Whether you’ve already earned a professional degree in architecture and are looking to delve deeper into the discipline or you’re still pursuing a professional education in the field, choosing the right graduate architecture degree program can make all the difference. How do you know which school – and which degree path – makes the most sense for your goals, your educational background, and your financial situation?
Research is the key to making an informed decision, and our list of the top 10 graduate architecture degree programs is the perfect place to start. Every program on our list has received high rankings from industry experts, and each can help you reach your architecture career goals – whatever those goals may be.
1. Harvard University
IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons, public domain
The school that ranked first in the United States on the Greenway Group’s list of the top 10 best graduate architecture schools happens to be an Ivy League institution known nationwide. However, Harvard University isn’t just home to the best graduate architecture degree program in the nation. It also landed the fifth spot on the QS Top 100 Universities in the World for Architecture list, according to Arch Record. Of course, the research university as a whole has been recognized elsewhere, as well. U.S. News & World Report has ranked Harvard University highly in many areas, most notably:
- National universities (2nd in the nation)
- Best value schools (2nd in the nation)
- Best colleges for veterans (2nd in the nation)
- Most innovative schools (tied for 8th place)
- Best global universities
The Harvard University Graduate School of Design offers two graduate degree programs in architecture. The Masters in Architecture I (MARCH I) is a professional degree program for students who have earned a bachelor’s degree in any subject but who haven’t yet completed the professional education requirements for a career as an architect. Students need not have any background in architecture to apply to this program, though some enrollees have completed a pre-professional bachelor’s degree program in architecture or design. Students complete rigorous coursework in subjects such as professional practice, architecture history and theory, technology and the social environment. Hands-on work in the studio helps students master architectural design. In addition to completing a design thesis, students often begin their professional internships while earning their MARCH degree.
For students who have already earned a professional Bachelor’s in Architecture (B.Arch.) degree through a five-year program, the Masters in Architecture II (MARCH II) is the next step to furthering their design skills. This post-professional degree program allows students who are already high achievers in design to cultivate advanced theoretical and analytical skills over two years of full-time study. To earn their degree, students must complete advanced design research through either a graduate thesis or a special “superstudio” experience.
Location: Cambridge, MA
Enrollment: 14,500 graduate and professional students
2. Columbia University
Columbia University in New York isn’t just the second-best (according to Greenway Group) graduate architecture program in the nation. The school as a whole is also among the best national universities (tied for 4th place), best colleges for veterans (again, tied for 4th place), best value schools (6th place) and best global universities (10th place), as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. Columbia University is ranked 11th globally on the QS Top 100 Universities in the World for Architecture list.
Most of the 788 students enrolled in Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation are pursuing a master’s degree, program, such as the Master of Architecture (M.Arch.). This three-year program equips students who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field – or a pre-professional degree in architecture – with the professional education they will need to embark on the career. Throughout their studies, M.Arch. students will explore the concepts and practice of creating architecture, technology, design, visual studies and architectural theory and methods. Students will spend much of their time honing their skills in the design studio, but in the classroom, they will also study the social, historical, cultural, economic and technical factors that influence architecture.
Not every architecture graduate student Columbia University is seeking an M.Arch. degree. The school also offers post-professional degrees for architects who have already completed a professional bachelor’s program. Over three semesters, students can earn a Master of Science degree in Advanced Architectural Design. For students with a strong interest in research in the field of architecture theory and history, the school also offers a Ph.D. program in architecture.
Location: New York, NY
Enrollment: 14,578 graduate and professional students
3. Yale University
Another school to rank on both the Greenway Group’s list of the top 10 best graduate architecture schools and the QS Top 100 Universities in the World for Architecture list is Yale University. The high-achieving Ivy League institution has also earned high rankings from U.S. News & World Report, receiving honors such as:
- 3rd place among national universities
- 3rd place among best value schools
- 3rd place among the best schools for veterans
- 17th place among the best global universities
The Yale School of Architecture offers numerous degree options at the graduate level. For students who have a bachelor’s degree in any subject but don’t yet hold a professional degree in architecture, the Master of Architecture I (M.Arch.1) program teaches the fundamentals and prepares students for a career as a licensed or registered architect over three years of full-time study. Students who already have their professional Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) degree can increase their theoretical knowledge and design skills through the two-year Master of Architecture II (M.Arch.II) program.
The school also offers programs outside the traditional master’s degree options. The non-professional Master of Environmental Design (M.E.D.) program focuses on advanced architectural studies completed through two years of research. A five-year Ph.D. program prepares students for architectural work in capacities such as university teaching, publishing, museum curatorship and cultural advocacy. M.Arch. students can also expand their skills through a joint degree program that combines architectural studies with coursework in business (M.Arch/M.B.A.), environmental management (M.Arch/M.E.M.) or environmental design (M.Arch/M.E.D.).
Location: New Haven, CT
Enrollment: 6,501 graduate and professional students
4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology doesn’t just rank highly on Greenway Group’s top 10 in the nation list. It’s also the best architecture program in the world, according to the QS Top 100 Universities in the World for Architecture list.
Though you might equate MIT more closely with engineering, science and technology than with design, architecture was among the original four departments that made up the school when it was founded in 1861. Today, the department divides the study (and research) of architecture into five distinct disciplines:
- Architectural design
- Building technology
- History, theory and criticism of architecture and art
- Art, Culture, and Technology
MIT’s Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) degree had earned accreditation from the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) as a professional degree program. Design studios make up the focus of the Master of Architecture program. A design thesis and courses in architectural culture, building technology, computation in architecture, sustainability and urban theory rounding out the three-and-a-half years of study typically required to complete the program. Upon graduating, M.Arch. students will have completed the educational requirements necessary to earn a professional license or registration.
The Department of Architecture at MIT also offers specialized graduate programs like the Master of Science in Architecture Studies, Master of Science in Building Technology and Master of Science in Art Culture and Technology. At the doctoral level, students can earn a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Architecture in Building Technology, Computation or the History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art. Certificates and dual degree programs are also available at the graduate level.
Location: Cambridge, MA
Enrollment: 6,807 graduate and professional students
5. Cornell University
Cornell University took fifth place among Greenway Group’s top 10 graduate architecture programs, and it also ranked first among the top 10 undergraduate degrees. You’ll also find this school high on the QS Top 100 Universities in the World for Architecture list, taking the 27th slot.
The Cornell University College of Art, Architecture and Planning offers three degree options at the graduate level. For students who haven’t earned a professional degree in architecture – including those with a pre-professional bachelor’s degree in architecture or those with an undergraduate degree in a different field – there’s the accredited Professional Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) degree. This three-and-a-half year program prepares students to attain licensure or registration as a professional architect in their state through intensive studio work, a design thesis and coursework in subjects like structural concepts, professional practice and architecture history and theory.
Students who have already earned a professional bachelor’s degree, usually through a five-year accredited program, can pursue Cornell’s Post-Professional Master of Architecture (M.Arch.II) degree. This advanced design research program allows students to spend three semesters in intensive interdisciplinary study of a specialized topic such as Architecture and Discourse, Architecture and Ecology or Architecture and Urbanism. The school also offers a Ph.D. program in History of Architecture and Urban Development, for students with an interest in advanced interdisciplinary research.
Location: Ithaca, NY
Enrollment: 7,200 graduate and professional students
6. University of Michigan
IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons, public domain
At the University of Michigan, the graduate architecture program is part of the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. The school offers programs at the master’s and doctoral level. The Master of Architecture degree, accredited by the NAAB, takes two tracks. For students who already have a pre-professional bachelor’s degree in architecture, the program involves two years of intensive studio design work as well as studies in classroom. Students without an architecture background will spend three years in the program, learning the fundamentals of design, construction, structures and the history of architecture. Both tracks require students to complete a thesis project to graduate.
Students whose interests are more closely aligned with research than the practice of creating architecture application can pursue the Master of Science in Architecture Design and Research at the University of Michigan. Over the course of 10 months, the program allows students who already have a professional architecture education to prepare for research and academic positions. Students can choose one of four concentrations:
- Design and Health
- Digital Technologies
- Material Systems
The University of Michigan also boasts one of the oldest Ph.D. in architecture degree programs in the country, dating back to 1968. Students conduct research in long-term projects that can span five to six years or more, focusing on interdisciplinary topics such as structural modeling, urban history and media practices in architecture.
Besides placing 6th among the top 10 graduate architecture programs in the United States, the University of Michigan also made the top half of the QS Top 100 Universities in the World for Architecture list. The school has also appeared on several U.S. News & World Report lists, including best national universities, top public schools, most innovative schools, best colleges for veterans and best global universities.
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Enrollment: 1,791 graduate and professional students
Tuition: $53,404 (in-state)
7. Rice University
IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons, public domain
Like Cornell, Rice University earned the distinction of making both Greenway Group’s top 10 undergraduate and graduate architecture program lists. It has also received recognition from U.S. News & World Report, which ranked it 14th on the list of best value schools, tied for 14th place among the best schools for veterans, tied for the 18th slot among national universities and tied for 89th place among the best global universities.
At the graduate level, Rice University’s architecture programs provide a breadth of knowledge on architectural history, technology and theory. Students will grow their understanding of the discipline of architecture and develop their own expertise in specific areas through completing a thesis design project.
The school offers NAAB-accredited professional master’s degree programs for both students with a pre-professional undergraduate background in the field and for those with no architecture background. Students who have already studied architecture will complete their professional degree requirements in five semesters, while those who are new to the discipline will spend seven semesters in the classroom and the design studio. At the end of either program, graduates will have an education that qualifies them to take professional licensing examinations.
Students can also pursue the Master of Arts in Architecture, a nonprofessional degree, through a post-graduate program called Present Future. This program includes two semesters of special-topic studies at the graduate level.
Location: Houston, TX
Enrollment: 1,500 graduate and professional students
8. University of Pennsylvania
IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons, public domain
The University of Pennsylvania’s graduate architecture program tied for 7th place on the Greenway Group’s top 10 list. It also ranked 35th on the QS 100 Universities in the World for Architecture list. The Philadelphia-based school placed 8th on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the best colleges for veterans, 9th on its list of national universities, 11th on its list of best value schools and 19th on the list of the best global universities.
PennDesign – as the University of Pennsylvania School of Design is affectionately known to students, faculty and the community – offers a few options of study at the graduate level of architecture education. The accredited Master of Architecture degree is a professional program that prepares students to take their state’s licensing exam and succeed in the world of professional architecture. Design studios make up the core of the program, but students also take coursework in a variety of subjects, including:
- History of architecture
- Professional practice
- Theory of architecture
- Visual studies in drawing and new media
To graduate, students must also complete individual research in advanced design studios, leading to a thesis project. While the program typically takes three years, students with a nonprofessional educational background in architecture may be able to complete it in two.
Other graduate-level architecture degree options at the University of Pennsylvania include:
- Master of Science in Design, a three-semester post-professional program
- Master of Science in Architecture, a one-year program for students who already have a professional bachelor’s degree
- Master in Environmental Building Design, a one-year advanced degree for practicing architects
- D. Program in Architecture, which happens to be the oldest in the United States
- More than a dozen dual degree options that pair studies in architecture with degree programs both within and beyond the School of Design
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Enrollment: 11,035 graduate and professional students
9. University of Virginia
At 9th place on Greenway Group’s top 10 graduate architecture programs list is the University of Virginia. U.S. News & World Report recently ranked the public college founded by Thomas Jefferson among the best national universities, top public schools, best value schools, best schools for veterans and best global universities.
The University of Virginia’s professional graduate degree, the Master of Architecture, offers numerous paths from which students can choose, each corresponding to the amount of time it will take to earn the degree.
For students with a pre-professional bachelor’s degree in architecture, Path 2 can provide students with the professional education they need to earn a license and a master’s degree to get ahead in just two years. Path 2.5 exists to allow students with a pre-professional degree but limited design studio experience – such as those who have earned a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture or Environmental Design – to earn their M.Arch. degree in two and a half years. Path 3, for students with an undergraduate degree but no architecture background, teaches the basics of architecture and beyond in a total of three years. For students who aren’t looking for a professional program, there’s Path 1, a one-year option of study that culminates in a Master of Architecture, Design Studies degree.
In addition to its M.Arch. degree, the school also offers graduate-level studies in the following specialized programs:
- Master of Urban and Environmental Planning
- Master of Architectural History
- Master of Landscape Architecture program
- D. in the Constructed Environment
The University of Virginia has the one of the most affordable price tags of any school in the top 10 list, proving that you don’t have to break the bank to get a great graduate-level architecture education from a highly-ranked university.
Location: Charlottesville, VA
Enrollment: 7,249 graduate and professional students
Tuition: $14,244 (in-state); $23,568 (out-of-state)
10. University of California, Berkeley
Another affordable school to make Greenway Group’s top 10 graduate architecture programs list is the University of California at Berkeley. One of the largest schools on the list, with upwards of 10,000 graduate students, UCB also happens to take 4th place on the QS Top 100 Universities in the World for Architecture list. It’s no wonder U.S. News & World Report ranked the institution first in the nation on its top public schools list, also ranking the school highly on its lists of national universities, most innovative schools and best global universities.
The College of Environmental Design at UCB offers both professional and academic master’s degree programs, as well as a Ph.D., in architecture. The Master of Architecture degree is an accredited professional program. Students with no architecture background can earn this degree in three years, while students with a pre-professional architecture degree can earn it in just two. There’s also a one-year post-professional M.Arch. degree option for students who already hold a professional Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.). The final year of study in the M.Arch. program includes either an intensive research studio or an individual thesis project.
UCB’s academic graduate architecture degree program, the Master of Science in Architecture, is a nonprofessional program that allows students to perform advanced research in either Building Science and Sustainability or History, Theory and Society. For students with academic research or university teaching, the Ph.D. program in architecture allows for advanced, interdisciplinary research that coincides with the same concentrations.
Location: Berkley, CA
Enrollment: 10,455 graduate and professional students
Tuition: $13,432 (in-state); $28,534 (out-of-state)
For Further Reading: