University of Southern California
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Graduate Programs

The school offers interrelated graduate programs in architecture, landscape architecture, building science and historic preservation as well as two dual degree programs with the School of Policy, Planning, and Development.

Admission to Graduate Programs

Credentials for admission must include a complete record of all previous college or university work. The applicant must request the registrar of each college or university attended to forward two official transcripts of record directly to the Office of Admission.

Priority for admission and financial aid is given to applications that are complete by February 1.

Following are the basic requirements for admission to the graduate programs:

  1. the appropriate degree from an accredited college or university;
  2. satisfactory scores on the verbal, analytical and quantitative portions of the aptitude test of the Graduate Record Examinations;
  3. intellectual promise and clear study intentions that indicate an ability to do acceptable graduate work;
  4. a portfolio of design work*;
  5. strong personal qualifications

All students must speak and write English. Foreign students must demonstrate such ability by taking the TOEFL test before leaving their home countries, and, if necessary, by further tests upon arrival on campus.

International students may be required to enroll in American Language Institute (ALI) English courses, based on scores on the English Placement Tests. The cost of these additional courses is the responsibility of the student. In addition, international students should be aware that they may have to defer enrollment in some major courses because of the ALI courses, extending the number of semesters required to complete the program and increasing the overall tuition expense. International students are urged to read with care all information sent to them about English requirements and to take as many English language courses as possible prior to coming to the United States.

*The Master of Building Science and Master of Historic Preservation programs accept computer programs, papers and other work as portfolio work.

Correspondence with the dean or individual faculty members does not constitute admission to the Graduate School or to the School of Architecture. Only a letter from the Director of Admissions grants official admission.

Graduate Program Policies

Graduate students are expected to complete between 12 and 16 units per semester, spring and fall, depending on the program in which they are enrolled.

A minimum grade of C (2.0) is required in a course to receive graduate credit. A grade point average of at least B (3.0) on all units attempted at USC toward a graduate degree is required for graduation. Course work taken on a pass/no pass basis cannot be applied toward a graduate degree. If a student does not meet these minimum grades the faculty member should meet with the student to provide timely advisory reviews.

Failure to complete program course work on schedule will result in the loss of financial awards from the School of Architecture and/or may result in suspension from the program upon recommendation from the program director and approval by the Dean of the School of Architecture and the Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Programs. Additional semesters may be taken to complete the thesis or directed design research when appropriate.

All appeals will be reviewed initially by the director(s) of the appropriate graduate program and then by a committee consisting of all graduate program directors (with the exception that design courses will be reviewed by the design review committee). Their recommendation(s) will be forwarded to the dean for consideration and action, and then forwarded to the Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Programs. All communications must be in writing.

Certificate in Building Science

Building science at USC recognizes that exemplary architecture requires a creative response to natural forces, based on informed good judgment in the areas of architectural technology. The Certificate in Building Science is intended as a supplementary credential for students enrolled in graduate course work in architecture, landscape architecture, historic preservation, urban planning or related disciplines, and also for practicing design and planning professionals with undergraduate or graduate degrees and related experience.

Course Requirements
Completion of the certificate requires a minimum of 16 units. Students must take three core courses. Electives in building science may be taken to complete the program requirements.

required coursesUnits
Choose three of the following six courses:
ARCH 511Building Systems, or
ARCH 611Advanced Building Systems Integration4
ARCH 513LSeminar: Advanced Structures, or
ARCH 613LSeminar: Structures Research4
ARCH 515L Seminar: Advanced Environmental Systems, or
ARCH 615L Seminar: Environmental Systems Research4
Elective(s) in Building Science4

sample electivesUnits
ARCH 507 Theories of Computer Technology3
ARCH 519 Sustainability in the Environment: Infrastructures, Urban Landscapes, and Buildings3
ARCH 590 Directed Research, or1-12
One from the list of required courses that was not yet selected4

Certificate in Historic Preservation

This program is directed at practicing professionals who wish to obtain an academic credential for their involvement in historic preservation projects and at graduate students who wish to obtain a complementary credential to a degree in architecture, landscape architecture, planning, public art administration, geography, anthropology or other related disciplines.

Course Requirements
Completion of the certificate requires 16 units, including ARCH 549 Fundamentals of Historic Preservation (4), ARCH 553 History of American Architecture and Urbanism (4), and either ARCH 550 Historic Preservation Management, Planning and Development (4) or ARCH 551 Conservation Methods and Materials (4). Students may choose to complete both ARCH 550 and ARCH 551. Elective choices (if needed) must be approved by the program director. Students are encouraged to consider courses within the School of Architecture that are related to their interests, but may also choose courses from other programs within the university.

Certificate in Landscape Architecture Studies

This program is intended to introduce at the graduate level the basic subjects inherent to the field of landscape architecture: plant materials suitable to urban conditions; urban utility and transportation systems in relation to topography, natural drainage and pathways; plant and wildlife communities; as well as inquiries about landscape infrastructure and ecology, and the history of human settlement in the evolution of urban landscapes. Southern California and Los Angeles provide an exceptionally valuable natural and sociocultural laboratory for landscape architecture studies.

Course Requirements
Completion of the certificate program requires a minimum of 16 units. Students must take four core courses and select 5 units of electives from the approved list approved by the director of the graduate landscape architecture program.

Core CoursesUnits
ARCH 531 The Natural Landscape3
ARCH 533 Urban Landscape Case Studies2
ARCH 537Urban Plant Ecology3
ARCH 565 Global History of Landscape Architecture3
Electives, as approved by director5

Sample Electives Units
ARCH 530Landscape Architecture Practice3
ARCH 532Elements of the Urban Landscape2
ARCH 534Landscape Intervention: Construction Methods3
ARCH 535Landscape Reclaimation: Construction Materials3
ARCH 536Landscape Planning Process4
ARCH 538Urban Plant Ecology: California Plant Communities3
ARCH 561 Architecture in the Urban Landscape: Projects and Places 2
ARCH 563 Architecture in the Urban Landscape: Comparative Theories 2
ARCH 566Cross-Cultural Topics in Landscape Architecture History3

Certificate in Urbanism and the Built Environment

The focus of this program is on the architecture and urban environment in cities throughout the world where conditions of increasing density require design initiatives that support amenity, sustainability and cultural meaning. The certificate is open to graduate students not pursuing a Master of Architecture degree.

Course Requirements
Completion of the certificate program requires a minimum of 16 units. Students must take five core courses and select 4 units of electives from the list approved by the director of the graduate architecture program.

Core Courses Units
ARCH 532Elements of the Urban Landscape2
ARCH 533Urban Landscape Case Studies2
ARCH 553History of American Architecture and Urbanism4
ARCH 561Architecture in the Urban Landscape: Projects and Places2
ARCH 563Architecture in the Urban Landscape: Comparative Theories2
Electives as approved by the director4

Sample ElectivesUnits
ARCH 515Seminar: Advanced Environmental Systems4
ARCH 536The Landscape Planning Process 3
ARCH 550 Historic Preservation Management, Planning and Development 4
ARCH 553History of American Architecture and Urbanism4
ARCH 611Advanced Building Systems Integration4

Sustainable Cities Graduate Certificate

This multidisciplinary certificate program is open to USC students pursuing graduate degrees in disciplines including anthropology, architecture, biology, chemistry, communication, earth sciences, economics, education, engineering, geography, international relations, political science, public policy, sociology, urban planning and others. See Interdisciplinary Programs for course requirements.