When to jump back to school-mode and get your M.Arch?


So I graduated in 2012 and it took me a year to find a good job in a small design firm.

Now, I feel that I need to work 2 or 3 years before going back to school to get my M.Arch and be a valuable member to my firm (and my bosses know that i'm planning for school). Now i'm really concerned about coming back to school after a long hiatus...include the year of job searching it would mean 3-4 years away from school.

Some people say that those students that took a long break tend to be rusty in the software capabilities?

I was lagging in terms of the software skills I had in Uni (sucked at grasshopper, rhino, rendering machines like 3dsmax and vray - just knew basics). I did fall behind in my undergrad and flunked one gpa at the end was 3.45 (and I'm looking for grad schools and don't mind not getting advanced standing)

Is this a mid-twenties life crisis? Can other students testify if this generalization of the older masters students are a bit slow on the software is true or not? If so, how did they keep up?


The Underdog Architecture Student. (my blog)

Aug 22, 13 11:08 pm

With what degree did you graduate with in 2012?

Aug 23, 13 2:10 pm

You're only rusty if you neglect to learn new software or keep up your current abilities. After 2 to 3 years of continuous employment you may have more practical knowledge than your professors...scary right?

This can be a significant advantage in certain studios. You may also find yourself "grounded" to realistic construction techniques which may or may not go over well in studios where gravity is not a design constraint.

In my grad program there were older students that were completely up-to-date with the latest software and had very nice renderings. It's all up to you. Button-pushing classes will not improve your software skills, experimentation is the only way. 

Aug 23, 13 2:35 pm

I wouldnt be concerned with falling behind in software. There are plenty of incoming MArch students that dont have a background in architecture and have NO software experience whatsoever. If you feel behind there are usually optional summer prep courses. I would suggest skipping those and diving right into the software you want to learn.

I did the opposite - straight from undergrad to grad and am now realizing that some work experience would have grounded some of my more unrealistic design studio projects.

Aug 23, 13 5:01 pm

here's my two cents okay maybe 5 but 5 sounds like more than 4:

1) M.Arch is over rated. if you have a BArch; get your idp done and get your license. the sky is the limit w/ your license not a M. Arch. you still have to take the same exam whether you have an M.arch or B.arch. and the M.arch prepare's you for the a.r.e. as much as this Betty crocker cook book i got in college.

2). M.Arch is more debt and for what? a $1 more an hour? the a.r.e. is about $1400 plus study materials that will def turn heads and have interviewers perk up in there seats when you say "yhea i'm an architect damn it!" not "i have a masters degree, please hire me damn it"

3). the hardest part is done. you finally have that first job. why quit, go back to school, get in more debt, graduate and spend another year or two looking for employment again w/ a degree that will pay you $1 more an hour so to speak (technically more like .62 cent more an hour due to inflation and taxes - i was an econ minor)

4). you think wright would leave his job and go back? (Mr. sullivan, im going back to school to finish my B.arch & get a master's degree that in the grand scope of things really will not help further my career or the firm so i can earn .15 cents more an hour)

5). as far as the software, i wouldn't worry about it at all. reason being, i started my career as a drafter after a year & a half at a juco. worked for 3years and went back to get my b.arch. once i got back into firm after a 6 year hiatus, i still came thru the door first day as fast & knowledgeable if not more knowledgeable than guys who had been there 2years before me using autocad, sketchup & photoshop. not once was my performance with the software ever an issue.

use this how you like

Aug 25, 13 11:21 pm

I agree w/ above. IMO Skip grad school & the crazy debt (assuming you borrow) and spend your money on travel, books, & workshops, etc. instead. Good luck.

Aug 26, 13 1:31 pm

I would chime in and say that it really depends what you want to accomplish in your career. Some people are happy having regular jobs in a regular dime a dozen firm and making good enough pay.

But the truth is many grad programs open doors to firms and connections that you will not, no matter what fairy tale you want to live in, open on your own. They offer some means to relevancy, if you are a hard worker, if you network. To dismiss that is simply ignorance.

Aug 26, 13 10:28 pm

I graduted in 2009 with a BS and just started my M.Arch last week. So that's 4 years off. It's crazy having hw and such again. I'm also working full time. Maybe you should go to school part time and keep working (best of both worlds?). That's what I'm doing. However you will have like no free time. I wouldn't be too concerned about software as long as you know something you'll be fine. It does suck a bit when you are dealing with people who never left school so they know like 10 programs and are up to date on all of them. Takes a bit to catch up to them, which I find myself attempting to do. Need to learn Rhino and Illustrator.

Aug 27, 13 9:56 am

The computer programs will come with time, remember most of those kids know virtually nothing about real building design and construction. Pretty renderings are nice, but your professional experience looks much more appealing during interviews post grad school.

I personally would like to teach in an arch program one day and that certainly requires an M.Arch degree. I think having a small to mid level practice coupled with a faculty/tenured position at a university would give you the best of both worlds.

Just some food for thought.

Aug 27, 13 10:19 am

Education is never a waste unless you have no goals to apply it. I graduated from my undergrad in Environmental Design in Landscape Architecture in 2001 and worked until 2012 where I am now working to get my M.Arch (at the age of 32). Unfortunately in Canada, you cannot be a licensed/registered architect until you have completed this education. Therefore it is a necessary step in the process of me becoming an architect. 

I graduated when we were still drawing by hand and modelling with an exacto blade. There were only a few of us who were using 3D software to do digital presentation work. One or two years is not a stretch to be surpassed by software and technologies. Imagine the shock I had to face after 11 years when the studio desk disappeared and you are relegated to a laptop. Since it is a graduate program whether it is engineering, medicine or architecture, it is your responsibility to learn the support material to help you attain your specialization. So get on youtube and tutorial yourself until you're confident. 

Aug 27, 13 12:29 pm

Thanks for the responses folks. I realized some good sites to check out when time comes to get up to speed on programs like rhino (just realized you can have a trial version that does not save and you can just practice on it) before grad school and I am currently just getting a Revit certificate in hopes to be ready when BIM becomes affordable for small firms like the one I work for. And I might try and do some competitions too.  

I guess I might put some issues in context, I graduated with a Bachelors in Architectural Science (In Canada they've abolished the accredited 5 year B.Arch programs - It's either 4+2 programs like waterloo, ryerson, and 3.5 year M.Arch programs like UofT UBC and such.)

It kinda is a bit of an issue for any junior designer who wants to become a licensed professional in Canada since everyone has to apply and go for a M.Arch...or do the syllabus from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada which is very lengthy span of time. (I was involved in AIAS and I must say I'm envious that I have friends south of the border that are Assoc. AIA after getting their undergrad done) 

Aug 31, 13 8:24 pm

I guess I might put some issues in context, I graduated with a Bachelors in Architectural Science (In Canada they've abolished the accredited 5 year B.Arch programs - It's either 4+2 programs like waterloo, ryerson, and 3.5 year M.Arch programs like UofT UBC and such.)

I guess that means there are very few 3.5s in Canada:  UofT, UBC, Calgary, and none in Quebec.  Any others doing 3.5?

Mid 20s is hardly a midlife crisis, especially for a 2 year M.Arch. program.  It's sort of the average age in which to go.

Sep 1, 13 3:41 am

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