Master of Landscape Architecture, 3-Year First-Professional Degree

MLA, LAAB-Accredited

program distinctions

  • a commitment to rigorous scholarship in landscape architecture, respecting both disciplinary heritage and innovation
  • a teaching and learning environment that encourages interdisciplinary collaboration across fields
  • a personalized studio environment promoting a faculty/student ratio of 1:12
  • a distinguished design and research faculty, accessible to students and devoted to their work
  • a supportive, engaged, and inclusive student body, drawn from a broad range of backgrounds, experiences, and demographics
  • a vibrant and human-scaled academic and residential experience, fostering interaction, collaboration, and attachment
  • a talented, motivated, and highly successful alumni community who are leaders in the field

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The Master of Landscape Architecture program includes an accredited three-year professional degree program that prepares students for the field and practice of landscape architecture. This three year degree program emphasizes the mastery of design through disciplinary and interdisciplinary studios that investigate the broad range of landscape scales and provide an intellectual base of knowledge in history, theory, and technology.

The MLA Program at Virginia Tech was established at the Blacksburg campus in 1979.​


The MLA curriculum consists of two parts: Qualifying Studies and MLA Studies. All first-year students are required to complete a slate of qualifying courses. Qualifying Studies prepare students to study at the graduate level by providing a grounding in landscape architecture history and theory; basic design, technical knowledge, and skills; and natural and human systems as they relate to landscape planning and design. For most students, Qualifying Studies comprise one academic year and 30 credits of course work. Qualifying Studies are followed by a minimum of 50 credit hours of graduate-level coursework, MLA Studies, which include general landscape architecture courses and electives pertaining to an area of focus selected by the student.


Student advising in the MLA program occurs in two phases. First-year students are advised by the program director. After the first 18 credit hours of study, each student then chooses a major professor from among the LAR faculty. Once selected, a student’s major professor serves as their principal advisor.


Each student creates a Plan of Study with the major professor’s assistance. The Plan of Study demonstrates the evolution of a focus inquiry which the student will develop through graduate and qualifying coursework. Typically, courses included in the Plan of Study relate both to professional skills and knowledge and to the student’s identified area of research interest. The Plan of Study is organized into three sections: graduate courses (MLA Studies), supporting courses, and qualifying courses (Qualifying Studies). Supporting courses are generally courses not offered for graduate credit but those that the student and major professor have identified as being necessary to round out the graduate plan of study. Qualifying coursework includes courses that provide the basic foundation for pursuit of graduate level studies in landscape architecture. The Plan of Study must be approved by the major professor, the program chair, and the Graduate School.


Two simultaneous degree options are available to students in the MLA program: the simultaneous Master of Landscape Architecture/Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MLA/MURP) and the simultaneous Master of Landscape Architecture/Master of Natural Resources (MLA/MNR). The MLA/MURP program recognizes the fundamental linkage between planning and design of the natural environment as impacted by humans. This simultaneous degree requires a minimum of 86 credit hours including 62 hours of MLA Studies and 27 hours of MURP studies. The MLA/MNR program recognizes the linkage between landscape architecture and natural resources and includes core courses from both the MLA and MNR degrees, along with the capstone requirements of both. Some flexibility is accorded to simultaneous degree students in the form of individualized Plans of Study.


MLA faculty and students are substantially involved with the ASLA at both the local and national level. Students are encouraged to attend ASLA meetings and other professional seminars to increase their contact with practitioners.


The first-professional MLA degree requires six studios. These studios train students to think and act as informed and responsible designers, rather than simply teaching “how to solve” design problems. With each successive studio, students become increasingly responsible for setting limits and self-directing their design work. The sequence culminates in the final year with thesis studio. Note: the program requires a minimum studio grade of B- as a demonstration of successful progress for advancement in the studio sequence.


Each student, in cooperation with their major professor, will select free elective coursework to complement or expand the required professional coursework and serve as a vehicle for developing certain dimensions of professional competence. Elective coursework serves as an opportunity to develop a conceptual and theoretical base supporting one’s expertise in a selected area of landscape architecture. Electives of this nature relate to and culminate in the thesis project.


The MLA program requires a minimum of 9 credit hours of tectonics. Tectonics courses teach students to apply technical knowledge to problems and conditions characteristic of landscape architecture practice.


Individuals are admitted 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. Our current students have varied educational backgrounds and experience.


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.


Graduate study in the Master of Landscape Architecture Program typically begins in the fall semester. In addition to fulfilling the admissions requirements of the Virginia Tech Graduate School, program applicants 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 online application. A hard copy will be required if you are accepted into the program. A grade point average of at least 3.0 (4.0 scale) for the last 60 semester credit hours, or equivalent, is required. Otherwise qualified applicants whose previous academic performance resulted in a GPA between 2.75 to 2.99 may be admitted under provisional status, as described in the University Graduate Catalog.

Letters of Recommendation: Applicants are required to submit three 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 submit letters online using the form provided by the Graduate School application system.

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 the Virginia Tech, and, if applicable, any areas of potential specialization. Statements from individuals applying for advanced standing should be indicated as such. The Graduate Admissions 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 seeking admission to the first-professional MLA program must demonstrate an aptitude for design and/or creative work beyond the academic transcript. A personally authored digital exhibit/portfolio of visual and written material is required (8-page maximum PDF at a minimum of 250 dpi) and should be uploaded as part of the on-line application.

Additional Requirements for Students Seeking Advanced Standing: Portfolios from applicants seeking advanced standing in the three-year, first-professional MLA program must include representative academic and/or professional design work, and other work in the visual arts (e.g., drawing, painting, sculpture, photography) which demonstrates their ability to pursue study at an advanced level. Applicants from graduate-level design programs must include examples demonstrating the acquisition of skills in design, freehand drawing, site analysis, site engineering, and digital representations. It is the candidate’s responsibility to provide context for each item submitted (e.g., project description; academic, professional, personal).

​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 MLA applicants are: 600 (paper-based) or 90 (internet- or computer-based). The minimum IELTS score is 6.5. In addition, transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a certified English translation. Learn more about applying to Virginia Tech as an international student at the VT Graduate School website.


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

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