Masters in Architecture | Top Universities

Do you have an eye for design and a passion for combining your artistic talents and technical skills to design beautiful surroundings both indoors and outside? A Masters in Architecture could be for you, allowing you to develop your skills in both the practical and theoretical aspects of the subject, and preparing you for a range of architecture careers.

Read on to find out about common Masters in Architecture degree types, entry requirements, specializations and career options.

Masters in Architecture courses often have a vocational focus, and might be accredited by an official association of architects in your chosen study location, with a practical approach to learning and opportunities to complete work placements relevant to your field of interest. You’ll explore the deeper implications of architectural design in relation to culture and society, and be shown how to utilize your university’s design studios, often including 3D printing machines, material workshops and a range of architectural computer facilities. 

Architecture courses

As well as choosing from a range of architecture specializations, you’re usually able to tailor your degree by selecting from a variety of optional modules. However, no matter what architecture degree you choose, you’ll still complete coursework in the following topics: design, building science, structural engineering, architectural history, and other topics relating to theory and practice. 

Masters in Architecture courses may be offered as MArch, Master of Science (MSc) or Master of Art (MA) degrees. As you might expect, MSc in Architecture degrees will have more of a research and technology focus, while MA in Architecture degrees are more art-focused and generally specialize in design. MArch degrees are usually more suitable for students whose undergraduate degree is in a different subject.

You’ll be assessed via a combination of coursework essays, studio reviews, portfolio assessments, practical design projects and examinations. Your course is likely to culminate in a dissertation or thesis design project, in which you’ll demonstrate your understanding and your work both in architecture/design and wider contexts. Most Masters in Architecture courses take one or two years to complete, if studying full-time.

Entry requirements

You’ll typically be required to have a good undergraduate degree in a subject related to design and the built environment, although some universities will accept graduates from any subject, as long as you can demonstrate the appropriate skills and commitment to the role. Prospective students with significant professional experience in architecture, design or a related area are also likely to be considered. Depending on the university, you might also need to submit a personal statement, letter/s of recommendation, and GRE results.

You’re also likely to be asked to submit a portfolio of previous work – exact guidance on what you should include should be available on the university’s official website, but generally you should include at least four pieces of design and other relevant creative work which shows off your skills and talent. You should make sure to clearly state where pieces were part of group work or professional practice.

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Here are some of the most common architecture specializations you could choose from:

Architectural engineering 
Architectural engineering

Architectural engineering degrees take a highly technical approach, with a strong focus on physics and mathematics, and less of an emphasis on the art and design aspects. Typically offered as a Master of Science (MSc), this topic may include many of the modules found in Masters in Civil Engineering degrees, such as thermodynamics for buildings, computational fluid dynamics, building technology, acoustics and lighting, and renewable energy.

Architectural design

This architecture specialization has a stronger focus on the creative side of the subject, and is usually offered as a Master of Arts (MA). In this option, you’ll spend the majority of your study hours in a design studio, allowing you to develop your own distinctive practice with individual architectural design projects.

Sustainable architecture 
Sustainable architecture

This specialization allows you to combine your practical skills with consideration of the environment and sustainability, focusing on how the issues of energy, materials and resources, the global environment and health and well-being relate to sustainability within architecture. You’ll be encouraged to pursue inventive research and design approaches in creating buildings which meet the worldwide need to reduce the impact of human development on ecological systems. Similar specializations include sustainable design and sustainable engineering.

Landscape architecture 

A specialization in landscape architecture is ideal for students who have an interest in designing attractive, sustainable open spaces. You’ll study how research and design methods align, reflecting on landscape architecture and planning practices, advancing your design skills and acquiring advanced knowledge of design theories, methodologies and applications. The course will largely consist of studio-based learning and will enable you to explore innovative experimentation in landscape design techniques, whilst considering environmental issues, socio-cultural and behavioral aspects, and landscape aesthetics.

Urban design 
Kuala Lumpur urban design

With the ongoing trend towards urbanization meaning that the majority of people will soon inhabit cities, this course will enhance your understanding of the complexities of built environments. You’ll study the physical planning and design of urban spaces, and the theoretical considerations of urban development. Typical modules include urban design history, city planning, urban landscape design and sustainability, with optional modules available to explore aspects such as the cultural and behavioral factors of urbanism.

Architecture and digital design

Digital technologies are increasingly altering the ways in which built environments are designed, erected and inhabited. Also sometimes offered alongside the study of tectonics, this specialization often has a research focus, considering the interactive and adaptable built environments of the future and increasing your knowledge of how digital technology and physical spaces work in cooperation. You’ll work in an interactive digital design studio to learn technical, cultural and creative skills such as mixed reality modeling, integrated environment simulation and digital fabrication, which you’ll then be able to apply to your architectural work.

Other possible architecture specializations include: advanced geographic information systems, real estate planning and development, naval architecture, architectural history and architectural technology. 

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Architecture careers

Your Masters in Architecture degree will equip you for a range of architecture careers, and is likely to increase both your employment prospects and salary expectations. You will have a range of creative, technical, visual and design-based skills to offer employers. To increase your employment prospects even further, it’s definitely helpful to complete some work experience or an industrial placement, which will help you to develop your understanding of architecture practices within the industry, as well as developing your skills, confidence and contacts.

Here are some of the main architecture jobs you may wish to consider:

Architect 
Architect

The most natural choice of architecture careers, this role can be categorized into building architecture, landscape architecture and naval architecture (the architecture of ships and other marine vessels). If you choose to work as a professional building architect, you’ll design new buildings and work on alterations or extensions to existing ones. You might work on individual structures, or large redevelopment schemes. You’ll also work closely with clients to ensure designs match their requirements and are functional, safe, cost-effective and legal. Your tasks may also include managing the construction process, dealing with planning issues and keeping to financial budgets. To become a qualified architect, you’ll usually need to have completed a degree accredited by a statutory body such as the UK’s Architects Registration Board (ARB).

Landscape architect 
Landscape architecture

If you’d prefer an architecture career in which you work on the planning, design and management of both natural and built up outdoor spaces, you may prefer to become a landscape architect. You’ll create aesthetically pleasing outdoor environments for people to enjoy, whilst keeping in mind health, safety and sustainability. You’ll meet with clients to discuss their needs, and present your design ideas. You’ll also conduct preliminary studies of the site to assess its natural resources and animal and plant life, and collaborate with other architectural engineering professionals to monitor the progress of projects, again ensuring deadlines, financial constraints and safety guidelines are met.

Architectural technologist 
Architectural technologist

Architectural technologists (also known as architectural technicians) use their skills in science and engineering to help make architects’ ideas a reality. You’ll work on design plans using both computer-aided design and traditional drawing methods, advising clients on the best materials and other technical matters, and visiting sites to check on the progress of architectural projects. For this role, you’ll need strong IT and creative skills, as well as the ability to visualize in three dimensions. You’ll also need to be able to work well in a team, have great organization skills, and be able to assess and solve problems quickly.

Interior and spatial designer 
Interior design

Interior and spatial designers are concerned with the design or renovation of internal spaces, fixtures and fittings. In this architecture career, you’ll combine your architectural knowledge, project management and creative design skills to ensure that spaces are both aesthetically pleasing and functional, making the best use of space. You’ll work in a range of corporate, domestic or leisure settings, understanding and following clients’ briefs and sourcing materials and products whilst sticking to budgets.

Other careers with an architecture degree 

If you’d prefer to utilize your skills in another profession, you’re by no means limited to roles within architecture and planning. You can aim for practically any role in which your visual awareness, technical capabilities and building knowledge is valued and relevant. This includes roles in construction, building surveying, town planning and building conservation.

Graduates with an interest in history might like to find work as a historic buildings inspector, advising and promoting the conservation of historic environments such as listed buildings. Or alternatively, if you have an interest in the media, you could work as the production designer on the set of a film, theater or television show. Your Masters in Architecture qualification also allows you to pursue roles within management, journalism, research, environmental work, IT and education – to become a higher education lecturer, you’ll typically need to complete further study with a PhD. 

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Key Skills

Common skills gained from a Masters in Architecture degree include:

  • Ability to create detailed plans and drawings both using computer-aided design and traditional methods
  • Strong theoretical understanding behind your work, including social and ethical considerations
  • Ability to work well both individually and as part of a team
  • Innovative and adaptable problem-solving skills
  • Strong numerical skills
  • Advanced creative design skills
  • Good understanding of design and planning laws and regulations
  • Ability to understand and work to the briefs of clients
  • Ability to work to set deadlines and manage your time effectively
  • Communication skills, in visual, graphic, written and verbal formats
  • Project management skills
  • Strong understanding of current trends and issues affecting the architecture industry
  • Eye for detail
  • Research skills
  • IT skills, particularly within computer-aided design