Getting my degree in France (vs. in the US)


I'm preparing to apply to architecture programs for the 2012/13 academic year, and I'd really appreciate some advice and perspective.

I have a BA in anthropology, so for US schools, I'd apply to M.Arch I programs, and possibly to dual degree programs.  As a little background info, I minored in studio art and French, and I worked at a tiny architecture firm during my senior year of college.  The potential issues with schools here are: scoring well on the new GRE within an acceptable time frame (score reports will take longer until Dec/Jan I think), fulfilling all the prerequisites before matriculation, if I'm accepted (maybe Calc II, maybe Physics, probably architectural history-specific art history courses (2), and maybe design-specific art studio classes....because of course that's what I chose NOT to take for my minor during college...), and lastly (the most daunting), the exorbitant costs of education here.

After graduating, I spent the past year in Paris and absolutely fell in love with the city.  It hasn't even been 2 months since I've gotten back to the States, but I miss Paris already, and I could honestly see myself living there forever (?) least long term.  So I wouldn't mind going to school and then working there.  Unfortunately, I think I'd have to start all the way from the beginning, as an equivalent to a freshman in undergrad, as there aren't M.Arch programs there for those entering without architecture backgrounds.  So in Paris, it'd be 3 years undergrad, then 2 years masters.  Ouf, 5 years.  But, thinking practically, the cost of university education there is SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper, like 300-450 euros/year.  (On the other hand, if i did a dual degree program in the US, that's still at least 4 years @ at least 50k/yr for a top school.)  Further, I don't know how the quality there (most likely I'd apply to one of the Ecole nationale supérieure d'architecture in Paris, if anyone outside France has heard of it) would compare to a school here.

The main reason I'm even able to consider going to school abroad is the fact that I could definitely see myself living in France long term.  Because otherwise, I know it'd be pretty risky/foolish to get a degree abroad that might not translate back here in the US, especially with licensure/accreditation issues.  BUT, at the same time, I don't want the fact that I have a French degree to bar me from working in the US.  I've read up a little on the NAAB/NCARB points, searched Google, and looked through threads on the forum - so I know it's still possible to work in the US with a foreign degree, though I'm sure the process will be a major headache.  I really just need to make sure I cover all bases and weigh all possibilities/considerations.  Like I said, I really need perspective on this situation, so I can make a more rational, pragmatic decision rather than making a decision based more on ideals that I end up regretting in the future.  

Just to throw this out there, I'm also very interested in green roofs/walls - and I wonder how that could play into the decision.

What do you think?  Any help would be very much appreciated. 

Sep 19, 11 10:31 pm
Dr. Architecture

If you graduate with a degree from a foreign degree, you will need to have your education evaluated by EESA (contract form NCARB) to determine its equivalence to the NCARB Education Standard.  It can be done but is very costly (over $1500).  Plus, you will probably have to take Professional Practice course in the U.S.

Have you research any U.S. programs that have study abroad programs in France.  Do you wish to practice in France after graduation.  If so, attending a program in France may make sense.


Dr. Architecture

Sep 24, 11 11:20 pm

Cheaper than the 40k it cost me for my B.Arch.


Hi there,

   Hopefully I can add some perspective as I spent a year in the French Architecture school system after completing my BSAS in the US. I had been there in an exchange program through the University of Illinois undergrad program and loved it there so much that I went back for my graduate studies. With a 4 year architectural degree I placed into the 3rd year in France. I thought I would be staying there forever too but it didn’t work out that way. There were lots of challenges that just don’t exist in the US system where anyone can get a degree as long as they can afford it.

   There was a lot of paperwork to apply, and a French language exam that was rather challenging (you must be good at oral/listening as well as written). Once that is done and you are was accepted, the issues of living in France come up. You need to get a back account, an apartment that is approved student lodging, get over there and then wait in line in the local Gendarmerie to get your actual residency card. The school is cheap, health insurance for students is super cheap, and if you are creative you can live cheaply too. However it is hard to have a job and go to school at the same time as students in France cannot work more than 20 hrs/ week, except for the summer break. If you have enough money saved up then this isn’t necessarily a problem. Most students in France either live with their parents or jump on the socialist bandwagon, taking handouts from the government to live on. You can work on the side, but not everyone wants to do the paperwork to hire a non-EU foreigner.

   The French schools have a very creative and interesting culture but it is very different from the American systems. It is very competitive and not everyone that works hard will necessarily pass the class. Lots of French students I knew were there for 8-10 years to finish the 6 yr program (3 cycles of 2 years each). Remember too that the French vocabulary for presenting your design projects is a lot more extensive than conversational French and can be a challenge to explain complex ideas. When I was there (10 years ago) there wasn’t much work to be found but the good news is once you graduate you can practice architecture (no internships or exams required).  In general I do think the quality of education is very good in France and you can pick design studios that reflect your specific interests.

   I can only tell you what I learned from my experience but I would urge you to do a lot of research beforehand, maybe visit the schools and sit down with someone to get an idea of how it works. Living in France can be nice, but where do you see yourself 10 years down the road?

Sep 26, 11 1:24 pm


I am currently a third year french student of architecture at the School of Paris La Villette, if you want information about this school you can contact me at this adress :

I'm in an opposite situation as  I hope to continue my studies and work in the US! I'll be graduating in June with a three-years non-professional degree (French Licence of Architecture).


Does anyone kwow if it is possible to apply as a transfer student for year four in an undergraduate program ? I would love to apply to Cooper Union but don't know if they accept transfer students ... any advice would be welcome !

Mar 1, 12 5:56 pm

Hello, I hope everything worked out very well! I have been looking for information of people from the U.S choosing to do a bachelors degree in France, especially interested in architecture. Luckily I found this thread, unfortunately it is an old thread. I do not know if you will see this comment, but if you do, I would love to know how it went or if you have content on your journey. Your situation seems like a unique one to me and one that I am considering going through, I am just lost because of the prepa programs that exist and then actually applying to the schools through CampusArt. Have a lovely day!

Jan 18, 20 3:17 pm

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