Does an ivy league master's make a difference?


I will graduate next month with my BArch and am facing a dilemma where I have to decide between: work or grad school. I got accepted to a few ivy league's aad/aud program with insignificant amount of scholarship, which means I have to take out at least 100k loan for them. At the same time, I got a job offer to work at an average architecture firm. 

Having an ivy league degree on my resume is undoubtedly attractive but I guess my big question is: does it come with better work opportunities?

Apr 7, 22 9:04 pm

Hi, this has been covered at least 14,738 times on this forum. I'd recommend a search.

If that's too much, I'll give you the standard answer: Unless you're getting a free ride, then absolutely do not. But you really should read through some of the other threads to make that decision yourself.

Apr 7, 22 9:07 pm  · 
3  · 
Non Sequitur

14738 times, this week.

Apr 7, 22 9:09 pm  · 

14743 time now.

Apr 8, 22 11:50 am  · 
1  · 
Non Sequitur

if you can't be bothered to read the forum, then sure, why not?  Take on 6-figure debt for a shiny piece of paper and live the rock-star life!


Apr 7, 22 9:08 pm  · 

that controversial sciarc panel discussion which has been thoroughly rejected actually had some good advice buried in the middle (surprisingly so!) which addresses this.

1. no salary benefit at all to having a post-professional masters. not ivy or otherwise.

2. get some work experience before pursuing a masters. know what you're looking for before you get into something so open ended.

congratulations on the accepts btw. the skills you demonstrated to get in now will still get you in in the future if you decide to follow up on that. working now doesn't mean never getting that masters. it will only open up your mind to other possibilities.

Apr 8, 22 1:24 am  · 
5  · 

1. Absolutely not true. This answer must be qualified within the context of network & connections, experience while at the school, and the value of an entire resume (yes, including schools) when rising to leadership positions in the profession.

2. Good advice.

Apr 25, 22 6:01 pm  · 

You have a job offer from an 'average architectural firm"? Maybe you can improve their ranking when you deign to work for them.

Apr 8, 22 6:44 am  · 
1  · 

Unless you want to go into academia, I see no reason to get an MArch if you already have a BAarch. 

Most likely scenario is you graduate two years older, with six-figures more debt, into identical job prospects. & that's assuming the economy doesn't change in two years. Now is a great time to get hired, I'd say take the job. Get some experience (and cash) under your belt. You can always revisit academia later if you feel the pull.

Apr 8, 22 11:30 am  · 
6  · 


If your BArch is from an accredited program that allows you to start your AXP then you do not need any further schooling if you want to become an architect. 

If your BArch isn't accredited and doesn't allow you to start your AXP then you'll need further schooling if you want to become an architect. 

If you want to go into teaching then a Masters is needed.  

Good luck and remember the average starting yearly pay for a architectural intern is around $40k (depending on where you live). Make sure to understand how much and for how long your monthly student loan payments are BEFORE making this decision. 

Apr 8, 22 11:50 am  · 
3  · 

My understanding is that a non-accredited program can't call itself a "B. Arch"

Apr 8, 22 1:56 pm  · 
3  · 

That was my understanding as well but it's been a wee bit of time since I've been in school . . .

Apr 8, 22 2:04 pm  · 
1  · 

a BArch is be definition an accredited degree. so, yes, a second masters is absolutely worthless from a professional perspective, and really just an opportunity to pay to have a little more design-based fun that won't lead to anything tangible.

Apr 8, 22 3:30 pm  · 
1  · 

Usually non-accredited undergrad's call themselves a Bachelors of Design. That's what mine did at least.

Apr 11, 22 5:21 pm  · 
 ·  1

Having an ivy league degree on my resume is undoubtedly attractive but I guess my big question is: does it come with better work opportunities?

Nope and nope.

Apr 8, 22 2:02 pm  · 

An Ivy degree may get you "better" jobs in that you may get hired by prestigious firms that have an Ivy hiring bias. However, the pay will not be markedly better and it will not alleviate the enormous loan debt burden you are being asked to take on. 

You will also be perpetually disadvantaged during and after school relative to your Ivy classmates who are either filthy rich with their parents' money or getting a free ride because they qualified for aid somehow.

Apr 8, 22 2:55 pm  · 

I'm going to counter that an Ivy degree gets noticed on any resume, no matter where you apply for a position. It's not fair, but that's where it resides in the public conscious for now. As such, it may allow the holder to get a toe in a door where they may not otherwise have been noticed. This describes a very small, but eminently real effect. For example, when presented with someone's education, I can't help but take notice when I see an Ivy (like when I go to a new doc or I hear someone's kid got accepted or graduated). Is it a cultural or popular prejudice based on name recognition? Yes, but, again, I don't think I'm merely an elitist first world observer; I think this is a popular perception at all levels of society (US anyway).

[I am of the mind that name recognition is an empty measure of academia, but it exists so it can't be ignored]

Is this incredibly small advantage worth the premium? Only the applicant can decide this up front...

20 yrs hence is when it will actually be more clear as to worth...

Apr 8, 22 3:56 pm  · 

A $100,000 loan paid back over 30 years is about $427 a month at a 4.25% rate. $400 a month put into an IRA at the historical stock market return of 10% will be about $960,000 after 30 years. 

There are a lot of students from middle income and lower middle income families who have borrowed heavily to get a degree from an elite  university only to find it essentially useless unless it is in a very narrow range of majors that pay well (engineering and medicine). The best engineering schools are in the great state universities like Purdue and Georgia Tech so there is no point in shoveling money to the Ivys for those degrees either. 

Apr 9, 22 7:01 am  · 

Minor but important correction ... "Hey Google, what are the current federal student loan interest rates?"

"Hi, EA. Here's what I found on"

Apr 11, 22 11:52 am  · 

Any way you slice it it is a disaster for the borrower.

Apr 11, 22 4:05 pm  · 

If you aren't getting scholarships, go work first, then decide if you still want a Master's. If you do, you'll know much better what you want to focus on, and you will also develop time management and self-regulation and direction skills that will put you way ahead of the people who went straight to grad school.

Apr 9, 22 10:04 am  · 
1  · 

Work experience in a world class design firm looks much more appealing to the job market and academic positions.  skip the masters for now and focus on working in the best offices.

Apr 9, 22 10:23 am  · 
1  · 

Work experience at any firm looks much more appealing to the job market than grad school.

Apr 11, 22 12:23 pm  · 

it depends on what you expect in your career.

IF you want to teach then an ivy helps you to get into better schools as faculty, and may be the only reason you get a position at all. Academia is brutal and advantages do pile up. I have certainly seen people turn an Ivy degree into a great academic post, eventually (not automatically).

IF you are talking about a job, then it might help. How much it helps is a big question. I do notice that my friends who have interesting practices tend to have ivy degrees of one flavor or another. But you know, correlation is not equal to cause.

For what it is worth I have also seen very bright people work in jobs they did not want because they needed the cash to pay their loans from the ivy school. The bitterness was sometimes palpable.  I have also seen people turn their background into the start of a very useful network and to build a cool career for themselves. 

Seems like the best answer is always that an ivy is great if you can afford it and less so if you cannot. From what I have read, it has the largest effect on those who are economically and socially disadvantaged to begin with. For the wealthy it is not much of a concern as they have connections already and the resources and support that go with that to make everything easier.  For everyone else it is probably about the individual as much as anything.

Speaking only for myself I was so happy when I paid off my school loan, and my debt was almost nothing compared to what is considered normal lately. It still took me 15 years to do it. Extending that timeline by decades is hard to imagine being worthwhile. YMMV.

Apr 9, 22 12:05 pm  · 
4  · 

I would chalk your point about people with interesting practices up to the structural advantages leading to an ivy league degree lending themselves to starting a business also.

Apr 9, 22 2:04 pm  · 

yes totally. It opens doors to very specific worlds that are not otherwise so easy to get into.

Apr 9, 22 4:23 pm  · 

Better work opportunities as in more 'design forward' offices/offices that push the discipline?  Yes.

Better work opportunities in terms of salary?  No.  

Ultimately, no architecture degree is worth 100k in debt.  

Apr 9, 22 12:17 pm  · 
3  · 

'It opens doors to very specific worlds that are not otherwise so easy to get into'.

In other words, yes it does make a difference. Therefore, don't try to prove that it doesn't matter, to post-rationalise your failure of gaining admittance.

Apr 9, 22 5:05 pm  · 
Non Sequitur

But is that difference worth 100k+? Absolutely not.

Apr 9, 22 7:31 pm  · 

Unless it's your path to ownership of your own firm, a $100k+ investment in school will never pay off. Because after your first job, nobody will ever care where you went to school and your work experience will even out your abilities with your peers

Apr 9, 22 10:50 pm  · 
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Achi - those very specific worlds are academia. That's it.

Apr 11, 22 11:02 am  · 
1  · 

Archi - In my experience having a M Arch doesn't do much if anything over a B Arch. I can say this because I have both. 

I attended a B Arch program and was set to graduate right before they switched to an accelerated M Arch program. I got very sick and need to postpone my senior thesis a year. I stayed in school and met the requirements for the M Arch. The dean of the architecture college also awarded me an M Arch in addition to my B Arch.  I don't even have the M Arch on my resume or LinkedIn profile.  

The M Arch hasn't made any noticeable difference to my career than my B Arch.  What made a difference was my portfolio, design skill, and various technical understanding / experience in building systems and assemblies.  

Apr 11, 22 12:29 pm  · 
1  · 

Archi-nerd wrote: 

"In other words, yes it does make a difference. Therefore, don't try to prove that it doesn't matter, to post-rationalize (sic) your failure of gaining admittance."

What positive differences have you noticed in having an M Arch vs  B Arch?

Apr 11, 22 3:32 pm  · 

i'll bite - it's allowed me to teach, which is much more fulfilling to me than practice, and i also learned a lot about myself and the world; the books, techniques, ideas, and people i met were incredibly eye-opening (non-ivy luckily). while the professional sphere views my march as redundant since my only value is what i can bring as a wage-laborer, i wouldn't trade it for anything (i sometimes regret the student loans, but if money weren't an issue i would have 0 concerns.

at the end of the day, this is a decision based on your goals, though one line i would never cross is taking on six figures of debt. and again, from a strictly professional view, there is indeed little worth for the march over the barch, though i would argue this speaks as much to what the professional world values as what the individual does.

for you chad, your march was literally an extension of your barch at the same school, so i can see how it feels redundant or unnecessary, and also colors your view on the topic a bit. i went to schools that couldn't have been more different than each other.

Apr 11, 22 4:29 pm  · 

As I said above - an M Arch is pretty much required for teaching. That's it. 

 As for my M Arch and B Arch. I've been outright told that I was hired several times regardless of not having the preferred (in one case required) M Arch on my resume. I never said it was redundant - just that I've not experienced a noticeable advantage in having a M Arch over a B Arch for practicing architecture. 

Apr 11, 22 6:11 pm  · 
1  · 

right, but to be fair your experience is very particular because the march was a continuation of the barch, whereas in my position my march was radically different and absolutely a talking point during interviews, which i only was able to get because of connections i made in grad school (a school that had a very different market than my undergrad; i essentially had two "markets" to tap into).

Apr 12, 22 9:04 am  · 

Is it that common to get a B Arch and then a M Arch from different schools? I ask because it seems that most M Arch programs are an 'all in one' type situation where you get an unaccredited degree first (B Arch Sci or something) then apply to the M Arch program within the same school. As for my situation - it probably is unque. My B Arch degree at the time rivaled most M Arch programs in the midwest. Grads from the school that I went to was sought out by midwest firms. It was common for grads with a B Arch from my school to be chosen over other grads with M Arch, even ivy league schools. I have no idea what the status of the school is now though.

Apr 12, 22 11:18 am  · 

I am surprised that B Arch degrees are still available. About ten years ago it seemed that every program was an M Arch of some kind (accelerated or standard). I have been out of school for 20 years though so I'm not up to date on what's being offered.

Apr 12, 22 11:37 am  · 

this is a similar discussion to the one caused by the remarks from the professors at sci-arc recently. I can hear them trying to make a point about how to build a career in a particular version of architecture practice. But they are somehow oblivious to what it means to be able to do that and how twisted the system can be.

Part of the reason I did my PhD at U of Tokyo was because I understood that it would open doors to a portion of that elite world that I did not have any hope of accessing normally. My plan was to do that with a scholarship, and that is in the end what happened. In the long term it made it possible to teach with Sejima and Maki, and sit on the faculty with Shigeru Ban. It meant I could study with Tadao Ando and chat with Kengo Kuma at a school function and occasionally join his studio as a guest critic. That has all been cool and educational. None of it would have been possible without my time at U of Tokyo.

Practically speaking, it has meant less for my practice. Because my office is in Tokyo the fact I went to the "good school" makes a difference sometimes. Not as much as you might imagine, but I have occasionally used it to get past the bouncers in our profession, to use a silly metaphor.

Where you work also makes a difference and the high profile jobs that give you the experience of building massive but creative projects are often connected to the school you go to. So its a loop, or a conveyor, and that is undeniable too. It is also unfair. Some offices misuse the power imbalance. Even worse, the advantage of going through all the long hours and low pay does not often lead to the dream outcome. Which is why it is very much like following the pied piper. Its a toxic path in many ways, even if it does work for some.

Which brings me back to the sci-arc conversation. The profs who are singled out in that whole discussion went through that process and came out the other side in a good place - oddly without also seeing that they were continuing a shitty system that is clearly not worth it anymore (if it ever was). The ivy schools work in a particular way, and they give access to certain pathways that are hard to find without that starting point behind you. It is an undeniable benefit.

That is how things stand right now. But there is some kind of change in the air, so maybe that whole ecosystem will mean less from now on. Hard work and an intentional approach to education and practice can theoretically be enough to get to wherever you want. It might not be as smooth, but it seems like it is more possible now than it ever was.

If you cant afford it then a $100K education without a scholarship is intuitively not likely to pay off very quickly if ever at all.

Best bet is always going to be to get born rich.

Apr 10, 22 3:03 pm  · 
5  · 

Even if you decide to go to academia, where having an ivy degree has more advantages, it's not like you'll be able to pay it off within a shorter period (unless your parents will oblige). The value and prestige of that ivy degree will fade over time as your loan's interest increases. 

I think this unnecessary high reverence for ivies (that only they excite within themselves) clouds your purpose for wanting or needing to go to grad school. In some ways, the abuse and trauma within these institutions are just as lingering as the crippling debt you'll accumulate. (The SCI-Arc issue only scratches the surface of a more deeply rooted toxic school culture that seethes beyond your undergrad.) There needs to be a reform in which society needs to stop putting these institutions on a pedestal as if they are the symbolic pinnacle of greatness in one's career trajectory. 

Take a chance on the lesser-known route. All the master's programs are as standardized as the licensing, jobs, and salaries waiting for you afterward. You'd rather spend that time exploring a more lasting fix to that desire for creative continuity through other opportunities in new or different environments (that's not school). 

Apr 11, 22 3:19 pm  · 
1  · 
atelier nobody

The only way a post-professional masters, Ivy League or otherwise, will help you is if you plan on joining the ranks of "visionary architects". If you want to practice architecture get a job.

Apr 11, 22 5:46 pm  · 

We got what my teen calls "propaganda" [the raft of college mail marketing that stems from juniors taking the PSAT] from Harvard this week. [not humblebragging; he gets them from tiny no-names too; that's why it's all "propanganda", maybe even spam]

An intriguing snippet from that marketing pamphlet was their claim that "100% can graduate debt free" & "average parent contribution was $12k". I can't remember the phrasing, but they even said that, with aid packages, average tuition cost was pretty close to state institutions.

Notwithstanding all the commentary above re: value of education vs debt, if the marketing financial aid statements hold water, it seems worth investigating at very least. [and caveat: this marketing was referencing undergrad admissions]

Apr 28, 22 1:15 pm  · 

It's a luxury. If money is not an issue - whether your parents can pay or you don't mind paying back an obscene amount of debt the rest of your life - sure go for it. Will it afford more opportunities? Maybe, but you'll start with the same salary as non masters and BS/BA degrees with no experience and have to climb up the salary ladder like everyone else.

In practice, experience is the most credible as value is commensurate with it. Sure - if you get great experience and move up to leadership your resume will look much more attractive, but, that's a long-term prospect. Nothing pains me more than having colleagues come into the workplace after 7-8 years in school 300k in debt making 45k. And yes - they are victims to layoffs as well. 

Start working. Put that degree to use. See what practicing architecture full time is really like. Build up your compensation. If you wish to do a masters in 2-3 years AFTER making a more well-rounded assessment- do it. Good luck.

Apr 28, 22 4:47 pm  · 

Just save your Ivy acceptance letter, it will function quite similarly as the PDF or printed out degree itself, but at a much greater cost savings. 

May 4, 22 12:51 pm  · 
2  · 

I was lucky enough to get an Ivy grad degree basically for free. But I needed the M. Arch to break into the field as I had studied something quite different in undergrad. 

Has the Ivy degree opened doors? I'd say it's opened some, yes. But it hasn't magically put me or anyone I know on some quicker path to fabulous architectural success. Job-wise, the cost of an Ivy degree does not always correlate with better pay. I would say that paying even partial tuition for an Ivy architecture degree (or any costly architecture degree program, for that matter) is just not worth it, the ROI is very low. And I would absolutely never pay anywhere near $100,000. Paying that much for an architecture degree is gonna be about as good for you as leaded gasoline. Maybe worse.

I have a friend who had a full ride at a west coast school and turned it down for a partially-paid Ivy program, and they seem conflicted about the decision seven now, six years after the fact. It's a real bummer watching 10% of your already meager salary go straight to a loan collector every month, and then to think that even that 10% is only covering mostly interest and a tiny portion of the principal.

Again, I went to an Ivy and for me, personally, it changed my life in ways that are personal to me. I was lucky to have it pretty much fully covered. But otherwise it's expensive, and an architectural salary will not come close to covering the cost, believe me. 

You have a B. Arch, and are young. If I were in your shoes I wouldn't throw three more years into schooling. I'd start getting work experience and finding my niche in the profession. Take a few years to find out whether practice is something you'll actually enjoy. Only then would I consider returning to school, and even then it would have to be in pursuit of something very specific, because even with free tuition, the three years spent studying is a serious opportunity cost, IMO.

May 9, 22 1:28 pm  · 
1  · 

The only thing that makes a difference is YOU.

May 9, 22 2:04 pm  · 

To a point. Having money an privilege can go a long way . . .

May 9, 22 4:38 pm  · 

Sure, often that can make certain things easier but it can also work against one's ambitions and motivations. Plus, not all go to ivies are coming from money and privilege.

May 9, 22 7:55 pm  · 
1  · 

That can be true. I didn't mean to imply that those that attend ivies have money and privilege. I only meant that having money and privilege will make a difference beyond what YOU can do on your own.  This could help or hinder you.  Realistically it will help you though.  

May 10, 22 11:03 am  · 
1  · 

If you’re also talented that would work well. I’m not talking about monetary success alone of course.

May 10, 22 12:54 pm  · 

Obviously. I do think that if you're talented and have money / privilege you'll go farther than just being talented.

May 10, 22 1:54 pm  · 

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