How do I become a professor of architecture?



I am thinking of taking this route. Currently a 3rd year B.Arch student. In my portfolio class, we were asked to write a statement of purpose to the grad school/program of our choice, so I've been thinking about what I might actually want to do in this field. I've known for at least a year and a half now that I am not very interested in pursuing actual design.

Instead, I enjoy theory, research, sustainability, history, reading, learning, and writing. I'm not entirely sure where to go with this knowledge. I would ask my portfolio class professor, but this assignment was due about 4 weeks ago so I feel like that might be a bad idea. And our advisers don't actually know very much about architecture or architecture schools, they just know what classes you need to take to graduate and when, so no help there.

What grad schools, programs, and degrees should I be looking at? Also, what should I be doing right now - what kind of stuff should I be focusing on and putting in my portfolio to get where I want to go? I don't have a minor at the moment but it's possible for me to fairly easily get one in Art History if anyone thinks that would be some sort of huge advantage. Just an aside.


Oct 4, 13 2:24 pm
Non Sequitur

You know what they say:

"Those who can't do, teach"

If you want to teach architecture, become an architect and work in the field so that you have relevant experience to bring to the table. Too many students never make the leap outside of the comforts of academia. But, what you'll need is at the very least a Master's degree and perhaps even a phd depending on the university. Perhaps a small community college might not care, but then again, you would not be teaching architecture there.

Anyone else tired of these: "what is the absolute minimum I need to do to succeed in my goals?"

Oct 4, 13 2:38 pm

Think about what you'd want to teach in and about architecture.  Design?  (It sounds like you're ruling that one out.)  History?  Theory?  Sustainability?  Technology?  Structures? Computation?  Behavioral aspects?

Ideally, you'd focus on your interest, get a degree or two (or three) and become proficient at it. Of course, many instructors aren't.  For that career path, you need to become good at schmoozing, networking, and brown-nosing (good skills in any occupation).

Oct 4, 13 2:39 pm

Absolute minimum? Don't believe I was inquiring about that.

I plan to work in the field. Just not as a designer. In fact, I would love to work on the side while teaching. Or teach on the side while working. Nearly all of my professors do that so I thought it was a give-in. "Those who can't do, teach" is a pretty rude sentiment and also untrue. Is there something wrong with wanting to teach others and help them learn about something you are passionate about? One thing I've discovered about myself in college through my experience as a Resident Assistant is that I absolutely love assisting others in reaching their goals.


I'm not great at schmoozing and networking but in general tend to make an impression on my professors one way or another, must be my sheer charm. The thing is, I'm not sure what specifically I would want to teach or specialize in. My interests are too broad and becoming an expert on just one thing feels like limiting myself. Ideally I would want a broader education, maybe focusing on about 3 things. I wouldn't mind getting several degrees but I also don't want to be in school (as a student) for the next 15 years.

Oct 4, 13 2:59 pm
Non Sequitur

Rude? Not in the least, I've known too many colleagues who choose the teaching route because they were not cut-out for the working world and I've attended many design studios with disconnected "architects" as professors.

My colleagues and thesis advisers with successful teaching and professional careers all followed post undergraduate level studies which they then converted into a teachable subject. Examples such as structures, sustainability, 3D modelling, etc.

You also need to "get-in" with the university staff to have the opportunity to introduce your skills. Often this is through invitation for design critiques and charettes or perhaps to give lectures on certain research topics.

Also, portfolio class? That is a new one for me.

Oct 4, 13 3:32 pm

I believe that post-graduate work is essential to securing a teaching position.  You would do best to get your masters at the most prestigious, big name place you can get into.  The overwhelming majority of my profs had Ivy League post-grad degrees along with 1-2 years low-level work experience with very well-known architects.  Did this make them good teachers? Not always, but this combo of education and experience appeared to be the ticket into a teaching job.

Oct 4, 13 3:58 pm
boy in a well

I thought it was:

those who can't do make up 90% of the profession.

maybe I just heard it incorrectly.

Oct 4, 13 4:10 pm

There are a variety of ways.

For a hoyty-toyty school, you needed to have gone to a hoyty-toyty school yourself (Ivy League, MIT, Rice, Berkeley, Virginia, and Michigan, the latter of which is not hoyty-toyty like the others) and obtain a professional degree, such as the M.Arch.  I don't think B.Archs. are in professorial roles at the plum a-schools.  Then, the person usually works for 2 to 4 years in a famous architect's office in NY, Chicago, or LA.  They get involved in the more ethereal clubs and writing while in school.  They continue to write ... and write ... and write.  They tend to be very theoretical, if in design, theory, or similar topics.  Now these degrees aren't even enough.  They need to pile it higher and deeper, meaning they need a PhD.  I can't even decipher some of the topics they've chosen for a dissertation because they're so abstruse and not very practical.  In the last 20 years, many more PhD programs have sprung up in architecture that's it's almost a necessity at this point.  Interestingly enough, many do not get a license.  However, I won't go as far as to say "those who can, do, and those who can't, teach."  Some practice on the side, some are good at design theory and helping you better your design skills, some are attracted to teaching, and some don't golf.  I say this because a friend in the law school at the same campus said that one of his law profs mentioned that on the first day of class:  "I don't golf, therefore I teach."  I'm sure that would apply for graduate business, too.

For less popular schools, the M.Arch. from a good school, ideally with a license, or a PhD, with experience at lesser known firms and a modicum of publishing seems to work.  They'll still have to publish and conduct research while teaching, though.

For small colleges that might offer architecture (as a wet your feet option in an art and design program, and not as a (pre)professional curriculum) and community colleges, the M.Arch. or a B.Arch. will suffice, preferably with a license and work experience, and it doesn't matter at which office, because they tend to be transfer track, associate degree, or vocationally oriented.

I mean, I could see a thesis in a M.Arch. program, but a dissertation in a PhD Arch. program?  Seriously?  Ivory tower exponential.

Oct 4, 13 4:48 pm

"I'm not sure what specifically I would want to teach or specialize in. My interests are too broad and becoming an expert on just one thing feels like limiting myself."

Then I'd wait about the whole "professor of architecture" thing...

Oct 4, 13 5:41 pm

"Then I'd wait about the whole "professor of architecture" thing..."

What I meant was, I would like to have expertise in more than one area and teach more than one class. If that's possible? Sustainability goes with materials goes with computing, everything somehow affects something else in architecture, why wouldn't I be able to specialize in, and eventually teach, more than one? I guess I may have made too general of a statement. I do have things I would be interested in studying, there is just more than one. Sustainability, history, theory, computing. I can narrow it to one if I have to. But I really don't want to.



Dang. That all sounds intense. I'm fairly positive there's no chance of me getting into an ivy league, not with my design work at least. Maybe with my research papers and senior honors thesis? But I have a feeling that's quite a stretch. I wouldn't mind getting a PhD and have already considered it. As long as I think I will somehow be able to afford it, I'll do it.

Oct 4, 13 6:12 pm

It's not really intense as it is "cultish."  If you really believe in your dissertation, then you can do it.  I'm more practical and would have trouble coming up with a dissertation research topic.  I've read the PhD topics some of my friends have done in architecture and other fields, and they make me shake my head ... things like "The Dynamics of Etruscan Social Order and its Impact on Post Modernism."  Of course, I'm joking, but some of it is pretty out there.

With a B.Arch., you can either go for a 1 year M.Arch. or M.S. Arch., and then the PhD ... or right to the PhD.  I think working in architecture might help you, unless someone here indicates to the contrary.  I don't think I had any profs who hadn't worked at least a couple of years.

If you get a PhD from a decent enough school, you can teach at a decent enough school ... I think.   For the very best schools, the route is very highbrow and pedigreed the whole way, just so you know.  And this isn't rocket science, either.  One only needs to look at the websites for those schools, and see where "these people" (the profs) went to school, their body of work, and the stuff they write.  MIT and Oklahoma State are very different schools and their websites reflect the different flavors as well.

Oct 4, 13 6:29 pm

It's one thing to get a PhD, it's another to do one.  Meaning, that day you successfully defend the dissertation is fantastic.  So is graduation day when you get to wear the red gown and funny hat.  That's the getting part.

The doing part starts with 2-3 years of course work (after your masters) while you may be working part time; then a semester of prep for qualifying exams, followed up by the week or two of intense, intense writing and anxiety.  Then, there's the defense.  Fun!  If you pass, then you start the dissertation proposal.  Once that's done, it's two or three years of time spent in archives, in the field, interview people, conducting surveys, or whatever research methodology your project demands.  All along, it's write, write, write.  Oh, and then some more writing.  Presentations at academic conferences, comments on your draft chapters from not only your chair, but your other committee members--if you can get them to respond in a timely way.  Finally, you've got a complete draft, and after begging your committee to read it all, you schedule a defense for that.  If all goes well, you end up with the joy described at the outset of this post.

It's really a great experience... but a big chunk of one's life.

Oct 5, 13 12:37 am


So true.  It's a lot like IDP.  All your willpower is there, but the cooperation of the employer in providing hours in the various categories is the sticky wicket.

The same is true for PhD programs.  I would imagine the biggest hurdle would be the tenured professors on your committee who are on their schedule and are bureaucrats who might impart the attitude that such a sheepskin is like being handed the keys to Fort Knox.   This is what turns most people off and causes people to drop doctoral work.

I've always thought that, on a full-time basis, PhDs are hammered out in about 4 years, with many coming in at 5 years, and a select few coming in at 3 or 3.5 years if they've never changed subjects of study and have hit their stride, such as BBA > MBA >PhD.  The other thing is that a lifetime of publishing and presenting to intellectual think tanks is not for everyone.  Are you interested in doing this because you want to teach, or because you want to be a lifelong researcher?  With some of the people I know, they wanted out of corporate America and wanted to teach what they had been schooled in.  They got plum MBAs and PhDs, started teaching at plum schools, and then dialed it back to teaching at schools where the emphasis on original research was secondary to teaching.

Oct 5, 13 12:55 am

phd is specific because all the general knowledge is already understood and it is required that you come up with something new.  you could try to write about something multi-disciplinary but that has already been pretty well mapped out in theory and practice.

as far as teaching goes, you probably won't teach your dissertation. that is assuming you get a phd at all. It isn't necessary, although becoming more and more so.


Teaching is pretty tough.  Very competitive. It is harder than just being an architect in my mind.

Currently i teach a course on sustainable architecture and planning plus a studio. I have a light teaching load because I am also helping to set up and administrate a program that brings together climate scientist and other creative people like architects and planners to work on resilience and sustainability issues. We are ALL practitioners.  NONE of the professors teach instead of do (that entire concept is utter nonsense). Students join in the doing and learn that way.  Professors also are very actively engaged in the world and its goings on.  That is called community service and is usually required in universities by contract.  Escaping to an ivory tower is not allowed. As far as I have seen all universities have that requirement.

In my case I am working with the United Nations as the local coordinator for a climate change research group called APAN (Asia Pacific Adaptation Network), and am helping with the master-planning of a city in Northern Japan that was destroyed by a 30m tsunami in 2011. On top of that I am editing a book on resilience building and organizing a conference (not big, just 200 people) on same. We do the latter every year so I am getting fairly comfortable with that, but it still takes time and effort. 

All of the profs work at least that hard. If they don't they get prodded or dropped. Teaching a class is just the tip of the iceberg. Like I said, competition is pretty rough in the teaching world.

In architecture all of us also have our own practices (not required, but unofficially expected), which makes life pretty interesting, and a serious challenge to keep up.  But again, its nothing special. Its just what it takes to be in the middle.  The exceptional professors do a hell of a lot more, and a lot if it is seriously innovative.

Which brings me back to the original point.  Focusing on a topic is the only way to make any sense of the life of an academic.  Every activity has to be organized around some kind of concept or identity or you will go nuts trying to keep up with it all.  You don't need to know it in advance mind you.  Lots of time to figure that stuff out.

If you are thinking about just teaching a studio while running a practice it is a lot easier.  Still, I would add that in the past few years I have come to understand that running an office is much the same as being a professor.  Activity has to be aimed somewhere, eventually.  Otherwise its just a bunch of spinning wheels.

Oct 5, 13 1:03 am
boy in a well

nicely said Will

Oct 5, 13 1:43 am
vado retro

may want to read this first...

Oct 5, 13 8:30 am

NONE of the professors teach instead of do (that entire concept is utter nonsense).  That is called community service and is usually required in universities by contract.  Escaping to an ivory tower is not allowed. As far as I have seen all universities have that requirement.

That could be Japan.  I can assure you there are profs who rest on their laurels.  They've been tenured, they've closed up shop, and they're lazy, at least toward their teaching duties.  When you're on the "quick system," and have 6 or 7 studios, and 2 or 3 dud professors like that, that's a travesty.

In the states, and probably in Canada, I'm sure they have the tenured, "good ole boy," ivory tower types because it's facilitated.  Here, the community service is to wear out their welcome on the same topic for which there is funding, presenting design ideas that are too upscale for the neighborhood or urban area in disrepair, or just not likely to receive approval and funding, otherwise they would then be built and everyone would know that professor was associated with that.

In southern Europe, it seems to be worse, from students I've heard sound off.

And having sampled another academic field, the ivory tower type of research the profs did, and published, was about 65:35 ethereal/you've got to be kidding:useful.

The best professors I've had were the ones that were mostly practitioners and popped in as adjuncts to teach a design studio or to teach a supporting lecture style class, and then ran back to their offices.  I think they were licensed M.Archs. with a lot of years of hands-on experience.

I'm just pointing out that in the U.S. and Canada, upon working for a starchitect for a couple of years, avoiding the exam, cranking out a PhD, and doing the faculty thing can indeed harbor people who are very disconnected from the realities of practice.  Look at how many people here complain that certain design studios and certain courses were worthless.

Oct 5, 13 11:35 am


For a hoyty-toyty school, you needed to have gone to a hoyty-toyty school yourself (Ivy League, MIT, Rice, Berkeley, Virginia, and Michigan, the latter of which is not hoyty-toyty like the others) and obtain a professional degree, such as the M.Arch.

If you ad SCI-arch to that mix then you've pretty much covered everyone who works at Michigan. (though some of the faculty worked at these schools previously rather than graduated from them)

Oct 5, 13 12:34 pm

observant, you could be right in some places and with some people, but your point of view sounds ignorant rather than a reflection of reality based on the people i have worked with and met. I meet a lot of architecture profs as part of my job and seldom do I come away with your ridiculous position. And yeah I know I am based in Tokyo, but I worked in the UK and Canada and lots of folks come through from all over the world so it isn't like Im making this shit up from whole clothe.

ok , fair enough i tend to hang out with the elites you deride as only an american can - but even in canada it was not a bunch of lazy old gits doing sweet fuck all.  performance is part of the deal.

Getting back to the OP I think it would be a disservice to sell someone a life of lazy turpitude, when the reality is nothing like it. anyway this is getting to be a bit silly. best of luck to the op.

Oct 6, 13 8:48 am

the professors i know stay busy, constantly working to develop their curricula in new directions and keep them relevant. this requires research and development of their own work and then translation of that work into something teachable. and - in the current academic climate - also publishable.  

i don't usually read observant's posts but made the mistake of reading that one. he's nailed the popular view which denigrates academics - architectural or other - without really knowing what they do and what they're expected to do.

to the OP: there are myriad ways of getting into teaching. it depends on the school you're pursuing...  but sticking with it is the hard part.  

i taught as an adjunct for a couple of years and found it a fun and rewarding supplement to my practice. it didn't pay nearly enough, but that wasn't why i wanted to do it - and the pay wasn't what made me quit. it was the school politics that chased me out and back to an office.  

Oct 6, 13 9:00 am

i don't usually read observant's posts


but made the mistake of reading that one.

Thanks again.  Sounds like some group think with Donna, since you're neighbors and drinking  (or sampling bourbon or scotch) buddies.

he's nailed the popular view which denigrates academics

I've written a thesis, and it was of higher grade, posing questions and using SPSS to evaluate the responses.  The process was bureaucratic, a mind fuck, petty, featured ancillary committee members who didn't care, and not that useful,albeit a practical topic.  I have at least a handful of friends who have PhDs in Business.  That's a bigger mind fuck and politics exponential.  Teaching 2 courses a semester (6 credits) is the back burner aspect of their academic careers.  Universities are funky fiefdoms, each with its own set of quirks, as much as I value education. 

Oct 6, 13 11:23 am

The edit feature timed out.  I have taught as an adjunct about a dozen times, at c.c.'s and satellite campuses of bigger schools where no doctorate was required.  It was a blast.  It's all about teaching and bringing current, hands-on, practical applications to the students, and not of the variety that are postulated as research questions.  And, of those dozen times, one school asked me to teach for them 6 times.  Imagine that!

Oct 6, 13 11:34 am

Observant, the people around here have been generous with you. 

To the OP, may I suggest that asking an online forum about a teaching career is premature?

Instead, approach the people who have contributed to this thought , apologise for what you have done wrong, and tell them about it. 

Oct 7, 13 1:43 am
boy in a well

I usually don't read OB's post either. I only have so many neurons to share. and I didn't read all the posts above cuz me so lazy, but huh? apologize? done wrong? what did I miss?

archinect, ya'll getting weird.

Oct 7, 13 4:32 am

Observant, the people around here have been generous with you.

The word apologise, spelled in the manner you did, indicates you're not from "the colonies".  I don't know what you're talking about.  I agree with the willster: it's not an easy road to take and it can be a life of constant research and publishing, think tank like, and the research can be ivory tower unless it is a practice wing, meaning you do actual building designs ... to be built.  Because of the lack of emphasis on teaching, a person can end up with less than optimal teachers up to 1/3rd of the time.  A new vehicle called "" is now available and, you know what ... nothing has changed regarding the tenured folks I knew at institutions of higher learning.  Check it out.  And pipe up.

Oct 7, 13 8:44 am

apologise can be spelled with a 'z' or 's.'  either spelling is generally accepted. also, the 's' and 'z' key are right next to each other on a keyboard.  i would think it's just as likely to be a typo as a cultural difference.

i would also point out that you're judging an avatar named "mespellrong" based on their spelling.

Oct 7, 13 9:25 am

i would also point out that you're judging an avatar named "mespellrong" based on their spelling.

No, I noticed that and thought it was just an attempt at being cute, like "me teach" or "yo, teach."  Actually, wouldn't it be a handle?

Oct 7, 13 9:32 am

From the first post:

"I would ask my portfolio class professor, but this assignment was due about 4 weeks ago so I feel like that might be a bad idea."

It's pretty tough to say these days what will make a teaching career in architecture possible. there are 100,000 people in the U.S. who meet the what ought to be minimal criteria (registration), and yet more than 2/3 of the approximately 2,500 faculty in the U.S. are not registered. The teaching job markets are regional, balkanized, and depend heavily on social networks. 

So who can tell what advice might help this person find some real help about their teaching prospects? Likely, the person who gave them this assignment did so because they believe they can help. 

Oct 7, 13 2:52 pm

Note that most programs in Europe and Asia that are academic oriented are PhDs, unlike here in the States (though that is rapidly changing).  PhDs are as many have stated very narrow in focus that allows the committee to review your ability to pursue focused research based on a concrete 'philosophical' position (hence it's a doctorate of philosophy).  

For starters if your bent is theory/history an arch his minor/major would make a great deal of sense, giving you (hopefully) decent exposure to academic research and writing (something I would say is generally lax in most design programs).  Writing and publishing can be done at the undergraduate level (Crit, online journals, etc), book reviews are popular way of 'getting in' at many publications.

It also helps to start establishing a network of academics with whom you can hone your interests (and who may invite you to crits) and attend conferences geared toward academia.

The other way is to make a name for yourself in design through competitions, getting major fellowships (e.g. AA in Rome).

I hated seeing the faculty hiring process at varying universities too much to consider it full-time; the adjunct gigs seem more rewarding but compensate little to off-set the effort... key is for your 'outside' work to gel well with the academic one.  From my memory it was hard to find younger candidates with 'real' experience that had vigorous research interests and were intent on teaching technical classes... theorists seem to abound as did those who wanted to teach 'design' or 'sustainable' courses; but the construction expertise with a grounded theoretical slant was difficult (and a good niche to shoot for).

Oct 7, 13 3:31 pm

How do I become a professor of architecture?

Easy, speak like this.

Oct 8, 13 8:37 pm
There was nothing more frustrating then the professors who have never practiced a day in their career criticizing in archi-speak.

Fucking frustrating
Oct 9, 13 1:21 am

I also want to be a professor in architecture but I've narrowed my field of teaching down to History of Architecture which is what I'd suggest for you Along21 however seeing as I am here with the same question as you I don't know if you should listen but I have done some research. First of all PhD, I know there is not a lot of schools who offer a PhD in that architecture and the schools that do are expensive. Next I would suggest getting some real world experience but for people like who want to do it is tough, so what I am thinking about doing is trying to find a way to go study the Roman and Grecian architecture across seas because of they are History. If you are not like me do research and write a paper; I rock at math and history and I am amazing at conveying my point however I suck at writing. So make a big discovery and write about it and get your name known because trust me people look especially college students looking for a source on that big essay and professors see that too.   Eventually try to make friends collect as many degrees as you can like the art minor you were talking about and best luck to you because from what I know it is really hard to become a professor in general.    

Oct 6, 15 3:02 pm

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