No Master

A peer driven "Master's Degree" study program.

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    #3 Money, money, money.

    Christine Pierron
    Apr 5, '13 7:50 PM EST


    A short post to bolster the argument for the No Master alternative. Money, money, money.


    The overall average state tuition and fees for a master’s in architecture is close to $20,000 a year according to a 2010-11 report prepared by DesignIntelligence. ( And you can spend a whole lot more depending on the school.

    Forbes listed a Master’s degree in architecture in their top 10 worst master’s degrees to get based on salary and employment. (06-08-12).


    And, finally, total college debt is hovering around one trillion, and the unemployment rate for recent architecture grads is just under 14%. (any number of sources – google it).

    None of this is news to anyone in our line of work, but it’s not just a recitation of depressing news we’ve heard before, it’s an indictment of a system that is not meeting some pretty fundamental social expectations. Unless, of course, we are returning to an age of the “Gentleman Architect,” when architecture was an avocation of the wealthy (yes, I know, they weren’t all gentlemen – let me have my screed.)


    Look, I’m not expecting a free education, especially for a master’s degree that really is a personal and professional choice, not a basic requirement as a B.Arch is for becoming an architect (although not absolutely necessary in some states). But there is a failure when the cost is $50,000 or more, but the expected employment increase for the degree is just 16% and the median pay at $77,000. (Forbes article cited above).

    If you are in your twenties this may be a somewhat reasonable investment (if you don’t plan on having kids or owning a home, that is), but older than that, it simply ceases to make any financial sense. When I looked into it a few years ago, the interest on the loans was over 8%, yikes.


    But we live in a time when our work lives will be getting longer and longer, don’t be surprised if you work until 70 or older. You can be 40 years old today and looking at another 30 years as an architect, but feel shut out of professional growth because you didn’t get that M.Arch back when you were twenty five.

    This circumstance isn’t just a frustration for the individual, it is a failure to cultivate our resources as a society.


    I don’t expect every architect to fully realize his or her delusions of grandeur since that would be just about all of us and the planet just isn’t big enough for that, but it is reasonable to expect an education system to provide a feasible option for those who are willing to work hard and strive for growth.

    And if it doesn’t, well, we will have to do it ourselves. No Master.


    • a bit of a hard question but if the lack of a masters is holding architects back from fulfillment how does the no master lead to a better outcome? 

      Apr 6, 13 3:32 am  · 

      Hi Will,

      Good question. I'm going to answer for myself but from some of the email and comments I'm getting I think it reflects how many architects see the issue.

      The master's degree delivers two sets of advantages; it gives the holder a "badge" showing the world a level of achievemnt and (and more importantly IMHO) it gives knowledge, experience and depth of understanding. 

      Sure you can study on your own and come up with your own projects that explore ideas (probably not the same ones you do for living unless you are lucky), but I don't think this sort of "architecture in a vacuum" really accomplishes what the M.Arch does because it lacks community. I wrote before that architecture is a social activity and I think the study of it requires that component.

      What No Master offers that leads to, not a better outcome, but an alternative outcome, is provide this community. I also hope for it to provide some structure and rigor. Like going on a diet or starting an excerice regimen, your chances of success improve if you do it with others.

      No Master, if it has the good fortune to fully grow, also could also be a part of the new movement for lower cost more accessible education provided online. This is not a given, however, and I think the immediate benefits I already described are sufficient for making No Master worthwhile. 

      Not the best answer, I'm afraid. I'll work on this and make it a more coherent post. Your thoughts would be very much appreciated, even if you disagree.

      Apr 6, 13 11:34 am  · 

      well i guess sci-arc started as a rebellion against the status quo, so it could work. 

      my own feeling is that if you don't invest the time and effort it takes to get an march or your license or whatever you won't see any improvement.  in which case this is mostly about money, and you get what you pay for.   facing those odds, someone is going to have to work incredibly hard to make it successful.

      that said, if you can sort that out, then why not?  maybe you need a clear goal first and then try to make it real by simply starting...and see where it goes.

      Apr 6, 13 8:51 pm  · 

      Hi Will,

      Funny that you mention the sci-arc example, it was one that had given me some hope when I initially considered this idea.

      Another commenter (emailed) made a similar observation about quantity of time invested as crucial, he referenced the Malcolm Gladwell "10,000 hour rule." I completely agree with both of you.

      i'm not saying its easy, but for many of us it may be the only option. I don't know where this will lead, but still beleive it is worth the effort and exploration.

      Apr 6, 13 9:13 pm  · 

      yeah that is the hardest part.  m.arch is not so much a lot of new information as much as it is an opportunity to focus for 2 years (or more) on a single subject and not worry about penalties for not being obviously productive. there is no way around the issue of time.  in which case maybe it is better to go work for sejima or OMA for 2 years for next to nothing and take advantage of the free but seriously intense education. or go work for a regular office and learn a bit less but get paid properly. 

      speaking for myself im just getting a hold on this job and ive been doing it for quite a while now.  i started later than most so it can't be helped, but if i were to do it again i would have tried to focus more when young so i could have worked things out before now. if you are thinking of professional advancement in a regular sense then just working in any office is cool, but if you want to get the know-how that comes from masters degree i think it takes more intense study.  maybe that latter bit is what you need to focus on?

      Apr 7, 13 3:55 am  · 

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About this Blog

No Master is a concept for a peer driven study program aiming to capture the benefits of an accredited master’s program without the school. Aimed at working architects and design professionals who wish to develop their professional growth. No Master - play on words: 1 Architects (master builders) without a master’s degree. 2 No school or teachers but but a peer review process, no masters just students 3 Ronin - masterless samurai, term for a secondary school graduate not admitted to university.

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