Doctoring the Profession
PhDs in landscape architecture are on the rise. What universities
offer these degrees? How will they affect the way the discipline
is taught? The first-ever survey of doctoral programs provides some
By Lolly Tai, ASLA
The doctor of philosophy degree is a relatively new phenomenon
in landscape architecture. While the terminal degree in most fields
has been the PhD, in landscape architecture it has been the MLA.
More recently, however, the doctorate has become a requirement for
many teaching jobs in landscape architecture, too. Pursuing an advanced
degree demands a monumental amount of motivation, perseverance,
stamina, and sacrifice, but academics and researchers agree that
the PhD is needed if they are to attain an equal footing with peers
in other disciplines.
The degree was first offered in such pioneering programs as those
at the University of Michigan (1939), Harvard University (1942),
and the University of Newcastle, UK (1949). During the late 1980s
and 1990s, PhDs in landscape architecture began to surface in other
institutions in the United States and abroad. Today, while the number
of programs has grown, fewer than a dozen universities offer PhDs
in landscape architecture, according to a study based on 85 Council
of Educators in Landscape Architecture member institutions surveyed
in 2003 with an 86 percent response rate (n = 73).
So which schools now offer PhDs, and how do candidates choose among
them? How will landscape architects benefit from the degree, and
how will the degree benefit the profession?
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