Universities for a Master's in Architecture in the USA

Sep 26, 2019

Similarities exist among Master's in Architecture programs in terms of admission requirements, standard courses, and relevant fieldwork. Prospective students will want to consider geographical location, curriculum, and length of program, as well as the unique classes or experiences each university offers in order to find the best fit for them.

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A master's in architecture program provides coursework, training, and practical experience, which can contribute to better internships and jobs than having only a bachelor's degree would afford. Applicants should select a graduate school that has National Architectural Accrediting Board standing, a necessity for students planning to take the architectural licensing exam. General admission requirements and a selection of MArch programs are presented below.

Standard Admission Requirements

Application requirements for MArch programs are similar among universities. Applicants submit a digital portfolio showing examples of their design work and a personal statement indicating areas of interest and plans for their graduate studies and career. Three reference letters are usually both standard and mandatory. Submitting GRE scores is not always required; however, international applicants must provide TOEFL scores to confirm English language proficiency. A GPA of 3.0 is recommended, but undergraduate coursework and improvement over the college career are considered. Most MArch applicants will have a bachelor's degree in architecture, but students with other majors can apply. However, their degree path may be longer, and they may have to take prerequisites classes such as physics and calculus if they haven't done so.

Distinctive Offerings from Selected MArch Programs

Arizona State University

Arizona State University, located in Tempe, offers a 2-year MArch for students with an undergraduate architecture degree or a 3-plus-year track for those who do not. This program offers a class featuring a past master in architecture as well as a course that envisions the future of design. Because of the proximity to Taliesin West and its own architectural school, a seminar about the practices and theories of Frank Lloyd Wright has been incorporated into the curriculum. The Green Building Practices class examines initiatives to implement sustainable, environmentally conscious design and construction methods. Course completion is a part of the pathway to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.

Iowa State University

Located in Ames, Iowa State University's program requires classes focusing on design in rural and small towns in the Midwest, emphasizing the state of Iowa. Study abroad programs are available on every continent except Antarctica. A second master's degree can be earned concurrently in areas like business administration and urban or sustainable design. The MArch pathway is 3 years, regardless of undergraduate degree.

Northeastern University

Architectural design and planning in a large city involve challenges regarding infrastructure, communication with city administrators, and housing. Students investigate these issues in relation to Boston and develop solutions for the future needs of an urban area. The university offers three MArch tracks: a 1-year path for those with a Bachelor of Science in architecture from Northeastern or those with a BS in architecture from another school who have field experience; a 2-year track for applicants with a BS from another university but no professional architecture work; and a 3-year program for those holding degrees from other majors. Courses offer instruction about interacting with developers, governmental agencies, and architectural firms to plan sustainable housing, parks, and buildings.

Rice University

Architectural studies focus on future design and development on local and global scales; the MArch at Rice University in Houston offers programs toward that effort. One degree path is a 5-semester track for students holding an undergraduate degree in architecture; the other is a 7-semester option for those with a degree from another discipline. The Totalization course emphasizes the necessary collaboration between the architect and those in fields like finance, construction, and landscaping to solve issues that arise during building projects.

University of Florida

Environmental issues resulting from climate change are particularly relevant to Florida. MArch students examine the consequences of rising sea levels, tropical storms, and erosion on planning and design. They also study the effects of increasing population and tourism on Florida's ecology and infrastructure and consider mitigation efforts. The graduate school at the University of Florida's home campus in Gainesville has opened MArch programs in Sarasota and Orlando for those interested in pursuing a degree in the setting of a small or large urban area, respectively. Students' undergraduate training determines their degree path; those with no design or architecture background have a 4-year master's track; those with an architecture bachelor's degree typically need 2 to 3 years to gain a MArch.

University of Maryland, College Park

The university's location provides opportunities for learning about the architecture of different eras, from the historical buildings of Annapolis and Washington, DC, to the planned and revitalized communities in Columbia, Baltimore, and the DC waterfront. This MArch program offers double degrees with urban planning or historical preservation. At the University of Maryland in College Park, students follow a 4- or 7-semester track, depending on whether they have a BS in architecture or not, respectively. As part of the School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, the graduate school curriculum incorporates instruction about architectural history with sustainability and environmentally conscious development concepts. The Integrated Design Studio/Advanced Technological Seminar combines classroom instruction with new technologies to prepare students for a future in design.

Washington State University

A mandatory summer studio allows MArch students to learn and work in an urban area outside of the rurally set Washington State University campus in Pullman. Students are also required to study either in another country, e.g., Tokyo, Copenhagen, or Lisbon, or in a major US city. The mandatory architecture practicum comprises an internship or independent study during which the student explores all planning and designing phases in a real-world setting, such as an architecture firm, and records these experiences. An admissions committee reviews students' design background and undergraduate details to determine their MArch track. Those with a bachelor's in architecture and significant design experience follow a 1-year plus 1 summer path. Tracks of 2 or 3 years (each plus 1 summer semester) are for students with an undergraduate architecture degree who require additional studio work or those with a degree from another major, respectively.

While MArch programs share similar admission requirements, each offers unique experiences or coursework. Time to complete these programs typically ranges from 1 to 4 years.

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