Is 3.5 years Worth It?


Any recent MArch 1 graduates out there?

Considering my masters but the 3-3.5 year commitment is a major turn off. 

Would like to hear some insight about peoples experience during their time at school and what they took away from it. 

I have canceled my applications two years in a row to work internationally. With some money in the bank and some great experience under my belt, I need to make a decision on school or going after my first real estate project, which will be tiny. 

Background in urban planning and currently work in urban design for an architecture and real estate development company in Central America.

Thanks in advance!

Jan 14, 13 12:16 pm

If you want to be an architect and able to license in all US and Canadian jurisdictions, what other choice do you have?  Yes, I am a graduate of such a program.  I went that route because I ditched my plans to pursue a B.Arch. while a high school senior.  It seems that graduate level professional school is either 2 years, 3 years or 4 years, putting a "career change" M.Arch. squarely in the middle.  It's funny that some call it a M. Arch. 1.  I'm used to seeing it called M. Arch 3.  I am ok with 3 years and one is so busy, that the time goes by quickly.  Not only that, one is very focused, because they are not in contact with other academic units and the frivolity found in undergraduates at so many schools.  I have a slight problem with 3.5 years.  I actually prefer the formats where an additional summer, on a full-time basis, is inserted either before the first year or during the summers.  If you do it this way, the time commitment is actually 2 years and 11 months (summer before) or 2 years and 9 months (summer in-between).  I know of a few schools using the 2+2 format, and I find this unacceptable, since it requires the same time as medical or dental school.  There is no way I could have stayed in the field for which my previous education prepared me, so I had no choice.  You probably need to ask yourself the same question.

Jan 14, 13 12:41 pm

Observant - great feedback. thanks. 

I believe that I can stay on the fringe of the industry, doing urban design / planning work, similar to my current capacity without more education. I also recognize and sense that my role is much more disposable since I lack a design credential.

Planning is very much a pseudoscience. While I have design skills, an architect with some planning experience is definitely more economical and practical than hiring someone like myself for the same work.

I agree, if I want to remain relevant and competitive in the workforce, I will need to lock down the education part. 

Happy to hear that the time passes quickly due to the high concentration on work. Sounds like a lot of work but a lot of fun as well. 


Jan 14, 13 1:16 pm

Spackle -

USC is a 2 year program so not too shabby


btw may I ask what your duties are as an urban planner to work in an architecture/real estate company? 

and what does the firm do?

Jan 14, 13 2:07 pm

Batman, thanks for the heads up. I will definitely look into that. 

As far as my work goes, I work on a few different ends. 

On the real estate side, I usually prepare proposals and presentations for the real estate team.  A lot of site research and analysis of the existing conditions. From transit and walkability to spatial analysis of businesses, commercial corridors, pedestrian generators, other development projects...stuff like that. I also will look into other projects from around the globe to see what's been done that fits the soul of the project, in scope, design and scale and help get people excited about stuff using those. 

From there I collaborate with our architects and some real estate folk to conceptualize the project and see what will type of project will work best with the land we have and if we need to buy more land to make the project actually work. 

Once we have an idea of the gross leaseable area and height and setback restrictions, the architects will layout the building(s), from ground up in CAD. 

I take their CAD files and put them in Revit and create and maintain the master 3D models. I make most of the graphics, like renderings, illustrations, photos, logos, posters...depends on the type of project. We do small residential all the way to large master planned communities, malls and office buildings to office parks. 

On a master master planning project, I work with a small team to layout a general site design.

Once the project moves on and requires more detail, I will design the street typologies, bike paths, sidewalks, plazas, landscaping, parks and openspaces.

I will also write guidelines and proposals for public art, programming, sustainability items...

I guess thats about it. 

Jan 14, 13 3:44 pm

3.5 years is practically another degree.

Jan 14, 13 7:06 pm

A lot of people go to college for seven years. They're called doctors. 

Jan 14, 13 9:07 pm

That's what's involved for those who do it after an unrelated degree.  The reference to a 2 year M.Arch. is only for those who have a 4 year BA/BS in Architecture. 

Once in the workforce, I found that a lot of people who graduated a while back did not know of the 3/3.5 option.

Becoming a doctor takes generally takes 8 years.  That's why I barked at a M. Arch. spread out over 4 years, few of which exist.  As for the OP, it sounds like you have a degree in urban planning and you have acquired quite a few skills en route from your work settings, skills that are also common to architects. 

Jan 15, 13 12:55 am

LITS4FormZ, I got the reference....

Jan 17, 13 4:26 pm

My boss started out as a physicist after getting a PhD in that field.  He figured out (belatedly) that wasn't fulfilling for him, then did the 3.5 year MArch at Harvard, got licensed, and has (apparently) never regretted the switch to architecture.

Clearly that's an unusual case, but it shows an example of a worthwhile 3.5-year detour.

Jan 17, 13 6:29 pm


Many people are complaining about 3 or 3.5 years, and they hold only a BA or BS!  Some people go to M.Arch. "3" with graduate degrees, in English or the sciences, for example, though a PhD is unusual.  We a few graduate degree holders in my class, or people who had 2 bachelor's degrees, such as chemistry and art.

A professor who went to Harvard has seen that, being Harvard, they will admit some people with lofty credentials, such as medicine ... or law.  He said that he knew of one doctor who began the Harvard M.Arch., but did not stay to finish it.

Let's face it.  Unless it's an education credential or Library Science, 2 years is needed for most graduate work.  If one more year is needed, and a M.Arch. is more interesting to one than a 2 year MBA, then the applicant should pursue the M.Arch.

Jan 17, 13 9:36 pm

I'm not sure I follow you, Observant... though it sounds like we're in agreement.

Jan 18, 13 10:15 am

I am saying that few graduate programs which allow for a career change or professional preparation are in the 2-year range.  This means that it is sort of typical to invest 3, 3.5, or 4 years to study for a profession where one has NO related schooling.  I also was saying that some schools may admit a student who looks impressive on paper, and might even have some 3-dimensional composition skills, but will either drop out, or immediately return to being a doctor or a lawyer upon graduating, realizing they don't want to go into a traditional architectural setting.

Jan 18, 13 3:29 pm


Hello, I got a four year degree in architecture but got into three years program in RISD and Syracuse. Is it okay for me to ask schools for possibilities to switch to two years program, since there will be people turn down their offer?

Cost is my main concern. 

Thank you!

Mar 11, 13 1:44 pm

why not go attend a school that offers a 1 year program?  I heard McGill in Montreal, Canada offers that.. Tuition is waaaayyy cheaper than studying in US also.

But I totally hear you on your dilema.. I'm in a similar situation.  I guess you could try asking yourself whether you're mainly doing it to get the paper so you could land a better job with more stability, or are you genuinely doing it to do something meaningful and perhaps run your own firm someday.

Mar 11, 13 2:31 pm

It's sad not to see 4 year arch. types not get advanced standing, allowing for a 2 year M.Arch.  If there is an adequate studio sequence, some history/theory, and some technology basics, from which a portfolio can be generated, making that candidate stick around for 3 years for a masters is just plain wrong.  If one school granted the applicant advanced standing (2 years to go) and another plum or private school did not (3 years to go), then the 2 year school seems to make sense. 

Mar 11, 13 2:56 pm

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