Pursuing an M.S.RED (Real Estate Development) instead of M.Arch


Hi everyone,

In the next few months I will be applying to grad school and wanted to get some outside perspective. I've been working as an entry-level designer at a big corporate firm in SF since graduating from a 4-year B.S. Arch program. Lots of my coworkers also only hold undergrad architecture degrees (usually the 4-year BA from Berkeley) but are licensed because their years of work experience allowed them to take the ARE and CSE. I didn't realize how common this tract was, especially due to the cost of M.Arch programs. Obviously, the education at the M.Arch level is going to be valuable, but if I can get licensed without it, why not just pursue a shorter MS.RED and gain knowledge about the financial/legal side of architecture so that when I have my own practice, I'll be better prepared/connected? 

Ideally, I'd love to do both, but 3+ years of grad school is expensive and I've found that real-world work experience is incredibly valuable when trying to get licensed. Love to hear from anyone who's licensed without an NCARB degree/if you've done an MS.RED.

Jul 6, 22 12:34 pm

There are several reasons why getting an accredited degree is beneficial. 

1.  Reciprocity - your license is good in every state and no more AXP hours.  Without this you need to redo you AXP hours for each state you want to be licensed in. 

2.  Not every state allows alternate paths to licensure.  Around 35 states require you to have an accredited degree to become an architect.  This number is going up. 

3.  Time.  An accredited degree requires around 3,200 hours of AXP to start taking your tests.  Non accredited degrees require around 10,000 hours.  

Jul 6, 22 12:59 pm  · 
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I would worry that being stuck in a complicated, time consuming alternative path with NCARB would slow down the career of a young person. I don't know about California, but the people I have known who did alternative paths in Texas and other southern states took many, many years longer to get licensed and some never have. At firms around here, no license = no promotions past a certain point. In the meantime, NCARB is actually speeding up licensure for some accredited degree holders with their new schemes where you can start taking the ARE earlier than you used to.

Jul 9, 22 9:10 am  · 
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I would also view it as, what type of job do you see yourself having in the future? 

You mentioned owning your own firm and how a MS.RED would be beneficial to that. I by no means disagree however there are plenty of benefits that a MArch provides, such as taking arch classes with arch profs, and making those sorts of connections that could be beneficial to your near future. 

I know of many people, and not saying this is you, that went into a dual degree or into an MS.RED program thinking they would graduate and do architecture, but ended up getting an awesome job at a real estate or development firm and now prefer that to architecture. 

So, if you want to do architecture and work at an architecture firm designing then get an architecture degree. But if you are on the fence and may want to do development, then a MS.RED could be your best bet!

Jul 6, 22 2:37 pm  · 
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What's your career goal? To be a developer-builder or an architect? I know architects who went to design, develop, and build their own projects and not all of them have a real estate degree - they picked up the financial and legal education themselves through experience. There are of course others who did earn degrees in both, but it seems real world experience in real estate (coupled with a solid foundation in finance/economics that you could perhaps build yourself without spending money on a degree) helps a lot.

Jul 9, 22 10:38 am  · 

As of right now I'd like to continue pursuing a career in architecture. However, if I've learned anything from this forum, its that people in this profession are A. notoriously underpaid B. can't pivot industries too well. I am incredibly lucky to have a family that will help pay for grad school costs, but with the looming recession I am aware of the unnecessary costs of a dual degree, which I will talk about below.

Mar 13, 23 11:34 am  · 

MSRED all the ways baby, join the $$$$ dark $$$$ side $$$$

You guys know how much BX pay their analysts?

Jul 19, 22 10:18 pm  · 

Thank you so much for all of your responses! 

Post-grad school admissions, I wanted to return to this thread/think it would be helpful for others in my position. 

I am grateful to say I was admitted to UC Berkeley, U Penn, and Columbia's M.Arch I programs (each with their unique pros and cons in terms of faculty, pedagogy, fabrication, etc that I am considering). At the moment, I am just focuses on learning more about each of their real estate development programs I can pursue concurrently, with varying pros and cons. 

Real Estate Certificate - Fisher Center - Berkeley Haas

Real Estate Design and Development Certificate | Weitzman (

Degree Requirements - Columbia GSAPP

Berkely and Penn both have Real Estate Development Graduate Certificate programs that require 4-5 RE courses offered by their respective business and law schools (Berkeley's has an additional required real estate competition which actually looks interesting). Having a certificate from Haas vs Wharton + the networking opportunities there seems like the main consideration between these two schools.

In contrast, as most of you know, Columbia's M.S.RED is a full year long degree that, when done concurrently with the M.Arch, adds another semester to the three-year program. It also adds more costs but is known for being the best in the country with incredible connections. 

I am going to visit every school and ask about these programs' additional pros and cons, but feedback from anyone who is familiar with these programs/courses please let me know!

Mar 13, 23 11:55 am  · 

I had this exact same thought process, and went for the M.Arch only to start, because I wanted to see through becoming an Architect. It definitely gave me connections which led to a direct improvement in my portfolio and project experience, and landing in an 'awarded' design firm. In hindsight, if you work in a RED-firm making closer to or above 6-figures, you can have all the more resources to pour into your architecture/design studies or career path if you feel so inclined in the future. Doing both would have primed me to pick from either path, but as people above have said - I've seen people on LinkedIn with just an M.Arch go from Designer > few PM roles > VP of Development in a 6-8 year period. I still consider going back to do the Columbia MSRED, but I'm trying to buy a house first and come in as an RA with even stronger foundation in design/construction/property know-how. 

Mar 20, 23 9:30 am  · 

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