Where to go for M.Arch - UW, UBC, Carleton?


I am currently headed into my 4th year of my undergraduate degree in architecture at Washington State University and considering graduate schools for my M.Arch. The schools I am considering applying to are the University of Washington in Seattle, the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and Carleton University in Ottawa (I've already done my research on NCARB / CACB education requirements, don't worry). 

I am both a Washington state resident and a Canadian citizen, so I would be paying pretty reasonable tuition at all of these schools, with UBC being the lowest and UW the highest. My family is in the Seattle area, so I would be able to save money on housing at UW, whereas I would have to deal with the Canadian housing crisis when finding housing at the other two schools.

In terms of academics, I feel like UBC aligns the most with my interests, as they have a pretty big focus on the politics of architecture and housing, I really like some of their faculty, and they have really interesting option studios. I like Carleton's focus on representation, though I don't think I have as much of a grasp on what their school is about as UBC. From my research, it feels like UW has a pretty big focus on craft and making, which is important and could be interesting, though it isn't really what I am super interested in. I am not a super huge fan of the option studios they offer in comparison with the other schools, but it seems I would have the ability to go more in the direction I want with my thesis and the specialization option in history, theory, and criticism. If anybody could clarify what UW's big focuses are and the opportunities available for that, I would very much appreciate that.

My biggest concern with choosing a school is my career prospects afterwards. I have heard from some people that it doesn't really matter where you go to school once you start working, but I have also heard that you should go to school in the area you want to work. I am not completely sure where I want to live after school, but I will most likely end up in the Seattle area. I have also heard from someone at UW that Seattle architecture firms consider UW graduates above graduates from other schools, which kind of worries me when thinking about other schools. I am also kind of worried about what the reputation of the other schools might be when I'm applying for jobs, as they are Canadian schools and employers might not be super familiar with them even though they might be good schools. Would anybody be able to tell me if my fears are grounded or if I shouldn't worry about this issue?

Sorry if this is super long, I've just been struggling with this decision (which I don't actually have to make until next year) for a while and was wondering if anybody here could provide me some clarity?

TLDR: I'm looking at both Canadian and American M.Archs where I prefer the opportunities at UBC, but am worried about job prospects if I don't go to UW. 

May 16, 24 3:32 pm

Will your undergrad be an accredited degree?

The politics of your school don't matter in terms of getting job.  

Unless you're attending an ivy league school and are applying to firms that only hire ivy league grads your school doesn't matter.  

Don't go by what people at a certain program say about the other programs.  Speak with local architects around the schools you're looking at and get their opinion.  

Next look at the accreditation reports for each program you're thinking about attending.  Note what areas NCARB gives them high and low marks in.  This will tell you about what the program is actually teaching.  

This last one is assuming you're going to school in the US.   Go with the least costly option.  The national average pay for a fresh arch grad (B.Arch or M.Arch) in private practice is $42k a year.  This will be higher in large metro areas.  Think NYC, San Fran, Chicago.  Of course, the cost of living is much higher in those areas.  You don't want to go $80k in debt with how much you'll be making.  

My personal opinion:  go with a school that has a good blend of theory and building science.  You'll want a school that will promote your creativity AND teach you how to construct things.  

Good luck!

May 16, 24 4:06 pm  · 
Non Sequitur

Carleton is quite literally in my backyard... but it's a shadow of what it was back in it's glory years. Ottawa is also very different than west coast... so pick UBC and save that cash.  The name of the school means absolutely fuck all in the real world and you'll do fine if your goal is to stay in PNW.

May 16, 24 6:04 pm  · 

IDK the cost of housing near UBC is pretty crazy high .

May 17, 24 11:12 am  · 

When I studied architecture in Dublin the fancy design firms everyone wanted to work for tended to hire only from one school, and I went to the other. After some work experience, I got a job in one of these firms that typically only hired from the other school. So time and experience got me what I wanted. This could also work for you, if you find yourself in that position.

Increasingly in the US, firms are no longer selectively hiring from certain institutions as there is a huge equity issue here. Some might still be doing this, but it's becoming distasteful, for want of a better word.

I'd like to counter the idea, though, that it doesn't matter where you study. While the spirit of this argument is true, there are some institutions that have a combination of low entry requirements, poor facilities, and a smalll and rotating faculty that students graduate practically unhirable. It is unlikely this applies to UW, UBC or Carleton, but something to consider.

Some other considerations. The more stronger students you have in a department appears to correlate with an overall higher quality of work per student, making you more marketable in the future (in other words, out of all schools, which has the highest entry requirements if it is possible to compare in this way?). I'd also encourage you to consider the size of the departments you are looking at. While a small student body can create a nice environment to learn in, that means a smaller faculty with less expertise and less coursework to expose you to the breadth of the discipline and profession (if the faculty rotates a lot, this also means less stable commitments in the department to maintain a high-quality program).

In terms of the name of a university, from my point of view this is more important for you now, then it is after graduation—the better the brand the more highly qualified applicants it will attract to teach in the department and that benefit will be transferred to you when you are studying. As I am not from North America, it may be helpful to consider that both UBC and UW stand out to me as strong international brands, while Carleton less so—although I have heard of it.

None of the above are points to consider on their own, of course!

Finally, the most important piece of advice. You are about to go into your final year of a four-year degree. As I have worked in practice for several years, been in senior academic roles, and now a graduate student again—I highly recommend taking time between your undergrad and graduate degrees. Many students rush into graduate programs to find themselves weary of the university environment, and without clear practical or research interests. Students who advance to a high level in graduate design degrees often have at least 1, if not 2 years, of practical experience. Why not spend some time in practice to reflect on your career, and also make some cash while you're at it? This extra time will also likely earn you additional financial aid if you are direct in building your profile (Resume) and portfolio in the interim.

May 17, 24 7:25 am  · 
2  · 

One important thing to look into is if the schools offer internships or some sort of job connection during the summers. I know the UW does this at least with their 3 year MArch students, but if they do this with their 2 year program it could help you get a foot in the door at some local firms that could lead to a job post graduation.

UW is a great school that is large enough you can cater your studies how you like, just find a faculty member you share interests with. I did my undergrad their so I def have a bias but I have heard great things about UBC too! 

May 20, 24 9:59 am  · 

I think the relationship between UW and UBC is quite minor and in the professional world lots of work being in the PNW by architects based in Vancouver and Seattle area.  Geographically the PNW / Cascadia seems to have a shared kinship so I wouldn't expect you'd loose out going to one school or another related to future employment in the region.  Always a strong relationship between the school and local firms , but you'd find that in every university.  Great firms in Seattle and Vancouver and all generally busy even with the slower economy.

I guess I would agree with what's been said above about saving money via living at home for UW or the lower tuition at UBC,  maybe consider How much you prefer the professors, study abroad program options housing as more practical aspects to your decision making. No bad choices.

May 30, 24 1:15 pm  · 

Whichever has the lowest tuition. I cannot stress this enough. I went to Columbia GSAPP, and currently work in an office with a vast mix of educational backgrounds who are just as, if not more, talented than I am.

Once you're out of school, and you've passed that 3 or so years of experience mark, nobody is gonna care where you went to school and you will be contending for the same jobs as Ivy League'ers, but minus a $200,000 debt. The experience and type of work you've got under your belt becomes more and more important. 

Jun 5, 24 3:22 pm  · 
Non Sequitur

OP is asking about Canadian Universities. No one is wasting 200k on arch degrees up here and no one is dumb enough to drop that kind of coin, even for shiny ivy papers.

Jun 5, 24 3:33 pm  · 

Ah right #1. The state of Washington seceded and joined Canada. I forgot. My bad.

Ah right #2. Ivy League MArch tuition drastically dropped from the $65K-70K a year (x3 is roughly $200K), because they realized it was unethical. I forgot. Again, my bad.

Jun 5, 24 4:24 pm  · 
Non Sequitur

^Good catch. Missed that one. UW can refer to 2 other canadian arch schools.

Jun 5, 24 4:25 pm  · 

Fair enough lol.

Jun 5, 24 4:27 pm  · 

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?


This is your first comment on Archinect. Your comment will be visible once approved.

  • ×Search in: