October 04, 2012

Going for a M.Arch - Dive in or wait a little? (PART I)

(Addendum: This blog entry is primarily based on the Canadian licensing for architecture students. There are no B.Arch programs offered in Canada, but there are pre-professional undergraduate programs in architecture. To be able to start your internship credits and becoming licensed, it's primarily through the M.Arch programs offered in Canada. The US has a different story, but the pattern is the 4years undergrad + 2years M.Arch formula)

This is an important topic, especially for those architecture students who are clearing away their pre-professional undergraduate architecture degree and would like to pursue their accredited Masters of Architecture degree (I'm focusing on the Canadian, and US streams to licensure). From my weekend getaway to New York City, I was able to talk to a lot of people inside and outside of architecture. At the Future Now Summit, we had a networking luncheon where we got to eat a table with an AIA Fellow who lead the conversation and gave their insights about the profession and advice for students and young professionals working towards licensure. I got to hear from friends and newly made connections about architecture and how to go about ones career. Additionally, in the past few years in university, I got to hear from professors, instructors, and peers their advice on if it is good to dive right into graduate school or just wait a while. Additionally, I was at a grad fair at the University of Toronto last night and was hearing from admissions counsellors their views on graduate school applications.

Graduate school is a big investment and  step. A lot of students, who are getting an undergrad in architecture, not a B.Arch, are considering whether to jump into grad school right away or not. From all these conversations, these are some of the points they consider. This entry, we`re going at the arguments for and against going right away after graduating from undergrad.

Graduate School right away:


  • Going ahead full steam. If you are fully serious that a career in architecture is the right one for you, and you know what you want to focus on and where and what you want to be doing after your degree and perhaps have work experience - why wait?
  • Better Salary. You will get better pay if you are enter the workforce as a graduate student opposed to an undergrad (Apparently, this is the argument I have received from friends. Higher credentials means higher pay. This is particular for Canada, as I cannot say anything about United States) 
  • Fools rush in.
    Grad school is a great commitment and investment to make for your career and future. If you did not work in an architecture firm or get a sense of what practice is, you probably might not know the realities of how your work life will be not knowing if you will like it or not.
  • You might not be ready for a thesis.  I remember my professor talking to me about, what do you want to do? What will you specialize in? Who do you want to study with?  I was still Clueless - I LOVE ARCHITECTURE OVERALL! – I don’t know what I really want out of architecture and grad school I must say. Personally due to not knowing, and costs, I am choosing to go to architecture school again later, when I feel like I know what I want and where I want to go, and I feel that irrationally selecting a specialty in the onset might be the wrong decision. That interest has to resound in your gut, and for some people, it takes time and experience and thought.
  • You might not know what architecture (as a practice and profession) really is and if it's for you.
    You cannot specialize until you see all the phases in the making of architecture from conceptual right through to end result of occupancy. You need that experience – one of the friends I met, Gisela Garrett, (blogger for Bizz And Fizz and Daily Design Idea) and we saw the key panelist discussions at the Future Now Summit. She made a good point that those individuals in the panel who made a unique career path  in architecture  moved forward move because they saw the current way how things are done in the field from start to finish and discovered a missing piece they wanted to focus on and specialize.

These are some of arguments and opinions that I have heard from friends and conferences and fairs. why one should go to grad school. It really comes down to knowing what you want out of the experience, and where you see yourself in the future to determine which graduate school will lead you there as well as help you grow. My high school drafting teacher told me "Do what you love, and money will flow" and I uphold this principle - your heart has to be in it.

Underdog Architecture Student is curious, what was your decision to jump to Grad School right away? Good or bad? What would you tell others reading this blog? Please comment below.

Going for a M.Arch - Dive in or Wait? (PART II)
Traits Architecture Students Must Have
To be (an Architect) or not to be, that is the question...

Gisela Garett has a good post on applying for Grad School as well as how to be a better designer. Check out:
The Best Way to Make Your Application Stand Out
Advice for Young Designers


  1. In terms of the U.S. for salary. Having a grad degree gives you a higher chance to get a job but doesn't necessarily mean a better salary. I.E.: If two people (one under and one grad) both went for a position and the grad gets the job (most of the time it goes that way) they will still get the same salary. It's all based on experience here, and most of the time they will consider M.ARCH as an additional years of experience. There are situations when an under gets the job (B.ARCH = M.ARCH 1; B.ARCH < M.ARCH).

    1. Hi Flecha,

      Thanks for the comment. My blog is from Canada and my audience is predominantly American and Canadian second. In Canada, it's kinda weird since there are no B.Arch programs, just pre-professional architecture bachelor degrees and I feel that this inflation is shown even in pay according to my friend.

      It's good to know how it is in the States for those who are reading this. Thanks bro!