What you can learn in a master's program in architecture

  • Architecture graduate students can take studio courses to improve their skills in creating and drafting.
    Architecture graduate students can take studio courses to improve their skills in creating and drafting.

    What you can learn in a master's program in architecture

    So you want to be an architect? This rewarding career path is the right choice for those who are drawn to the crafts of designing and building. You aren’t alone with your passion for the subject — and because this career path is desirable, it’s relatively competitive. To stand out from the competition and improve your understanding of the practice, you might consider a master’s degree in architecture.

    Even though you may not be required to have a master’s degree to become an architect, many organizations will only consider candidates with the higher understanding of the field gained through advanced study of the topic. In addition, about two-thirds of states require architects to have a degree that is accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board, as per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means if you want to become an architect but did not earn your bachelor’s degree in this field, you will need to go back to school to be able to practice in a majority of U.S. states. Even if you earned your undergraduate degree in architecture, you can increase your salary potential and career prospects by furthering your education in the subject.

    Are you thinking about pursuing an architecture master’s degree? Maybe you’d like to learn some new skills in the craft or earn accreditation to kick-start your career. Read on to find out more about the value you can gain from an advanced degree in architecture.

    Common required courses in architecture

    A master’s degree in architecture isn’t just about the prestige. You have the opportunity to gain vast amounts of insight on philosophical approaches to architecture as well as master the practical tasks and technologies modern professionals use in the drafting and construction of buildings and structures. Here are just a handful of courses you can expect to take in a practical-lecture hybrid program:

    Studio element: Many architecture master’s programs require students to complete a number of studio sessions. These design-based academic settings work to immerse future architects in the creative process of formulating their ideas. Students work firsthand on various tasks, all while communicating with their peers to seek ideas for improvement.

    Architectural history: Most — but not all — architecture programs have a historical component that serves the purpose of educating students on architectural techniques that were formed and popularized during various centuries in certain regions of the world. For instance, University of Massachusetts Amherst offers a 19th century architecture lecture-style course that analyzes the practice in Europe and North America from 1750 to 1914. Along with understanding the various building and artistic styles, UMass architecture students investigate the social, economic and political forces that led to different movements.

    Urban design: Plenty of graduate schools’ architecture programs specialize in designing structures in urban settings. Whether you are required to take this course or opt to take it as an elective, you will gain invaluable insight about bringing cities to life with new structures, while adhering to pedestrian zones, accessibility and sustainability codes. University of California, Los Angeles has an entire Architecture and Urban Design department that focuses specifically on architectural techniques in city settings.

    What you can gain from a master’s program in architecture

    There are plenty of ways an advanced degree can improve your abilities as an architect, many of which don’t appear directly in the course descriptions. Here are some value-adds you may not have considered before:

    • Expertise in architectural technologies. Whether or not you have prior experience in the field, advanced degree programs can introduce you to new tools and technologies you’ve never used before. Having a working knowledge of various architecture programs and platforms can improve the quality of the structures you draft throughout your career.
    • Networking opportunities. In today’s workforce, your skills alone may not be enough to get hired. Oftentimes, it’s about who you know. When you pursue a master’s degree in architecture, you have the opportunity to collaborate closely with peers and staff members, building working relationships and life-long recommendations.

    Finding the right architecture program

    When you’re on the hunt for the best accredited master’s program in Architecture & Related Programs, there are several factors to consider. No two programs are exactly the same, especially in a field as varied and universal as architecture.

    First, you should consider the format of your desired program. Perhaps you’d like to get your master’s degree online while working a full-time job. Or maybe you’d prefer to attend classes on campus. You might even be eyeing some residency programs, which invite students to live on campus and oftentimes work for the college, typically as a teaching assistant or researcher.

    You might also decide to pursue a specific field of architecture. Plenty of schools have broad, all-encompassing architecture programs that cover all the bases. Others have programs that relate directly to a certain discipline of architecture. Some schools even allow students to tailor their own master’s education in architecture.

    Whether you know exactly what you want from a program or not, make sure you do some research on various graduate schools. It’s important to compare and contrast different architecture master’s degree tracks before making your final decision, as every school offers different opportunities and focuses for its students.

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