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Top 10 Masters of Architecture Programs in the US

Black Spectacles takes a closer look at the top 10 best architecture schools in the US for Master of Architecture (M.Arch) graduate degrees.

There are several routes you can take in pursuing a Masters of Architecture (M.Arch), and it could take anywhere from one to five years to complete. The good news is, you don’t have to have an undergraduate degree in architecture to excel in any of these programs, and if you do happen to hold an architecture degree, in most cases you can jump the line and shorten your program. To aid in your pursuit, we’ve highlighted DesignIntelligence’s Top 10 M.Arch Programs to help you narrow your graduate school search. 

It's important to note that while all 10 of the following schools are accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), not all of the programs within these schools are accredited. Make sure to read all the fine print before committing to any one program so you can make sure you're choosing the right one.

Top 10 Masters Programs 

1. Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Department of Architecture

Location: Cambridge, MA
Degree options: M.Arch I is for students who already have a bachelor’s degree that is not in a design profession, or students with a pre-professional undergraduate major in one of the design professions. M.Arch II is for students who have finished their five-year B.Arch degree.

What makes it great: The Harvard Graduate School of Design offers several prestigious fellowships, prizes, and travel programs for its grad students.

2. Columbia University, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation

Location: New York, NY
Degree options: Columbia’s M.Arch program lasts three years and is open to students with a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. If you didn’t study architecture in your undergrad, you have to take a course in architectural graphic presentation before you can sign up for the M.Arch program.

What makes it great: Being located in New York City, the school attracts some of the best professors and guest lecturers in the country.

3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, School of Architecture

Location: Cambridge, MA
Degree options: Those who have not yet studied in a department of architecture and are admitted to MArch at Year 1 require three and a half academic years of residency to fulfill the degree requirements. Students who have graduated with a four-year architectural design bachelor’s degree at an accredited architectural school can be considered for advanced entry to Year 2, subject to compatibility with the Year 1 curriculum and an acceptable design portfolio.

What makes it great: MIT’s School of Architecture is the oldest in the country. Its alumni include greats like Louis Sullivan and I.M.Pei. Students get the opportunity to study in state-of-the-art facilities at a school where technology and innovation are key.

4. Yale University, School of Architecture

Location: New Haven, CT
Degree options: M.Arch I is a three-year program for students who have a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts (B.A., B.S.). M.Arch II is a two-year program for students who have a B.Arch degree and want to take their architectural studies to the next level with a master’s program.

What makes it great: Their weekly lecture series brings in national and internationally known architects and scholars, and the events are free. They also offer amazing travel opportunities for their students.

5. Cornell University, Department of Architecture

Location: Ithaca, NY
Degree options: M.Arch is a three-and-a-half-year program that is open to students who have achieved a bachelor’s degree in any discipline. The Advanced Architectural Design (AAD) program (formerly the post-professional Master of Architecture, or M.Arch.II, program) offers an M.S. degree and is open to applicants possessing a bachelor of architecture (B.Arch.) or professional master of architecture (M.Arch.) degree or the international equivalent.

What makes it great: This M.Arch. program is now designated as a STEM program in Architectural and Building Sciences/Technology (CIP code 04.0902) making international M.Arch. graduates eligible to extend their F-1 visas for up to three years in order to work in the United States.

6. The School of Architecture, Princeton University

Location: Princeton, NJ
Degree options: The typical duration of the professional M.Arch is three years; students with an intensive undergraduate architecture background may be eligible for advanced standing. Those pursuing a post-professional degree have met educational and licensing requirements in the state or county in which the degree was granted, and students typically complete this program in two years.

What makes it great: The graduate school sponsors a Summer Language Program, offering intensive courses in select foreign languages.

7. Rice University, School of Architecture

Location: Houston, TX
Degree options: There is a seven-semester program for students with little to no architecture background or schooling, and a second program which is five semesters long for students with a four-year degree in architecture (from an approved school). Their Present Future Degree is a postgraduate, three-semester, special-topic research course.

What makes it great: They have a facility in Paris and offer the amazing opportunity for graduate students to spend a semester there learning French culture, language, and architectural history.

8. Rhode Island School of Design, Department of Architecture

Location: Providence, RI
Degree options: This is a three-year program, but at the discretion of the admissions committee, students with a bachelor’s degree in architecture could be eligible for their advanced standing track. If you apply to this category, you can expect to finish this degree in two years.

What makes it great: One of the few M.Arch programs in the U.S. that is within a school of art and design, and that influence is reflected in the design-conscious curriculum.

9. University of Pennsylvania, Weitzman School of Design

Location: Philadelphia, PA
Degree options: There are three options for students with varying degrees of architecture study. Students with a bachelor’s degree in a subject other than architecture may be admitted to the program starting in June and are required to complete 31-course units. Those with a B.Arch are admitted to the three-year program and are required to complete 29-course units. Students with a four-year pre-professional degree in architecture may be admitted to the program with one year of advanced standing with 19.5-course units to complete.

What makes it great: Dual degree opportunities are abundant here, where students have access to all 12 prestigious schools at the university.

10. University of California, Berkeley, College of Environmental Design

Location: Berkeley, CA
Degree options: M.Arch Studio One is a one-year program for students who hold a B.Arch degree. The M.Arch Option 2 is a two-year program for students who hold a four-year non-professional degree with a major in architecture. M.Arch Option 3 is a three-year program for students who hold a B.A. or B.S. degree in any field.

What makes it great: You get the chance to learn from an award-winning teaching and research faculty while participating in a theoretical and current development-oriented program.

Choosing the right program for you

There is a program and school out there for everyone, so take the time to find the right one for you! Think about where you've been in your architecture education so far, and what you've enjoyed (or not) about it. This can help you find the program that's best aligned with your interests and career goals. Good luck! 


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