Architecture Master of architecture degree

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At a time of significant transition in the profession, RIT's architecture program allows for full incorporation of the skills and knowledge critical to the 21st century architect. The program produces broad-thinking architects well grounded in the principles and practices of sustainability who can apply their knowledge and talents to the architectural problems posed by the modern city.

Plan of study

Students are required to complete 105 credit hours. Designed as a full-time program, courses are offered on campus, primarily during the day. Much of the course work is studio-based and includes technical courses, sustainability courses, and electives. In addition to three required sustainability courses, students take one sustainability elective. Students prepare a thesis during their final year of study. Students take four graduate electives, drawn from courses offered by the colleges of Art and Design, Business, Engineering, Engineering Technology, and Liberal Arts. In addition to course work, students must fulfill one co-op experience and one global experience.

The program is designed for students with a broad range of interests and backgrounds who are interested in studying architecture at the graduate level, whose undergraduate degrees were obtained in fields either inside or outside of architecture. The curriculum has been shaped by the global emphasis of sustainability, factors that impact urbanism, and the application of the principles of design and craft; along with a focus around building technology, materials, construction, and systems.


With a global need for a more sustainable world, including buildings and their impact on energy consumption and carbon footprints, the focus of many courses reflect the conditions of sustainable design and practice.


Design exploration is enhanced through the understanding of the implication of technology on both design process and product. The program enables students to focus and collaborate in many specialized areas of technology, including engineering, computer science, imaging science, materials and construction, and products and remanufacturing.


Because a degraded urban environment has grave implications for social, economic, cultural, and environmental health, the program pays particular attention to urban settings and urban principles. The complexity of the urban environment requires an interdisciplinary approach to architecture education—one that references economics, public policy, sociology, and regional culture. The program focuses on the practices and principles of preservation and adaptive reuse. The city of Rochester, New York, serves as an active learning environment for students.

Integrated learning/integrated practice

Like all strong design programs, the program’s core education takes place in the studio. The studio curriculum integrates construction technologies, material science, and mechanics into design. From the outset, students often approach design problems within teams, learning to value and leverage collective intelligence. The integrated learning model prepares students for the increasingly integrated practice of architecture, where integrated project delivery is fast becoming the dominant model, and architects are orchestrating teams of professionals from a variety of fields, including engineering, management, science, and computer science.


The master of architecture program received accreditation in 2017 by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB),  


  • Architecture and Planning

  • Interior Design

  • Design

  • Renewables and Environment

  • Government (Local, State, Federal)

  • Higher Education

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Architecture, M.Arch. degree, typical course sequence

Course Sem. Cr. Hrs.
First Year
Architectural Representation I
Introduction to the range of architectural representation skills necessary to effectively document basic architectural form and space. Skill development will be both manual and digital. Class 2, Studio 4, Credit 3 (F)
Architectural Representation II
Further study of architectural representation skills necessary to effectively document more complex architectural form and space. Skill development will be both manual and digital. (Pre-requisite ARCH- 611 Architectural Representation I) Class 2, Studio 4, Credit 3 (S)
Architectural History I
Students study global architecture from pre-history to the 15th century, including form, technology, urban context, and how architecture reflects social, cultural, and political concerns. Class 3, Credit 3 (F)
Architectural History II
Students study global architecture from the 15th to the 21st century, including form, technology, urban context, and how architecture reflects social, cultural, and political concerns.
Architectural Design I
Exploration of basic architectural space and form through studio design problems. Problems require understanding of elements such as spatial relationships, circulation, light, and orientation. (Co-requisite, ARCH-611 Architectural Representation I). Classroom 3, Studio 9, Credit 6 (F)
Architectural Design II
Students will analyze and solve building based architectural design problems with a focus on residential design and other wood based structures. (Pre-requisite, ARCH-631 Architectural Design I, Corequisite, ARCH-621 Architectural Representation II). Classroom 3, Studio 9, Credit 6 (S) ARCH-
Fundamentals of Building Systems
ARCH-641 Fundamentals of Building Systems Students will receive an overview of the various passive and active architectural and engineering systems that comprise a building project while focusing on wood frame construction. (Co-requisite ARCH- 632 Architectural Design II) Class 3, Credit 3 (S)
Understanding Sustainability
Students will study the interaction between industrial, environmental/ecological and social systems in the built environment by introduction of systems thinking and the multiple disciplines comprising sustainability. (acceptance into M. Arch. program or permission of instructor) Class 3, Credit 3. (F)
Second Year
Architectural Studio I: Site
Building on the 1st year studios that explored basic communications between form and space this introduction to the 2nd year will investigate in greater depth the complexity and integrated nature of the architectural object and design process. Students will explore the artistic, conceptual, creative, and experiential side of architecture as a way of developing a rigorous process of architectural form-making. By developing methods, parameters, and alternatives of form-making, issues such as expression, perception, and representation will be explored. Although site design will be the focus of the course, full building designs will be examined in response to site parameters. Students will be expected to work in teams to explore communally a broad spectrum of design strategies at every opportunity.
Architectural Studio II: Urban
Investigation of architectural design as a response to the modern urban context. This includes an understanding of urban design and planning, as well as community involvement.
Integrated Bldg Systems I
This course presents the various systems that comprise a project’s site work; architectural materials/methods, civil engineering, and landscaping architecture as well as site constraints.
Integrated Building Systems II
The major tectonic components of a building will be studied in this course focusing on the building envelope and typical structural configurations. Structural inquiry will fully cover the field of statics.
Architectural Theory
A survey of architectural theory and criticism with emphasis on contemporary architecture. Students will investigate, learn, and apply critical thinking, as well as communicate it to others.
Urban and Regional Planning
This course immerses students in the field of urban and regional planning by studying and actively engaging in the planning process through projects with community agencies. (Pre-requisite, ARCH-632 Architectural Design II) Class 3, Credit 3 (S)
Industrial Ecology Fundm
Students will learn how to assess the impact and interrelations of built environments on the natural environment by utilizing life cycle assessment tools and principles of sustainability. (ARCH-761 Understanding Sustainability) Class 3, Credit 3 (S)
Sustainable Building Metrics
The measurement science, performance metrics, assessment tools, and fundamental data critical for the development and implementation of building systems associated with life-cycle operation of buildings while maintaining a healthy indoor environment.
Third Year
Architectural Studio III: Adaptive
This course examines the adaptive reuse of existing spaces, with implicit exposure to the basics of historic preservation. Students will examine and document an existing “real” space within the region, and propose coherent and rational architectural interventions for that space.
Architecture Studio IV: Integrative
This studio provides the opportunity for students to execute a comprehensive and integrative project from schematic design through design development.
Integrated Building Systems III
Typical interior building components will be studied in this course from subdivision of space down to selection of material finishes as they realate to building code regulations. Structural inquiry will continue with full coverage of strength of materials.
Integrated Building Systems IV
In conjunction with the co-requisite course, students will document a building design with design development drawings, including MEP with a focus on environmental systems and lighting. (Pre-requisite ARCH-743 Integrated Building Systems III, Co-requisite ARCH-733 Architectural Studio IV: Comprehensive) Class 3, Credit 3 (S)
Research Seminar/Thesis Prep
Students frame individual thesis proposals through various research approaches, critical readings, presentations and examinations of architecture; physicality, socially, culturally, historically and technologically. (Prerequisite, 60 credit hours in the program) Class 3, Credit 3 (F)
Graduate Sustainability Elective
Graduate Electives
Fourth Year (fall only)
Professional Practice
Students will study the roles of stakeholders involved in architecture within the context of project management and business practices including legal responsibilities, and professional ethics. (Second year courses) Class 3, Credit 3 (S)
Students will propose, design, and defend an architectural design or research problem, while working closely with a selected faculty committee. (Prerequisite, ARCH-753 Research Methods/Thesis Preparation) Class 3, Studio 9, Credit 6 (F, W, Su)
Graduate Electives
Global Experience
Masters-level Global Experience by the candidate under the direction of an RIT instructor, a program with another academic institution, or an independent travel experience for no credit. Students may enroll once for a maximum of 3 credits towards their degree requirement. The subject of each offering varies depending on the location and focus of the faculty member’s or student’s interest.
Coop Architecture
ARCH-699 Co-op Architecture This course provides a ten-week (350 hour min.) work experience in the field. (Second year program status) Credit 0 (Su)
Total Semester Credit Hours


Admission Requirements

To be considered for admission to the M.Arch. program in architecture, candidates must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Complete a graduate application.
  • Hold a baccalaureate degree (B.Arch., BS, BA, BFA, or equivalent) from an accredited university or college from an accredited institution.
  • Have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 (or equivalent).
  • Submit official transcripts (in English) of all previously completed undergraduate and graduate course work.
  • Successfully complete at least one semester each of college-level math (e.g. algebra, pre-calculus, calculus, etc.) and science (e.g. physics, earth science, chemistry, etc.).
  • Submit a personal statement of educational objectives.
  • Submit scores from the GRE.
  • Submit two letters of recommendation from academic or professional sources.
  • Submit a PDF digital portfolio of creative work, which may include sketches, constructions, graphics, and/or photographs. While student portfolios do not require examples of architectural drawing/design, evidence of creative talent will be important in determining admission. (Refer to Portfolio Requirements for more information.)
  • International applicants whose native language is not English must submit scores from the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE. A minimum TOEFL score of 79 (internet-based) is required. A minimum IELTS score of 6.5 is required. The English language test score requirement is waived for native speakers of English or for those submitting transcripts from degrees earned at American institutions.
Portfolio Guidelines

All applications must be accompanied by a PDF digital portfolio. Print or bound portfolios or digital portfolios in formats other than PDF will not be accepted or reviewed. Please note, all PDF portfolios should be less than 6.0mb. Larger files will not be accepted or reviewed. In the event the review committee requires additional information or higher resolution images, the applicant will be notified.

Guidelines for portfolio preparation:

  • Image quality: A medium quality image setting on a digital camera is sufficient. No images should be pixelated.
  • File size: The total size in an 8.5"x11" format and cannot exceed 6.0mb. Alternatively students may use the PDF portfolio feature (found under FILE, in more recent versions of Adobe Acrobat) to create a portfolio.
  • Orientation: Landscape orientation is preferred.
  • Cropping: Crop out unnecessary objects from the images so that there are no distractions from work presented.
  • Image enhancement: If the image files of your work are not accurate after photographing, image-editing software is allowed to correct the appearance of the files submitted. Please use caution. It is important to maintain the integrity of the original artwork.
  • File name: Only one PDF portfolio file is allowed. It should be labeled using the following format: UARC_XX_LASTNAME.PDF, (XX is equal to the code for the academic year to which you are applying, ex: 2019 would be 19, 2020 would be 20, etc.) Enter last name in all capital letters in place of LASTNAME. Do not enter given names or middle names in this field.
  • Submission: All PDF portfolio files must be submitted via email to Students should include their name in the subject line of the email. Files delivered on CD/ROM or USB drives will not be reviewed or accepted.

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