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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 answers.
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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