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Master of Architecture
The Master of Architecture (M.Arch or MArch) is a professional degree in architecture, qualifying the graduate to move through the various stages of professional accreditation (internship, exams) that result in receiving a license.
The degree is earned through several possible paths of study, depending on both a particular program's construction, and the candidate's previous academic experience and degrees. M.Arch. degrees vary in kind, so they are frequently given names such as "M.Arch. I" and "M.Arch. II" to distinguish them. All M.Arch. degrees are professional degrees in architecture. There are, however, other master's degrees offered by architecture schools that are not accredited in any way.
Many schools offer several possible tracks of architectural education. Including study at the bachelor's and master's level, these tracks range up to 7.5 years in duration.
One possible route is what is commonly referred to as the "4+2" course. This path entails completing a four-year, accredited, pre-professional bachelor of arts in architecture or a bachelor of science in architecture. This degree is not 3-year, depending on the nature and quality of your undergraduate study performance, and the evaluation of your master's degree program school of your undergraduate study) Master of Architecture program. This route offers several advantages: your first four years are a bit more loose, allowing the inclusion of some liberal arts study; you can attend two different institutions for your undergraduate and graduate study, which is helpful in that it allows you to have a more varied architectural education, and you can pick the best place for you to complete your thesis (because chances are, you might not pick the program that has the exact focus that you will want when it becomes time for your thesis study); and you will finish the 4+2 course of study with a master's degree that will provide you the career option of teaching architecture at the collegiate level.
The second route to obtaining an accredited master's degree begins in graduate school, with a 3 or 3.5-year master's degree (commonly called an "M.Arch. I"). The advantage to this route is that the student can study something else he or she is interested in his/her undergraduate study (anything else). Because students come from different undergraduate backgrounds, the breadth of knowledge and experience in the student body of an M.Arch. I program is often considered an advantage. One possible disadvantage is that the total time in school is longer (7 or 7.5 years with an undergraduate degree). Another disadvantage is that the student has a very short time to cover the extremely broad scope of subject areas of which architects are expected to have a working knowledge. Nevertheless, major schools of architecture including MIT and Harvard often offer a 3.5-year program to students already with strong architectural background, fostering a competitive and productive academic environment.
It is worth noting that there is another route to becoming an architect: the continuous 5-year professional degree program. In such a program, after five years of study, students are awarded with a professional degree in architecture. Depending on the school and course of study, this could be either a Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) or an M.Arch. In the U.S., it is typically a 5-year B.Arch. Either degree qualifies those who complete it to sit for the ARE (the Architectural Registration Exam, the architecture equivalent of the bar exam), which leads to an architect's license in the U.S.. One disadvantage of the B.Arch. degree is that it is rarely considered as sufficient qualification for teaching architecture at the university/college level in the U.S. (though there are many exceptions). Many architects who wish to teach and have only received a B.Arch. choose to pursue a 3-semester master's degree (not an M.Arch.) to obtain further academic qualification.
Graduate-level architecture programs consist of course work in design, building science, structural engineering, architectural history, theory, professional practice, and elective courses. For those without any prior knowledge of the field, coursework in calculus, physics, computers, statics and strengths of materials, architectural history, studio, and building science is usually required. Some architecture programs allow students to specialize in a specific aspect of architecture, such as architectural technologies or digital media. A thesis or final project is usually required to graduate.
Important to consider in choosing the school(s) for an architectural education is their overall "focus". Architectural schools usually, by virtue of the history of the school and the interests of the faculty, will approach the instruction of architecture from a technical, historical, or artistic bent--or a combination thereof. This is not something that will be spelled out in the school's literature, but will be more or less apparent in the lists of classes offered and the study areas of the faculty. While it may not seem important at first, in retrospect it will probably be a major factor.
An architectural thesis is the culmination of a student's research. Submission of the thesis represents the completion of the final requirement for the degree and may be presented as graphic representations, a written work, or physical forms. According to Architectural Research Methods by Linda N. Groat and David Wang, the scope of the research inquiry must not be too broad or too narrow. A good topic will clearly and simply identify a body of literature to which the topical question can be referred. Additionally, a thesis question must have significance to not only the student, but his or her peers, and to the field of architecture.
In the United States, The National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) is the sole agency authorized to accredit US professional degree programs in architecture. Since most state registration boards in the United States require any applicant for licensure to have graduated from a NAAB-accredited program, obtaining such a degree is an essential aspect of preparing for the professional practice of architecture.
Again, first time students matriculating with a 5-year B.Arch. degree can also qualify for registration, without obtaining a master's degree. Some programs offer a concurrent learning model, allowing students the opportunity to work in the profession while they are earning their degree, so that they can test for licensure immediately upon graduation.
Four United States schools are candidates for accreditation, meaning that their newly created programs may be accredited to offer the M.Arch. degree upon proof of meeting NAAB standards. This usually occurs after the school has graduated its first class of students.