District of Columbia Architecture Graduate Schools & Programs

Graduate Architecture schools enable current and aspiring architects to hone their skills and creativity in a supportive campus program. Schools may offer architecture programs ranging from master's to doctorate, both professional and post-professional. Architecture graduate schools are also interdisciplinary, potentially touching on a range of creative and technical skills and subjects. These may include engineering, mathematics, design, history, business, and more. Depending on the types of students each program is designed to serve, students might study full- or part-time, with a range of flexible scheduling options and practical experiences.

What It’s Like In Graduate Architecture Schools

Graduate Architecture Schools offer students the support they may need while earning their degrees. What exactly that entails could hinge on the nature of your program. Studying in a graduate school program, you may have access to technology, tools, and facilities similar to what you might use in the field. That includes design and drafting software, work space, reference materials, and more. Most graduate-school programs even include workshop elements, creating a space for you and your peers to offer constructive criticism and help your creative skills grow. Best of all, you would get to take advantage of all that under the guidance of experienced faculty.

Another advantage of studying on campus is that your program may have local industry ties. If you’re in a professional program, that could be a distinct advantage. Some programs include formal internship elements to help students get hands-on experience, putting their knowledge into actual practice. Even if that’s not the case, a local program may be able to help you find and organize observations or internship experiences using these industry relationships. However, this is likely to vary by school and program, so if that’s a priority for you, make sure you ask the school about it while you’re doing your research, before you apply.

What Does It Mean To Study Architecture?

Architecture is both an art and a science. So it’s not surprising that you’re likely to find a relatively interdisciplinary curriculum once you start working toward your degree. Depending on your program, architecture could touch on subject matter as diverse as art, history, engineering, sociology, public policy, business, and management. Your program might help you to build up your creative skills, practicing your visualization, drawing ability, and ability to construct accurate models to scale. Courses might help you hone your communication skills in order to most effectively work with construction managers and clients. You could discuss strategies to propose new projects and negotiate contracts. You might even have the chance to examine the environmental impact of different designs.

Of course, all of that adds up to one thing: designing safe, attractive, cost-effective buildings that people want to use. Graduate architecture schools are typically designed to help you hone those skills, whether you’re establishing an academic foundation from scratch or have some experience to fall back on. That means in addition to studying history, theory, and related knowledge, students might dedicate time to putting those skills into practice by creating their own designs.

Construction Management

Related to both architecture and operations management, construction management schools aim to make an architect’s vision a reality. Construction management programs are designed to foster the skills and knowledge to guide a construction team through the completion of a project. That means you may need a general fluency with architectural principles. But in addition to that, you might develop a general familiarity with every aspect of the construction process in your construction management program. For example, you might spend time on project management, which could include topics like workforce management, cost estimation, conflict resolution, and scheduling. The specific topics covered may vary by school, degree level, and other details, so reach out to the program you’re interested in for more info.

Urban & Landscape Architecture

Urban and landscape architecture schools focus on the spaces that people and buildings occupy, specifically, how to make them attractive, functional, and—in some cases—environmentally friendly. Urban design programs, which might in some cases be referred to as city planning, may focus more on the layout of cities, towns, and similar public spaces, as well as access to public transportation and utilities. These programs might also discuss topics from some other disciplines including public policy, economics, and sociology. Meanwhile, landscape architecture programs may place more of an emphasis on designing outdoor spaces like parks, hiking trails, and other green spaces in and around a community. As with other architecture programs, some urban and landscape architecture schools design their programs to help students prepare for attaining licensure. However, that’s not always the case, so if that’s a priority for you, make sure that you follow up with the school.

Types of Graduate Architecture Schools

Graduate Architecture Schools may offer a range of programs of study, each designed to meet the needs of different students. In addition to degree and certificate levels described below, you might find two types of programs.

  • Professional architecture schools offer programs designed for aspiring architects. These programs may be somewhat broader, as they accommodate students who may not have a background in architecture, are coming from other fields, and who hold bachelors degrees from other areas. These programs may cover the fundamentals as well as more advanced or specialized material. They may hold professional accreditation, and are more likely to be designed to help students prepare to earn either licensure in that state or a professional certification.
  • Post-professional architecture schools are typically designed to educate students who already have some experience or academic background in architecture. Students in these programs might hold bachelors degree in architecture and may also have some professional experience. As such, they’re likely to build on those skills and help students to develop a particular set of skills at an advanced level. Professional accreditation in post-professional architecture programs may vary, as might the paths of study offered here.

Masters in Architecture Schools

Masters in architecture schools may offer both professional and post-professional programs, and several different degree types. Architecture master's degrees you might pursue include the following.

  • Master of Architecture (M.Arch.): Typically offered as a professional degree, Master's of Architecture programs focus on building essential architecture and design skills, expanding student portfolios, and/or preparing students for certification. In some cases, they may even help students gain real-life experience through observation and internship experiences.
  • MS Architecture, or MA Architecture: While it isn’t the case across the board, many MA and MS Architecture programs are post-professional, focusing on performing research related to architecture or otherwise preparing students for doctoral study.
  • MFA in Architecture: Programs offering a Master of Fine Arts in Architecture are likely to be more design-focused, emphasizing creative thinking, visualization, and artistic skills relevant to architectural practice. As such, these programs may place a comparatively greater emphasis on expanding the scope of your portfolio, and on workshop-style courses. MFAs are typically understood to be terminal degrees.

Programs offering these and other architecture degrees may vary, and may not in all cases align with the descriptions above. For more information on the degree types available, the curriculum offered, and the types of experiences you might gain while earning your masters in architecture, contact the school under consideration.

PhD in Architecture Schools

The majority of architecture doctoral schools are likely to offer a PhD in Architecture. However, a few schools may offer a Doctor of Architecture or DArch program as an alternative. Architecture doctoral programs are typically post-professional. Within that category, they may go in one of two directions. Some are practice-oriented, aiming to build leadership and architecture expertise to apply in the field. Others might be more scholarly, looking toward roles performing architecture research and teaching in a university setting. Areas of concentration offered within PhD in Architecture programs may vary. This could be influenced by the school, the faculty currently teaching there, and their areas of specialization.

Architecture Graduate Certificate Schools

Architecture graduate certificates are offered at a few different levels, including master's and post-master's. This indicates the types of courses (e.g. master's courses, doctoral courses) you’d need to take while earning it. Graduate certificates are often post-professional and designed to help experienced architects develop expertise in a certain topic, skill, or discipline. As such, they tend to build on experience and knowledge of architecture. You might study, for example, architecture needs within a certain industry, a specific period or style of architecture, or an area of professional responsibility. These programs tend to be short, meaning you have to complete relatively few courses to earn your certificate. However, the specifics are likely to vary, so follow up with the school or program you’re interested in to learn more.

Other Considerations When Choosing Architecture Schools

When choosing your preferred architecture schools, you might have a lot to consider. There’s your preference for professional or post-professional programs. Potential concentrations you might want to study. The types of experiences you want to get (like workshops and internships). And resources available on campus. But that’s not all.

For example, many students prefer to attend schools that are accredited by the National Architecture Accrediting Board, or NAAB. The primary accrediting body for architecture programs, NAAB-accredited schools must also hold a regional accreditation to be considered. For more information on a school’s accreditation status and what they need to do to maintain it, contact the school or program.

Another potential consideration is licensure. Currently, every state has some kind of licensure requirement that you must fulfil in order to work as an architect. The specific requirements may vary by state. If you’re not already licensed, you might have a preference for schools that could help you earn that status. For more information about what this entails, how your school supports it and—if applicable—the differences between licensure requirements between states, contact your selected school.i

Search for Graduate Architecture Schools

Whether you have tons of experience or none, graduate architecture schools could help you hone the creativity and technical skills to change the face of your community. And GradSchools.com can help connect you to those schools! You can browse the sponsored listings here, or narrow them down by selecting a degree level and (if applicable) a concentration.

Click on the names of the programs you’re interested in to read more or get in touch with them. Then you could schedule a campus visit, and start applying!


[i] bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/architects.htm#tab-4

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