Virginia Tech vs. NC State for grad school? Help!


I found out about my acceptance to both Virginia Tech and North Carolina State for their M. Arch programs (for those without an architecture degree). I don't have much of a design background (undergrad degree in biology) and want to choose the school that is going to give me the best design foundation and preparation for a career as an architect.

One thing I noticed about VT is that its program requires fewer credits to complete the degree, and students are required to take courses over the summer between the second and third years, meaning that an internship probably wouldn't be able to happen then. However, VT appears on top 20 lists more often.

Thoughts? I have also been accepted to Arizona State, but I'm not sure how I feel about the program. Any insight, opinions, anecdotes, etc. would be greatly appreciated!

Mar 10, 14 7:47 pm
Tech, simple decsion.
Mar 10, 14 8:29 pm

Why is that a simple decision? I've heard good things about both schools, and have heard from someone who chose NC State over VT for a variety of reasons.

Mar 11, 14 8:53 am

Arizona State is a decent school, too, but VT is the right choice. 

Mar 11, 14 10:55 am

Three of my undergraduate professors received their M.Arch Degrees from NC State. All are extremely talented designers and educators. I believe Tech has a stronger reputation, but grad school is what you make of it. You can't go wrong with either school. 

Both programs are known as technical programs so expect  a strong dose of construction technology which is a plus since most employers want  graduates who know how a building goes together. 

I applied this year and got into both programs as well. I know NC State requires a first initial summer session for their Track 3 students. This is comparable to V-Tech's summer session between the second and third year.

Think about where you might want to work once you graduate, is academia in your future? 

Mar 11, 14 11:02 am

I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to go into academia, at least, not for a while. I'm hoping to become an architect or work in a related profession.

Thanks for all the input!

Mar 11, 14 12:51 pm

Okay, I just found out that I've been accepted to Cincinnati - now what??

Mar 11, 14 3:50 pm

Are you planning on visiting any of these schools before making a decisions?

Mar 11, 14 5:08 pm

I'm looking into it, but I don't think it's going to be possible logistically with work and transportation and flights.

Mar 11, 14 5:22 pm


I'm VERY biased as I am from North Carolina, took classes in architecture at NCSU while at Duke to expose myself to what courses/life were like at an architecture program. On the other end of the spectrum, I've worked for the past 3 years at a GC in the DC area, meaning most of my coworkers, architects, and engineers are from VT.

It really does come down to your own personal preference. For me, I'd choose NCSU for a multitude of anecdotal reasons. I'm from there, most of my huge family is in NC, my little sister is a freshman there and I'd love to be able to offer her guidance from across campus, I know a good number of professors and practitioners there already, Raleigh (and the rest of the triangle, more on that later) is AMAZING, I'd be close to my alma mater in Duke, and NC State's facilities are fantastic (I can say that after 3 visits to Columbia GSAPP, the latest being 2 days ago, that NCSU blows it out of the water from a personal perspective).

Another big plus for NCSU is that, again, it's part of the research triangle, which include Duke/Durham and UNC-CH/Chapel Hill. It really can't be understated how nice it is to have three great universities who all excel at different things within a 20-30 minute drive or free bus ride to one another. It's hard to go to school in the area and just be confined to your institution. Concerts, food, sporting events, festivals, art, everything. And I don't know how feasible it'd be for M.Arch but I know for undergrads they are allowed to take up to two courses a semester at another school and have it count for credit at your home institution. I, myself, drove/bussed to Raleigh with a few others who took advantage of NCSU's world-class veterinary program. Other's went to UNC for art history or Russian classes. It was awesome!  

I honestly can't say anything about VT but from what I gleaned from speaking to its alums most enjoyed their time there, although none of them got their M.Arch there, just there B.Arch. They also seemed like competent professionals who were trained to do their jobs well. I just hear that there's not much going on in Blacksburg, but I couldn't be bothered to do my research and verify that assertion.

A big question for programs like these is where you see yourself practicing. If you want to start off your career (because after a while it becomes more about your professional portfolio) working  in VA, DC, and even MD, VT is probably a better choice. If you want to work anywhere in NC, SC, or even GA then I'd go with NCSU.

I know it's cliche but you really can't go wrong with either school. For what they both represent in their respective regions, they very similar if you're just looking at the school itself (much like allenmd07 mentioned above). But the thing that most tend to overlook is how they're like living in the area. Do you like the setting? Are the things that you enjoy doing for hobby or enjoyment there? Would you want to go to a place that has a good athletics program that you can enjoy? If so, which sport? What would you do when you invariably want to "escape" from the rigors of the program, and will that setting have it? These are some pretty important questions (and are by no means exhaustive) that require a level of personal introspection. 

I'd be very interested to know which school you choose. Obviously I hope you choose NCSU - if you do, I'd be happy to facilitate conversation with a few professors, give some tips for living in the area, and some things to do - but I'm sure that whatever choice you make will be the right one. Congratulations on all of your acceptances! You have some really great options in front of you, a testament to your hard work. 


Mar 11, 14 6:03 pm

Virginia Tech hands down.

I didn't go there, but will say it's one of the very best programs in the country that produces actual architects.

Cincinnati is also very good, but I know nothing about their grad programs. ASU has great practitioners on the faculty, but from the grads I've known, its pedagogy is less mature and intentional than VT's.

Can't say anything bad about NCSU because I've never met anyone from there. But I don't think it's in the same league with the other three.

Mar 11, 14 8:34 pm

I'm a second year graduate student at Cincinnati (also did my undergrad here) and I've found the co-op tremendously valuable to my academic interests and future professional opportunities.  I've developed great relationships with a lot of the professors here as well, who have varied interests - so there always seems to be something for everybody.  The city is experiencing a lot of great building and arts development lately, and our campus architecture is top notch.

Feel free to message me about UC and I'll be happy to answer any questions you have!

Mar 12, 14 8:39 am

I am now in my second year of the Track III M.Arch program at NC State, and I love it here. Two years ago, I chose NC State over VT (and UPenn). It mostly came down to finances and location: I received in-state tuition + scholarship at NC State, and downtown Raleigh is a much more engaging place to study architecture and urbanism than Blacksburg, which feels a little isolated.

When I visited VT, I really liked the school. The graduate studios are incredibly nice. I have several friends and colleagues that have attended VT for architecture and they all seemed to have an extremely positive experience. Several of them took advantage of VT's study abroad program in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland, which sounds amazing. NC State has a study abroad institute in Prague, Czech Republic, but I don't think it compares to VT's program in Riva San Vitale. 

NC State's facilities (wood/metals shop, laser cutters, 3d prototyping) are top-notch, but I must say I wasn't shown VT's shop facilities on my tour there. The professors at NC State are extremely accessible, and it feels like a smaller school than VT. At NC State, the connections with Triangle-area/NC/southern firms are incredible. For instance, this semester I am part of a co-op-like program where for my design studio I am interning at a local architecture firm and working on Public Interest Design projects. In this program (new to NC State this year) I am getting paid, getting professional architectural experience, gaining IDP credit, and completing my graduate education all at once. I doubt such an experience is available at VT, but I may be wrong.

VT is consistently ranked higher than NC State in terms of graduate architecture, but I would suggest caring about rankings at your own risk. I would care more about reputation of the school among practitioners, not rankings. For instance, VT probably has a better reputation in the DC and Richmond metro areas, but NC State probably has a better reputation in the NC/SC areas. This does not preclude you from working in another area after you graduate, but alumni connections are serious in the professional architecture community.

Ultimately, both are great schools, and you really cannot go wrong with VT or NC State. They are actually pretty similar schools overall. I love it here in Raleigh, and my education and professional opportunities at NC State have been excellent. My best advice is to visit the schools so that you can see which feels right. Also try to think about where you want to work after grad school, as that may affect your decision.

Good luck with your decision.

Mar 13, 14 11:27 am

After an intense and dizzying amount of deliberation and many emails back and forth with students and alumni of these programs, I've accepted the offer from NC State! I was actually surprised when I came to my decision last week, as I had almost sent out my acceptance letter to Cincinnati. Ultimately, this program felt like the best fit for me and will be the most financially friendly (TA position in the spring with tuition covered and a stipend!).

In case any of you were wanting to know :)

Apr 14, 14 7:14 pm

I did my M.Arch at Virginia Tech (the 3.5 year program) and I have to say - althought aht was 3.5 years of my life, it will live in my memory as some of the greatest moments of my life.

The academic envioronment is next to none, the community is great, the connections are surreal, and campus is stunning, the professors are world class, and the program will really get you ready for the profession.

I disagree with anothe statement that it is a "technical" program - it is actually very theory-based.  You will get a huge dose of philosphy.

Apr 15, 14 12:08 pm

Haha you're a little late. But I feel very good about my decision.

Apr 15, 14 12:18 pm

Congrats man!  You made an excellent decision!  :D

I also applied to those same schools (about 10 years ago).  I am from a state that does not have an architecture school so I applied to all of the schools that participated in the academic common market so that I could take an advantage of in-state tuition.

Congrats again on your decision - just make sure to take an advantage of these amazing years and design amazing things!

Apr 15, 14 12:28 pm

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