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Architecture is more than just designing beautiful buildings; it’s a conceptual discipline focused on problem solving. In an architecture graduate program, students learn its history and receive theoretical training, as well as develop analytical thinking skills and the ability to overcome various structural and design challenges.

Architects have an understanding not only of design and construction, but also of the cultural and social dynamics of the areas in which they work. To be successful, they must also have knowledge of the historical and structural needs of the communities where their buildings will be developed.

Architecture students spend time focusing on building technologies, environmental sciences, architectural principals, designs, materials and methods. Beyond required theory and skills courses, students are allowed to choose a concentration that may include architectural histories, building technologies, environmental sciences, urban studies, computer graphics, urban landscapes and urban designs. Much of a student’s time will be spent working in the studio—designing projects, drafting plans, and building models. As part of a graduate program, student work will be critiqued and evaluated at various stages. Student and faculty critiques are considered an invaluable part of the learning environment.

Degree Information

A master’s degree program in architecture will usually take one to three years depending on an applicant’s undergraduate degree. Applicants with a five-year bachelor’s degree in architecture (B.Arch.) will typically complete the degree in one to two years. Alternatively, applicants without an undergraduate degree specifically in architecture can complete the requirements for a master’s degree in Architecture (M.Arch.) in three or more years. In some instances, applicants who have earned a four-year pre-professional bachelor’s degree with a major in architecture can reduce the length of time spent earning a master’s degree.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • Who are the faculty members and what projects have they worked on (often, the architectural style of a school’s dean can dramatically impact the style of its students)?
  • What sort of access do you have to faculty members, especially any big names?
  • What about the students? Where are they from? What are they doing?
  • What about the alumni? Have they stayed local? Do they support the school once they’ve left?
  • What sort of assistantships, grants, and other financial aid opportunities are available?

Career Overview

Architects design buildings, but they also design public monuments, parks, and other spaces not always associated with architects. Many of the best known buildings and spaces are a result of competitions, in which architects and studios from all over submit designs and models for large-scale projects.

Of course, not all architects get to work on cutting-edge projects such as these and the life of a new architect can be spent laboring over drafting projects for someone else’s design, but still, a career in architecture offers a unique mix of art, craft, and technology/engineering. In recent years, the use of CAD (Computer Aided Design) has changed the practice of architecture immeasurably.

In addition to designing the look and feel of a building, architects must also make sure the building is structurally sound, safe, functional, and economical. Though the vast majority of architects work at a firm, a growing number work independently. Some architects choose to specialize in a particular type of building, such as a hospital.

Career/Licensing Requirements

Most state registration boards in the U.S. require an accredited professional degree as a prerequisite for licensure. The National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) is the accrediting body for professional degree programs in architecture. The NAAB recognizes two degrees: the Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) and the Master of Architecture (M.Arch.). A pre-professional undergraduate degree in architecture (B.A. or B.S. in Architecture) is not an accredited degree on its own.

Salary Information

In 2000, the median salary was approximately $52,500, although well-known architects can earn significantly more for large-scale or high-profile projects.

Related Links

American Institute of Architecture
News, conferences, education, government affairs and everything else an architect should know from the American Institute of Architects.

Association of Women in Architecture
The Association of Women in Architecture offers scholarships, program information, events and support for women in the field.

National Council on Architectural Registration Boards
The National Council on Architectural Registration Boards recommends standards for the practice of architecture and safeguards the public interest.