Does M.Arch I rankings matter?

Paul A. Zamorano

Do M.Arch Rankings matter when it comes to obtaining a job? 

May 21, 13 3:16 pm
The short answer is no
May 21, 13 3:20 pm


I see a lot of reason in your viewpoints, but I differ somewhat on this one.

The M.Arch. 1 (and, implicitly, 2) rankings bounce around from year to year, so I'd say it's more the consistent reputation of a school over time that matters.  I really think that an Ivy League or a renowned public (Michigan and Virginia), with the geographic dispersion of their grads and/or strong alumni networks, makes it easier to obtain employment in a desirable firm.

I think someone should have started a thread called "location, location, location."  I really believe that, if someone wants employment in a particular city or area, then the closest M.Arch 1 is the best way to go.  A decent far-away school combined with a M.Arch. 1 (not loved by all employers - some don't understand it) sometimes makes for more of a hurdle.

Just as an example:  KU (or University of Kansas).  Very established as a competent school.  Can its grads get a job in KC, Omaha or St. Louis?  Yes, I think you would find many there.  Going to San Francisco or Miami?  Make sure you have a friend's couch to crash on, for a while, whereas the graduates of the local school had ample time to cement some ties with the employment community.

So, after the creme de la creme schools, the next best bet is a school that is both local and highly reputed in relation to where you want to live, for a M.Arch. 1.

May 21, 13 4:23 pm
Paul A. Zamorano

Does anyone know the reputation Tulane: TSA has nationally?

May 21, 13 11:36 pm

To echo what was said above, Tulane, and more so New Orleans, are very provincial. TSA does some great work, especially regarding post-Katrina recovery/building/planning. However, there isn't a large network for Tulane students because there aren't really any other cities close to New Orleans. If you want to work in New Orleans, Tulane has a great reputation. Most of the firms are majority Tulane grads. Carrying the Tulane degree outside of New Orleans/South would be difficult, but that's not to say it's not a respected school.

May 22, 13 2:08 pm

Tulane has a national name.  Everyone knows it.

As far as architecture goes, I'm sure it would work well in New Orleans.  Its grads also work in Atlanta and I've known a few.  As for other cities, I'm sure Houston, Dallas, Birmingham, Nashville, and any city further up the Delta, into the Midwest, would be reasonable markets, with alumni representation.  Clearly, they can work anywhere, but they would have to do more leg work.

May 22, 13 2:22 pm

I don't think it matters as much as everyone in Archinect seems to make out to be, in all honesty. I graduated from a school in the midwest and am now working for a large firm on the east coast. 10 years out (hell, even 5..) and no one will ever ask you where you came from most likely. it matters very little...what does matters is what you bring to the table. with your marketable skills as a designer, your portfolio and the projects you've been involved in. Frankly what you get out of your education is what you put into it regardless of where you go. That same principle applies to getting a job after school, too.

I'm a very big believer that the name of a school only does so much. Firms hire people, not diplomas.

May 22, 13 3:54 pm
Jono Lee

But to work in academia, won't an ivy league degree be looked on more favourably?

May 22, 13 3:58 pm


Most CVs of professors who teach at the better schools include an Ivy League education, a stint in a star's office, and prolific unintelligible writing.  If not Ivy, they tend to be papered from Rice, Virginia, or Berkeley.  Academia in architecture is an inbred little circle, it seems, and any non-ivory tower verbiage in their published work might be met with disdain.  Just reading the title of some of their publications is enough to make one scratch their head.

May 22, 13 4:31 pm

I graduated from a school in the midwest and am now working for a large firm on the east coast. 

Right, I could see a Michigan, Cincinnati, or Illinois grad in NYC or other major Eastern metros, among others.  Question is:  How did you get your job there, if you were not from the area? (Or maybe you are).  What governed where I went to look for work?  Where I had a couch, should I say a comfortable bed, to crash on while I went out and interviewed.  That meant certain areas I would have liked were less feasible.  A lot of people tend to "go home" after a M.Arch. 1, unless they set up something slightly before graduating and, even though I graduated in a decent enough economy, most people had not.

May 22, 13 4:50 pm

It matters if you think it matters. It doesn't matter if you don't think it does. Sorry for the ambiguity for those that can't read between the lines (observant).

May 22, 13 5:36 pm


I was asking e.m.g.  Not you. 

Many people have to "go bohemian" (friends' couches) to go for the out-of-town job, providing they have friends in that town, and have small windows of time in which to do that.  I'm not as obtuse as you think. 

May 22, 13 5:44 pm

observant, I don't know what you mean. I was answering the original question, not one of yours.

And I'm just teasing, I don't think you're THAT dense.

May 22, 13 5:53 pm

What I've noticed, having attended schools with and without high rankings:

1. The students at schools with high rankings generally work harder/ more efficiently, have a better sense of focus, and probably have more design talent. 

2. Schools with high rankings attract professors that are generally more open minded, better at designing and communicating design, and who have connections in other areas of the country or world

3. At highly ranked schools, there is a lot of pressure from the faculty, and sometimes a competitiveness from fellow students, to uphold a standard of quality-- for the school's reputation, marketing, etc.  This usually results in more, and more interesting work output-- eventually a better portfolio.

4. It's much easier to find work with good connections-- many of my classmates and I found work this way.  Some firms only hire people who know someone already at the firm.

5. For finding work at well-known firms, having a good name school on your resume (along with a good portfolio) will get you an interview easier than by just having a good portfolio

May 23, 13 12:27 am

zg_a - more or less agree with you on all 5 points:

1.  yes, more focus and more design talent; a lot of times it's because they are more intellectual and don't think architecture is simply "neat"

2.  the lower ranked schools might have competent architects on the faculties, but less likely talented designers

3.  some schools will allow big box warehouses as design "solutions" to what are supposed to be signature buildings or buildings which help kick off a revitalization, which would get you a new ass hole at a better school (sorry, but the shoe fits)

4. & 5. yes, with school and portfolio helping

When they admit people with what doesn't translate into design ability and graphic skills specific to the profession (and NOT the fine arts), it seems to take down the quality of the output and the intellectual discourse among students, of which there isn't as much as there should be because students are too busy and don't cross-pollinate each others' designs.  I once had a girl in a studio with whom I was friends, though her arsenal was big box warehouses, and when I would show her what I was up to, her canned answer was "I like it.  It adds interest."

May 23, 13 12:44 am

I totally agree with, and I've had similar experiences, where there was a real lack of good discussions about the implications of design decisions.  Cross pollination is a really important part of an architectural education.   

May 23, 13 1:11 am


I knew not a soul coming out to the east coast, (it was quite terrifying! haha but it's been an unbelievable journey) as my home is in the midwest. I was very proactive at job searching, interviewing and putting my name out there.

I think people forget that tennacity, ambition and hard work are honestly (yes, some people will probably kick me for this..) more important in today's world than where you went to school or talent/"potential"..

Some people can't afford or justify the rising cost in Ivy league education. (me included. I got into Columbia, Berkeley..ect.) Does that make them any lesser of a designer or opt at having lesser chances from going to say, a state school instead? Absolutely not. And for something like Architecture? Personally I feel that by the time you're applying for or obtaining a masters degree either you have great design sense and capability, or you don't. Good design and good people will shine through and be evident to any firm, regardless of the institution validating their credentials.

Remember: Graduate school is a business.

In the end, you're paying for that piece of paper that will probably not mean too much 10 years out. (in the sense, of validating yourself as a professional, or as a desinger) what will end up replacing that is what you've done with your degree, ivy league or not.

May 23, 13 10:02 am

Also keep in mind, too that depending on what you want out of your education and where you want to be, a lot of times MArch I programs that require taking out a big sum in loans.

I'm not saying that to some that risk won't be worth the return. But when raised the question about your ability to get a job out of school....those three years of your life will be over before you know it, and then you have the rest of your life/career to think about.

What kind of work do you want to do? If you want a job in a corporate firm, it probably wont matter where you went in the larger scheme of things. IF you want to start your own company, maybe the connections would be better served where you get your MArch I..

But I would caution you to make sure your financial position will be realistic enough in terms of debt and repayment that you won't be having to take a job that you might not love for the sake of making a certain level of income in order to pay off those "three golden years of graduate school" back with 20 years of high interest rates. A few people I know did this and 15 years later after graduating from Yale (yes they're doing fine at a corproate firm now and making good money) but it's too difficult for them to walk away from the financal security of it to open their own practice because the are constrained to owing close to 2K a month in loan repayment on top of all other commitments. That Ivy league degree ironically advanced them in ways, it's hindered them in others. (They got a great job out of school, but then again so did people graduating from Ohio State..ect. and they're doing the same kind of work) Just some food for thought.

(For me, I'd take the freedom and flexibility over that kind of long term hinderance financially anyday if it meant I could afford to pick and chose the work I do and not have to worry too much about finances...but it all depends on what you really want this degree to do for you.)

Going through graduate school with the end result and knowing what job you want a few years out in mind, will ease the decision and help clarify whether the ranking of the school will help you or hinder you.

May 23, 13 11:11 am

what's the difference between NCARB and AIA?  are they even necessary or are you just screwed to follow their guidelines in order to be licensed

May 23, 13 12:11 pm

NCARB runs the exam and issues a certificate for reciprocity, because the licensing regs across state lines are so freaking inconsistent.  AIA is an association and an acronym to append after one's name, and is optional. 

I don't have a problem with NCARB administering the exam.  I do have a problem with the NCARB certificate.  Lawyers and doctors just apply to another state to practice, without the need for a blanket certificate.  Again, NCARB is taking money from the lowest paid professionals.

AIA is something nice to put at the end of your name, since no one knows what RA means.  Registered audiologist, perhaps?  No.  A medical degree or dental degree makes for the letters MD and DDS after your name.  Without joining the AIA, you put RA after your name if licensed.  You can also put NCARB after your name.  Again, the average person on the street won't know what that is, either.  The best alphabet soup of all is FAIA + NCARB + LEED AP.  It would be cool if, at least, they gave the FAIAs free dues, as an honor, and let the AIAs subsidize them.  Not.

e.m.g - logistically, couch in NY, bed in NY, friends, relatives, hotel, hostel?  Just curious.

May 23, 13 1:06 pm

Actually I did a lot of phone and skype interviewing while working for a firm in the midwest...A few companies paid for my flight to go there and interview. I went on my own for a week and stayed with a friend at one point too.

May 23, 13 1:13 pm

Gotcha.  So, after some work experience. That makes a difference.  Fresh out of school, that would have been an uphill climb without some longer-term lodging.  Thanks.

May 23, 13 1:17 pm

Yeah, I was about 6 months out of school and working for a local company before making the big move. However it mattered like I said very little about where I went, which surprised me at first considering cities usually recruit from all of the name brand and Ivys.

I'm making the same now as my colleague next to me from Penn, and the one after her from Harvard. Though I sometimes feel like they have something "more" than me in terms of having that "Ivy Leage Degree"... but I couldn't be happier enjoying every bit of my paycheck and ability to afford this lifestyle and not having to worry about substantial loans and trade offs for that degree.

We do the same projects, have the same responsibilities...ect. Again, that's not to say that it's a bad thing to go to an Ivy Leage school if you're able to afford it and good enough to get in. Go for it if you are, there is a reason they're sought after! But it isn't everything, and it doesn't mean you cant live the dream or work in a great design firm if you don't have one. Nor does it mean you are somehow "lesser" which seems to be the "Ivy or Bust" attitude seems to majorily be here on Archinect

I talked to a lot of the hiring managers at HOK and it's very clear that they really don't care so much about where you come from, nor do they or similar firms here have a "school or two" anymore which the recruit heavily from. Diversity is very welcomed, which is where the comments come from about how if you want it, believe you can have it and go for it. Don't think for a second that you are somehow disadvantaged from not having "the Ivy leage degree" in this profession. If you're a good designer, and you believe you have what it matters very little what school you go to in my opinion. :)

May 23, 13 1:40 pm


No, no, I'm with you.  I've got a state university M.Arch. and the only private I looked at was Rice because, for some reason, they keep their tuition lower than the others.  I didn't get in.  But I'm past the relocation phase.  BTDT.

As for NY, for example, my uncle lived across the river, in Bergen County, NJ.  I would take the bus to Port Authority and then board the subways beneath to do the tourist stuff in the city, which I love very much.  I could have used his house as a "base."  However, after seeing the wave of humanity moving in lockstep during the rush hour in Port Authority and realizing that if you stopped to tie your shoe you'd be trampled, I wrote off all the "romance" of living in NYC and said "sayonara" to the prospect of urban East Coast living.  Love the "character," don't like the lifestyle.

May 23, 13 1:59 pm


May 23, 13 4:57 pm

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