October 09, 2012

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

In our second installation, this is the continuation of our previous post on whether you should dive in to grad school or just give it some time. Note that this is based for students with a pre-professional undergraduate degree in architecture that do not hold an accredited Bachelors of Architecture degree. In Canada, all 11 architecture schools hold an accredited Masters of Architecture and some holding an undergrad degree to prepare it's students. The B.Arch programs of some Canadian Schools have been phased out in the 1990s, inflating the credentials required to become a licensed architect in Canada. This time, we're looking at the good and bad of waiting for Graduate Studies after your undergraduate degree in Architecture! I'm more geared to this scenario, cause falling back meant a few extra years of tuition and I am not sure what I want to do, and when I go to grad school, I want to be confident in my abilities as well as what I want to do with my career.


  • Maturity. I heard from some professors that if you get some time off of school to see the realities of the profession and the construction industry, and when you come into Masters, you are much more informed about architecture and that gives you some teeth in the work that you will do for studio and for thesis. The skills you receive from the workplace will help you out in the way you manage and work in school - there is maturity, work ethic, and a real sense of what it's like in the working world.
  • Confident in what you want to specialize. I was also walking around the Lower East Side with my friend and his colleague in his architecture firm, and they both encouraged me to focus on getting a job first because you want to know what you are getting yourself into. You don`t even know if this is a field you will like or if you have other career interests, you need work experience to inform you of who you are, what you are good at, and what you are truly passionate about. Working in the field and getting experience can serve litmus and compatibility test whether you really want this career or not. I was at a grad school fair last week listening in on a question-answer period with admissions counselors. One made a good point - writing your statement of intent should be easy - you should be able to succinctly define what you want to study and specialize, who you want to study with, how this school will benefit from accepting you and why that school will take you to where you want with your career. If you are not sure and are wondering these things for a long time, you're probably not ready. 


  • Time. Might feel slow, stagnant. The process is going to take a longer time, you might be working with low pay as a recent undergrad. However, architecture is known for being a profession that doesn't make alot of money, takes a long amount of time to hit your peak, and is really a profession for those who are truly passionate and persistent to architecture.
  • Lose creative drive and technical skills. If you stay out in the field long enough, you might lose your creative drive and even some technical skills - especially if you end up working in a firm where you are just focusing on one skill, like CAD.
  • Lack of loose and free creative thought. - For lack of a better word. I was talking to a friend (she jumped directly into grad school from undergrad) who’s completing her master’s degree in architecture, and she was mentioning to me how she noticed the maturity in those students in her year that took a break and came back to school for masters. She said that as matured they are, they tend to lack the innovative, imaginative and conceptual mode of thinking, analogous to an undergrad as a 5yr old who doesn’t know the boundaries and pushes creativity more easily or freely, while the adult knows the boundaries and is more conservative in their approach to thinking and design.
  • Harder to shift the gear back into school-mode. The more you work the more commitments and responsibilities are bound to you in a project. Instead of being a broke student, you have tasted the life of making money and affording many things. Who wouldn’t love a life working and getting money to meet your needs and wants? Architecture school is highly intensive, and I have seen a number of architecture program websites telling students to not work during their time as students. You have to be willing to dig deep if you want take a break and go back to school. I remember my instructor from a Digital Modelling class - I saw him at a career fair representing his firm and he told me that it was hard, but he waited 3 years before going back for Masters, he found it much more easier and his performance much more stronger.

Ultimately from these entries on diving into grad school - it is really about whether you know what you want out of your career and confident of where you want to go. It should not be done because you feel obliged - you need to make sure it`s ultimately right for you.

Underdog Architecture Student is curious, what was your decision to wait a few years before Grad School? Good or bad? What would you tell others reading this blog? Please comment below.

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

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