by a major professor.

Foundation Studies (typical sequence)

  • First Term (14 credit hours)

    Foundation Studio I
    Landscape Architecture Seminar - The Civic Landscape
    Materials Workshop
    Professional Practice
  • Second Term (14 credit hours)

    Foundation Studio II
    Landscape Architecture Technology I
    Natural + Human Systems
    Landscape Architecture Seminar - History

MLA Studies (typical sequence)

  • Third Term (15 credit hours)

    Graduate Design Studio I
    Landscape Architecture Technology II
    Plants Elective
  • Fourth Term (15 credit hours)

    Graduate Design Studio II
    Landscape Architecture Seminar - Scholarship
    Landscape Architecture Technology III
  • Fifth Term (11 credit hours)

    Advanced Landscape Architecture Design Studio
    Thesis Research and Preparation
  • Sixth Term (11 credit hours)

    Thesis Studio

Application Procedures and Admission Requirements

Graduate study in the Master of Landscape Architecture Program typically begins in the fall semester. Beyond the Graduate School academic requirements, applicants to the graduate program in landscape architecture must submit the following:

  • Formal Application

    Virginia Tech requires prospective graduate students to apply online. Candidates should complete and submit their application online, including payment of a non-refundable application fee.
  • Transcripts

    Submit a digital copy with your on-line application. A hard copy will be required if you are accepted into the program. Do not send unless requested. A grade point average of at least 3.0 (4.0 scale) for the last 60 semester credit hours, or equivalent, is required. Applicants whose previous academic performance is deemed deficient (grade point average of 2.75 to 2.99) may be admitted as a “Provisional” student, as described in the University Graduate Catalog.
  • Letters of Recommendation

    Applicants are required to submit three (3) letters of recommendation: at least two from college instructors and, if applicable, one from an employer or other individual knowledgeable about the candidate’s academic record and potential for graduate-level study. Letters from personal acquaintances are not suitable. Applicants who have been out of school for several years may request letters from employers or other persons in a position to evaluate their professional abilities and academic potential, although letters from university instructors are preferred. Referees should utilize the Reference Form provided by the Graduate School. Letters of recommendation are to be submitted on-line. .
  • Statement of Intent or Statement of Academic and Professional Goals

    Candidates must submit a written statement that addresses their background as it relates to their academic and professional interest in landscape architecture, motivation for graduate study at Virginia Tech and, if applicable, any areas of potential specialization. The statement of intent is part of the supplemental materials required on the Graduate School online application and a critical component of the application package. The Graduate Committee relies heavily on the statement in determining a candidate’s academic potential and the fit between their educational intentions and the program focus. Applicants should limit their responses to 1,000 words.
  • Personally Authored Exhibit/Portfolio

    Candidates for admission to the MLA program must demonstrate an aptitude for design and/or creative works beyond the academic transcript. A personally authored exhibit/portfolio of visual and written material is required. A single PDF of a candidate’s portfolio (11” × 17” pages or smaller, 250 dpi minimum, and 12 pages maximum), shall be uploaded as part of the on-line application. All portfolios must be digital. and submitted as part of the on-line application. Students requesting review for advanced standing should include this request in their statement of Academic and Professional Goals (also referred to as Statement of Purpose) and describe their past educational and/or work experience related to the study of landscape architecture. More information may be requested during the application review process.
  • Additional Requirements for International Candidates

    The Graduate School requires official test scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and TOEFL or IELTS for all international applicants. Minimum TOEFL scores for applicants to the Landscape Architecture Program are: 600 (paper-based), or an equivalent score on the internet-based (IBT) or computer-based (CBT) tests. The minimum IELTS score is 6.5. In addition, transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a certified English translation. All international applicants should also refer to the Virginia Tech Graduate School website concerning additional admission requirements.

Application Deadlines

Application deadlines for fall and spring admission are February 15th and December 1st, respectively. International students please note: the deadline for consideration for spring admission is September 1st. It is the responsibility of each candidate to ensure completed applications and supporting materials are uploaded through the on-line University Graduate School application by the posted deadlines. Applications received after posted deadlines will be considered only on a space available basis.

    Landscape Architecture Graduate Admissions
    School of Architecture + Design
    121 Burruss Hall - 0190
    Virginia Tech
    Blacksburg, VA 24061

    fax: 540.231.9877
    phone: 540.231.5583

When all required materials are uploaded, the application is forwarded to the Graduate Committee for review and recommendation to the Graduate School. The Graduate School notifies applicants by mail after review of the Program’s recommendation regarding admission.


Faculty and students at Virginia Tech are available to talk with prospective applicants, provide tours of facilities, and answer questions about the MLA program so that applicants may determine whether the program is appropriate to their educational goals. Although an interview is not required as part of the application process, we encourage applicants to visit the Washington + Alexandria Architecture Center. Candidates wishing to schedule a visit to the WAAC should contact Program Director Laurel McSherry by email at or via telephone at 703.706.3013. Applicants are asked to consult the Virginia Tech calendar to avoid requesting a visit during the first and last two weeks of each semester.

Computer Requirement

All incoming students in the Master of Landscape Architecture program are required to have a personal computer. Please see the Landscape Architecture Program computer requirement web page. No student will be denied admission to Virginia Tech based on an inability to purchase a computer. Graduate students on financial aid may include their computer purchases in their cost of attendance.

Internship Opportunities

The Landscape Architecture Program recognizes the value of professional internships. In addition to supplementary income, internships provide an important introduction to the field of landscape architecture. Course schedules at the WAAC are designed to permit student internships during weekday morning hours.

Financial Assistance

Various forms of financial assistance are available to graduate students, including grants by federal agencies, fellowships, and scholarships awarded by corporations, foundations, and professional organizations, as well as low and moderate-interest, federally-insured loans, including subsidized loan programs. Interested students can obtain detailed and updated information directly from the University Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid and The Graduate School. The School of Architecture + Design awards a limited number of graduate assistantships each year. Assistantships are service positions and normally involve providing support to faculty for teaching or research assistance. Assistantships are not normally available to first year students. Note: Virginia Tech does not discriminate against employees, students, or applicants on the basis of age, color, disability, gender, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status. Anyone having questions concerning discrimination or accessibility should contact the Office of Equity and Access.

Dual Degree Programs

Two dual degree programs are available to students in the Master of Landscape Architecture program. The MLA/MURP and the MLA/MNR degrees recognize the fundamental linkage between landscape architecture, urban planning, and natural resources. Each dual degree program requires the completion of core courses in each degree, along with the capstone requirements of each program

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Admission to the Master of Landscape Architecture Program

Q: When are the application deadlines?
A: February 15th (fall admission); December 1st (spring admission, except for international students); September 1st (spring admission, international students). All required application materials, including transcripts, must be received by the application deadlines.

Q: What is the mailing address to send reference letters and one copy of the official transcript?
A: Reference letters are submitted on-line only. An official paper copy of your transcript is only required if you are accepted into the program. Do not send until requested.

Q: Do you accept applications for the Spring semester?
A: Due to our sequence of course offerings, we usually do not admit for the Spring semester. Exceptions would have to be made by the Landscape Architecture Program Director.

Q: How do I apply for an assistantship?
A: You are considered for an assistantship when your application for admission is reviewed. Typically, first-year students are not eligible for assistantships.

Q: What is the portfolio format requirement?
A: Portfolios should be 11” × 17” maximum or 8½” x 11” minimum single pdf. Hard copy portfolios will not be accepted.

Q: Is the Graduate Record Examination required for admission to the MLA program?
A: Only international students are required to submit GRE scores.

Q: Is the IELTS accepted in place of the TOEFL?
A: Yes the IELTS may be substituted for the TOEFL. The minimum acceptable IELTS score is 6.5.

Contact Information

For more information contact Program Director Laurel McSherry at For more answers to frequently asked admissions questions, please see the Graduate School Applications Web Page. See also VT National Capitol Region and Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center.

Selected Thesis Work