There are two main paths for architecture students to graduating and setting off for work as an architect. For most, education ends with either a Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) or a Master of Architecture (M.Arch.).
Some architecture schools offer the B.Arch as a 5-year degree program, while others have the M.Arch. as a 2-year degree program that students can undertake after completing a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) – both of which are pre-professional degrees majoring in architecture.
It is not a black and white situation that states that a Master’s is inherently better than a Bachelor’s. For working architects, having one or the other does not make much difference regarding job roles and pay.
You may have completed a B.Arch., a B.A., or B.Sc., and are contemplating doing an M.Arch. But what considerations are there in deciding if a Master of Architecture is worth it?
1. The Salary is Generally Unaffected
If your salary is your primary concern – as it is for many – the extra tuition and time spent might deter you from getting a Master of Architecture if you already have, or are on the path to receive, a B.Arch.
However, this option might depend on where you plan to work as different areas might offer better pay to an M.Arch on average compared to a B.Arch, while in other areas, the difference is negligible.
So, you might want to consider if the increase is enough to negate the additional costs of enrollment for an M.Arch.
Additionally, most Architects Boards require completion of an accredited bachelor’s degree to qualify for licensure – one of the paths to making a six-figure architecture salary. So if you already have a B.Arch, getting an M.Arch. is not worth it in this regard.
2. Useful if You Want to Teach Without a PhD
While being a university architecture professor will, in most cases, require a doctorate, a Master of Architecture is a good option for those who want to instruct at a community college without the extensive financial commitments that come with seeking a Ph.D. in Architecture.
However, if you are dedicated to becoming an architecture teacher, a Ph.D. will qualify you for a more significant number of opportunities than an M.Arch. – but you will work hard to get there.
So, if you do fit in the narrow sliver where ease and eligibility overlap, a master’s degree is worth more to you than a bachelor’s degree.
3. Useful for Certain Routes of Study
For those set on becoming architects from the moment they graduate high-school, a B.Arch. is a streamlined 5-year process that makes the transition from student to working architect as quickly as possible.
For others who answer the call of architecture after undergraduate schooling in a non-architecture but a design-related program, an M.Arch. provides a more viable path into the field.
It is also an advantageous path for pre-professional programs in architecture, in which an additional two years (commonly known as the 4+2 plan) supplements the basic coursework you took during a B.A. or B.Sc. in Architecture.
This path would enable you to acquire the degree you need to begin seeking employment, getting licensed, and working for firms.
4. Are the Fees Reasonable and Affordable for You?
Nobody needs to tell you that education is expensive. When it comes to the extra fees that come with more time spent in school for an M.Arch., it is useful to weigh the short-term costs with the long-term benefits.
Will you make more than enough extra money from the degree to offset the expense of the program fees in addition to the time lost working to attend school?
If you are mindful of a specific payout that comes only with obtaining a master’s degree, then that should serve as plenty of incentive by itself.
But if you are deliberating on the subject and unsure if you want to make the financial commitment, you might save yourself a lot of stress by getting to work with your B.Arch. so you can begin building your architectural skills with the compensatory benefits of employment.
5. What Stage Are You in Your Architecture Career?
Going back to school takes a substantial time commitment, such so that you will probably need to abandon a full-time job at a firm to pursue your schooling. Ultimately, it comes down to how much you stand to lose.
The further you have progressed in your architecture career, the less practical the decision of jumping ship to get an M.Arch. becomes.
You may also look into obtaining a Master of Architecture as a way of getting back into architecture after a period being away.
On the other hand, if you are fresh to the field, you might want to spend a couple more years working for a firm to see how you feel about the experience.
Perhaps while gauging co-workers’ viewpoints, you can decide if you would rather keep building yourself as an architect through paid experience working for a firm or put aside a sizeable chunk of money to get an M.Arch.
By then, you will be in a better position to gauge if an M.Arch. will still provide specific benefits for your career path.
That said, if you want a competitive edge, you could undoubtedly benefit yourself and your resume by getting licensed – a process that is easier to fit into your schedule as a full-time architect without potentially jeopardizing where you are now.
6. You Want to Switch to a Related Field
For some architects, there are reasons for entering the field beyond simply practicing architecture.
With all else being equal, a master’s degree might enable you to climb higher on the ladder of leadership than someone with a bachelor’s degree.
You may already have a few years of practical experience under your belt working for an architecture firm and feel strongly about a career switch to, say, real estate development or other design-related fields outside architecture.
The perception of businesses outside architecture could be that a Master’s is a step higher than a Bachelor’s degree; this may provide that little edge you need in gaining employment in a different field.
But, again, it is a lot of commitment to gain that small edge – is a Master of Architecture worth it for you?
Certain circumstances reasonably warrant getting a master’s degree in architecture, such as finishing-off a pre-profession study plan or as an opportunity for late decision-makers to hop aboard.
However, outside of the cases listed – or for reasons specific to your circumstances – the answer is generally “No.” A Master of Architecture is not worth the time and money spent if all you want to do is continue working as an architect.
But if you like the idea of getting an M.Arch. for the sake of learning new things, expanding your skills, and broadening your creative mind, you can certainly do so through researching more the complex components of architecture in your free time.
In the end, however, the decision is yours alone.