Advice for an undergrad


I am currently an undergrad student at Duke university and majoring in art history with a concentration in architecture (requires math, physics, and architectural history classes) — my gpa is a 3.8. Duke does not offer an actual architecture major or many architecture classes so this is a common major for students looking for a career in architecture. I attended an architecture program at Columbia and I plan on interning at a firm in NYC during the next two summers. 

My questions involve the path to becoming an architect. I know a M.Arch is necessary and of course I would like to attend a top graduate school (preferably Columbia or Harvard). Is it recommended to apply to these schools right out of college or should I get a few years of work experience first? Do you think I would be able to get into either of these schools? All advice and recommendations are welcome. Thank you!

May 29, 19 6:10 pm

I would recommend getting a few years of work experience before committing tens of thousands of dollars on a graduate degree that may end up being useless. Working will help you determine if you like the following: a) the actual profession and responsibilities of an architect, or b) the idea of being an architect. Romanticizing the career of an architect is foolish and sets up unrealistic expectations of reality. Theory and practice are two entirely different beasts.

May 30, 19 1:44 pm

Transfer to NC State's five-year program now (if you can get in) and save your parents tens (hundreds?) of thousands of dollars in tuition and yourself tons of grief and years wasted. 

May 30, 19 3:12 pm

Intern as much as you can.  If I were in your shoes, I'd try to work for a year or two out of undergrad.  It gives you a better understanding of the profession, but also gives you some time to put together your application materials, go on some campus visits and briefly see how some schools are viewed after graduation.  And maybe save up a few dollars if possible.

Another option would be to look at some states that have the alternative path to licensure.  In NY, you can get licensed without an MArch - although an MArch will give you a leg up in the licensure process, you can certainly get by without it and the mountains of debt you may accumulate as well.  We have people that are entry level here for a year or two then go off to grad school, when in reality, they could've stayed here, worked on their AXP hours, continued to gain practical knowledge, and not accumulated debt while making money.  It really just depends what kind of firm environment you find and where you see yourself going in the future.

May 30, 19 3:26 pm

thanks for your advice. i am thinking it would be better to work for a year or two first as well but im not sure that without a BArch I would be able to get the kind of job that would help in this situation. What do you think?

Dr. Architecture

Unlike MBA programs, graduate programs in architecture typically do NOT require applicants to have work experience.  With that said, I applaud your pursuit of interning in a firm in NYC.  

I would use your experience to confirm that you wish to pursue becoming an architect.  Plus, your employer could write a letter of recommendation; also, you may produce material for your portfolio.

Given your academics, you may gain admission to the programs you highlight, but I would challenge you to consider all programs.  Visit for a list of all programs.  Contact those that interest you.

More resources for you include. -

Becoming an Architect: A Guide to Careers in Design - 3rd Edition

Best - Reach out via the above website if you want more direct connection.

May 31, 19 11:27 am

Make sure you do the summer internships as planned.  You need to experience architectural workplaces and make sure this career is what you want to do.   I am concerned that an art history degree may limit your ability to get an architecture job after graduation.   For this and other reasons (mainly to do with getting school out of the way while you are still young), it may be a good idea to head for an M.Arch program fairly soon after you graduate from Duke.

May 31, 19 3:36 pm
Sam Apoc

I second this. It's going to be tough to get a full-time job in an architecture office with an Art History degree. Internships may be easier to acquire, but even then you may have to leverage some connections to get your foot in the door without an architecture-related portfolio that can showcase some technical chops. If it were me, and architecture is still what interests me at the end of undergrad, I wouldn't waste much/any time getting into an MArch program. Certainly make sure that it still aligns with your interests though before committing to one as you're likely looking at another 3+ years of school.

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