January 30, 2013

The Underdog Architecture Student`s Response: Save the Architecture Learning for Graduate School

I recently came across Aaron Betsky’s recent editorial on Architect Magazine, Save the Architecture Learning for Graduate School. In his article, Betsky argues that architectural education should begin at the graduate school level. I have to agree with the article because emerging design trends, like Public Interest Design, requires designers to be more aware and critical of the issues challenging society to respond thoughtfully. I favour the article, as a Canadian, due to the education requirements in becoming a licensed professional in Canada.


All of the undergraduate architecture programs in Canada are 4-year programs, only accepted as a professional education when combined with an accredited 2-year M.Arch.  All of our Canadian architecture schools have phased out their B.Arch programs in the 90s replacing it with  3.5-year M.Arch programs  or the predominant 4 year +2 year M.Arch Programs.

For those who studied architecture and received a Bachelors in Environmental Design,Science, Architectural Science,Environmental Science, etc – we have two options: either hustle and bustle looking for work in a tough job market or invest thousands more to get into an accredited Masters of Architecture program (delaying the time to encounter with the tough job market). Recent  architecture college graduates are competing in a playing field with those holding masters degrees for junior and intern positions. The advantage to employers is that undergraduate degree holders can be paid for less. The disadvantage is that employers know that we have to quit within 1-3 years for graduate school.


I believe that if an undergraduate degree in architecture is not accredited, what is its purpose if many of its graduates will not end up being licensed? Many statistics show a vast majority of college graduates not working in their respective field of study.  In my opinion, architectural education at the undergraduate level should invest  in preparing us to become innovative and creative entrepreneurs - exploring non-traditional modes of design practice along with traditional architectural practice.

This credential inflation is forcing many Canadian Architecture students to be extremely focused on being equipped for a traditional field that is drastically evolving in the 21st century and is fully saturated in North American Job markets. I have friends in the US that are currently acquiring or have earned their 5-year B.Arch degree which even allows them to tackle away at their internship requirements during their studies and after graduation. They do not need to invest in graduate school, unless wanting to couple it with another degree from another field to inform and their practice or career to specialize. I personally think this is beneficial to expanding the  profession of architecture. I do not necessarily agree the same fruits can be reaped for an individual that just studies architecture for both their undergraduate and graduate career in college.


This is where I agree with Betsky's point that perhaps an architectural major at the undergraduate level should not be too specialized. He argues that college architecture majors should be teaching students to look and think about the world through the lens of architecture and design. This is analogous to a student of politics, psychology, or economics looking at the world and understanding it using their respective knowledge. Those students use that their thinking capabilities to acquire skills in whatever career path they take after school or even to inform their graduate school specialization. 

Proponents of the architectural education system highly advocate the value of our schooling in lending itself well to many different careers and jobs. Contrary, there are challenges from trying to impress employers from other fields that you should be hired despite lacking the experience and education possessed by other candidates. Many discussions have arisen vouching that architecture schools need to incorporate more courses in the humanities, business, and entrepreneurship to supplement architectural education. But to be totally honest, the 4-year undergraduate architecture program is already a heavy program to handle to the point that many architecture students disregard the non-architecture courses.
My "post-grad phase" has been marked by meeting creative and innovative individuals from other fields. Individuals changing their career path to one they are passionate and talented for. There is a need in architectural education to incorporate other important subjects at the undergraduate level to remain relevant and beneficial to all of its graduates who face a fluctuating job market and changing field. Otherwise, it is probably better to study in another field for undergrad and save the architecture school for graduate school.

Going for a M.Arch - Dive in or wait a little? (PART I)
Going for a M.Arch - Dive in or wait a little? (PART II)
To be (an Architect) or not to be, that is the question...

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