Architecture Graduate Schools & Degree Programs in Los Angeles

Graduate Architecture Programs: Overview

Graduate architecture programs enable students to earn masters and doctorate degrees, as well as graduate certificates.

Students could pursue one of several related concentrations, including construction management and urban and landscape design, while honing their technical and artistic prowess. Programs combine artistic principles with science and engineering, helping students learn more about designing attractive and useful structures while building up their portfolios.

These programs may be offered either online or at campus-based graduate schools.

Los Angeles  Architecture Graduate schools & masters programs infographic

What Is Architecture?

The term “architecture” can refer to the practice of designing buildings, or to the art form by which they are designed. However, the term could also be used to encompass several related disciplines. These include design, landscaping, and in some cases urban or city planning or designing infrastructure. This overlap may especially be found in academics, where architecture departments or programs may be designed to support a wider array of potential career paths, or may offer several more tailored degree options.

When studying architecture, your program may touch on skills and knowledge from an array of disciplines. For example, you may have the opportunity to study the principles of engineering, as well as related mathematical concepts. This may be intended to help ensure that the structures you design are both safe and functional. You may touch on art history, learning about the different design principles that dominated different regions and eras throughout history.

Then there are the art skills themselves—architects often need to be able, not just to design attractive buildings, but also to construct models and draw to scale, to demonstrate the finished products and to guide the construction process. Some programs may even touch on business and legal issues as they relate to the responsibilities of an architect or architectural firm. However, the specifics are likely to vary case by case.

Types of Architecture Degrees & Graduate Programs

Architecture graduate programs may be designed to accommodate a wide range of student needs. In addition to different degree levels—master’s, doctorate, and different types of graduate certificates—programs may focus on specific types of architecture or related concentrations, or emphasize the development of certain skills. For example, some may be more creative in nature, emphasizing the practice of design and building out student portfolios. Others might focus on hard skills like mathematics, engineering, and management. And that’s not all. Programs may additionally be designed either to help experienced architects build on their expertise, or to help students moving into architecture from other, potentially unrelated fields.

One important note when choosing a graduate architecture program is that, if you’re not already working in the field, you may need to pursue licensure in your state. The specific requirements may vary, so make sure you follow up with your program advisor about the process you might need to undergo, and whether the program you choose supports the requirements for candidacy.

Masters in Architecture

Masters of Architecture programs are available in professional and post-professional varieties.

Professional programs are typically aimed toward people earlier in their careers, often those entering the field for the first time. As such, these programs may be a little more generalized, building essential architecture and design skills, rather than specializing in a narrower topic. They’re also somewhat more likely to support students in preparing for licensure. They’re also more likely to be accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB).

Meanwhile, post-professional masters programs would be designed for experienced architects. Some would be tailored specifically for people who want to build expertise in a specific, more narrowly defined skill set within architecture. Others might be a little more academic, research-oriented, and designed to lead into a PhD program.

Architecture masters programs may offer several different types of degrees, depending on what they focus on and the types of students they’re designed to serve.

  • Master of Architecture (M.Arch.): This type of program is typically a professional degree, focused on applicable skills, building a portfolio, qualifying for certification, etc. However, that may vary individually.
  • Master of Arts in Architecture (MA Architecture), or Master of Science in Architecture (MS Architecture):These programs may vary fairly widely. In some cases, they may aim to build foundational skills similar to M.Arch programs. However, some MA and MS Architecture programs may instead be scholarly, helping students prepare for further research and study at the PhD level.
  • Master of Fine Arts in Architecture: MFA programs in architecture tend to be design-oriented. MFAs are generally considered terminal degrees, and emphasize creative practice and building a portfolio. Some MFA programs may focus on a specific type of design with respect to architecture, like lighting design for example.

Remember, each program, whichever degree type and orientation, may vary individually from how they’re described above. For more information on these and other architecture masters programs, reach out to the school in question.

Architecture Doctoral Programs

Architecture PhD programs may either be post-professional or academic in nature. That essentially means that they either aim to develop advanced expertise in a unique skill area for application in the field, or they focus on theoretical research and architectural history. Often, the latter may attract students who wish to teach others about architecture at the university level.

As with doctoral programs in other fields, your particular experience earning your PhD in Architecture could depend on your selected area of study or research. The topics available vary by school and year, and may hinge on which faculty are currently teaching in that program and their areas of expertise. The majority of doctorate level architecture programs are likely to award a PhD. However, some other degree types, including the Doctor of Architecture (D.Arch.) may be available at some schools.

Architecture Graduate Certificates

Graduate certificate programs in architecture may be offered at the masters, post-masters, or doctoral level. As they are not degree programs, they tend to be briefer, in that they might require fewer courses to complete. Architecture graduate certificate programs are often designed to build on prior experience and knowledge. In keeping with that, they often focus on a specific topic, skill, or area of concentration. That could include studying architecture within certain industries or for certain purposes, or the architecture of a certain era. Available courses, concentrations, and related details may vary, so follow up with the schools you’re considering for more information.

Construction Management Graduate Programs

Closely related to architecture, construction management graduate programs focus on how to lead a team of construction professionals to make an architect’s design a reality. As such, construction management graduate programs are interdisciplinary. They may touch on topics related to architecture, engineering, business, project management, finance, risk management, and more. Some programs may even touch on legal and regulatory topics, including negotiating and managing contracts, and issues related to zoning and safety. Construction management graduate programs may be available at the master’s and doctoral level, as well as graduate certificate programs.

Urban and Landscape Design Graduate Programs

Urban design and landscape architecture programs focus not just on individual buildings, but on the environment in which those buildings stand. Urban design programs look at the layout and design of cities, towns, and larger public spaces, to ensure that the space is utilized in a way that is functional, accessible, attractive, and sustainable. Some programs might go by the name city planning, and may, in addition to architecture principles, touch on public policy issues, economics, and sociology. Meanwhile, landscape architecture programs apply similar principles to natural environments. These programs may discuss the design of areas like parks, campuses, trails, and other green spaces throughout a community.

Urban and landscape design programs may in some cases be designed to accommodate some of the licensure prerequisites in that state, though this is likely to vary. Programs may be offered in professional and post-professional capacities, at the masters, doctorate, and certificate levels.

Architecture Graduate Program Formats

Architecture graduate programs may be designed to accommodate the learning needs of students from all walks of life. That means that programs may have a range of options, from flexibility of scheduling, to the experiences they might offer you, to the resources you could rely on while studying. For example, a professional program may offer students the opportunity to get field experience or shadow a professional architect, so as to help contextualize the things you learn in the classroom. However, one of the main ways that different programs might reach their target students is through their format—specifically, whether the program is primarily offered on campus or online.

Online Architecture Degree Programs

Studying architecture online uses technology to bring a unique sense of flexibility to the program. Online programs rely on computer and internet applications to help students get similar practical experience in their online courses as they may find in physical classrooms or lab space. As a result, these programs may come with unique technology requirements in order to access the courses and complete the assignments. In addition to being able to access the online course module, students might need Computer-Aided Design or CAD software, and/or building information modeling or BIM applications. One advantage to this is that, in the field, you might find yourself relying on similar apps, making this experience all the more valuable. However, bear in mind that many online programs may still have limited campus requirements. In these cases, the programs might be called partially-online or low-residency.

Architecture Graduate Schools

Graduate Architecture Schools could have a number of advantages. For one, there’s the resources you’d have access to. That includes software and other technology, materials, and work space. Plus, you’d get to work with your architecture faculty in person, creating a unique opportunity for mentorship that could enhance your education. Then there’s the relationships you could build in the classroom with your peers (and potential future colleagues!)

Another reason to choose graduate architecture schools is the experiences you could get there. For one, many campus-based architecture graduate programs—and even some partially online ones—include workshop components. A workshop is essentially a peer review session, where students gather to critique each other’s work and help one another improve. Some campus programs may even have ties to organizations within the community to help you get observation or internship experience, if necessary.

Architecture Licensure & Certification

Currently, all US states as well as the District of Columbia require architects to hold professional licensure. However, the specific requirements to attain that licensure may vary. Some commonalities include lengthy professional experience (generally in the form of a paid internship, though this may sometimes vary), and passing an exam.i

In addition to state-regulated professional licensure, some architects seek voluntary professional certification through NCRAB. One motivation for pursuing this license is that it could help architects to become licensed in multiple states. However, that fact may also vary by state, so follow up with your school or state regulating board for more information.

Accreditation for Graduate Architecture Programs

In addition to regional and national accreditation at the school level, architecture programs might be accredited themselves. While not all graduate architecture programs are accredited, many professional ones are. The primary accrediting body for architecture programs in the United States is the National Architecture Accrediting Board, or NAAB. In order to be considered for NAAB accreditation, a program must be offered by an institution that already holds regional accreditation. For more information on any and all accreditation held by a school or architecture graduate program, and the requirements to maintain those accreditation statuses, contact the school in question.

Careers in Architecture

The minimum education required to find employment as an architect may vary, depending on the nature of that education. Typically, aspiring architects need a professional architecture degree. While this could be earned at the bachelors level, those with unrelated bachelors degrees could do so by earning a professional masters degree. Depending on the state you live in, and the preferences of the organizations in your area, earning a masters or doctorate may support you in being considered for advancement.

Some architecture-related careers and their salary data are listed below.

  • Architect: 2016 Median Pay $76,930
  • Architectural and Engineering Manager: 2016 Median Pay $134,730ii
  • Urban & Regional Planner: 2016 Median Pay $70,020iii
  • Landscape Architect: 2016 Median Pay $63,480iv
  • Civil Engineer: 2016 Median Pay $83,450v

Top States for Employment for Architects, Except Landscape and Naval
StateEmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
New York12,740$82,880

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Top Salary Metro Areas in the United States: Architects, Except Landscape and Naval
Metro AreaAnnual Mean SalaryEmployment
Stockton-Lodi, CA$107,49090
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA$100,6200
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA$99,75090
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA$97,2800
Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT$96,520300

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Top 3 Graduate Schools with Masters in Architecture Programs in Los Angeles

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  • Southern California Institute Of Architecture

  • University of California - Los Angeles