Architecture Master of architecture degree

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Architecture is often described as the art and science of building. That’s especially true today, as design becomes increasingly data-driven. Our NAAB-accredited architecture program provides a well-balanced education with design, technology, and research in mind, integrated strongly with sustainability concepts, to prepare graduates to enter the modern field of architecture on the way to becoming licensed architects.

Sustainability concerns are changing how we think about architecture. Buildings account for a large percentage of the world’s energy expenditures and carbon emissions, which has driven demand for more sustainable architecture. In RIT’s accredited master of architecture program, we’re moving sustainability forward to elevate the value of architectural design. As a student here, you’ll learn how to design with context and substance in areas such as positive energy, performance building, climate-responsive designs, passive resiliency, and more.

Our accredited architecture program offers an immersive program focused on investigating the complexity of designing buildings with people, space, and the environment in mind. Whether you have a background in the building design sector or are new to the field, the program will prepare you for a path to positively contribute to the design of tomorrow’s buildings, neighborhoods, and communities.

Our program offers foundation courses as well as more in-depth classes exploring integrated building systems, urban planning, industrial ecology, and more. You’ll also have the flexibility to choose electives in other subject areas based on your unique talents and career goals, such as business, engineering, energy, or additional design skills.

What Sets Us Apart

  1. Design matters: As a program emphasizing design, the program’s core education takes place in the studio. Our studio curriculum integrates construction technologies, material science, and mechanics into design.
  2. Hands-on education: Expect a hands-on learning environment, working on real-world projects and utilizing our 75,000-square-foot, LEED Platinum-certified building to observe and test building efficiency. The City of Rochester and the western New York region also serve as an active learning environment for our students.
  3. Work experience: A professional co-op will help you build your resume before you graduate. RIT’s cooperative education program lets you work in the field with local architects and present neighborhood improvement ideas to planning boards.
  4. Global experience: Our global experience requirement lets you experience new cultures, settings, and contexts to expand your understanding of diverse architectural interests and needs.
  5. STEM-designated: Our program is STEM-designated, which increases scholarship and research opportunities for students, and offers up to two additional years of work/study for international students.
  6. NAAB-accredited: We’re one of the few master of architecture degree programs in the U.S. to be accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB)—that means you’re getting one of the best architecture educations in the country.
  7. Thesis: Our thesis option allows you to integrate everything you learn into a comprehensive project. Past student theses include designs for an urban master plan for Rochester’s downtown, a net-zero or positive energy building, and a turbine system to harvest rainwater for energy.

Plan of Study

There are two primary tracks of study offered in the M.Arch. program. We work with each student individually to determine the best track and can customize course requirements based on levels of prior experience.

  1. For those with previous experience and an undergraduate degree in architecture, an Advanced Standing track provides a two to two-and-a-half year path with a requirement of 78 credit hours.
  2. For those with no prior experience or background in architecture, the Standard Admissions track is available, providing a three and half year path and a requirement of 105 credit hours.

Designed as a full-time program, courses are offered on campus, primarily during the day, and often include open periods between classes to allow time for students to gain work experience with an architectural firm while they complete their degree.

With design, creative exploration, and critical thinking as key underpinnings, our program is grounded around four primary areas:

  • Sustainability: 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.
  • Technology: 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.
  • Urbanism: The complexity of the urban environment requires an interdisciplinary approach to architecture education—one that references economics, public policy, sociology, and regional culture. With this in mind, the program also focuses on the practices and principles of preservation and adaptive reuse.
  • Integrated learning/practice: From the outset, students often approach design problems within teams, learning to value and leverage collective and collaborative participation. Through integrated learning and evidenced-based models, we prepare students for the increasingly integrated practice of architecture, where architects are orchestrating teams of professionals from a variety of fields, including engineering, management, science, and computer science.

Enhanced Career Opportunities

RIT’s master of architecture program is proud of the 100 percent job placement rate among our graduates. Our alumni are employed in architectural firms around the world and are working in diverse fields, from community development to smart growth to green building materials. Within firms and elsewhere, they serve as architectural designers, research scientists, sustainability consultants, planning engineers, start-up entrepreneurs, and more. Plus, our professional co-ops are a compelling program requirement that often leads to employment offers from architects and other firms working in construction, urban design, and facilities management.

Innovation Through Diversity

Enhancing the value of design requires constructive collaboration and a breadth of skills and viewpoints, interwoven in a way that elevates and celebrates everyone’s differences and strengths at RIT. The master of architecture degree is suited for students with or without a background in the architecture or sustainability fields. Many of our students have been former art teachers, film students, engineers, interior designers, lawyers, and more before beginning their studies. They bring these backgrounds to the program in ways that enriched conversations and perspectives about design and human needs. Plus, approximately one-third of our students are international students, bringing cultural experiences and architectural design concepts from every continent.


  • 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
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



The Master of Architecture program is accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). In addition, the program is now designated as a STEM program in Architectural and Building Sciences/Technology (CIP code 04.0902) making international graduates eligible to extend their F-1 visas for up to three years in order to work in the United States.


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Admission Requirements

We encourage applicants to demonstrate creative curiosity along with an interest in collaboration and leadership. We value applicants who can show an eagerness to contribute to the built environment and a sustainable future. To be considered for admission to the M.Arch. program, candidates must:

  • Complete a graduate application.
  • Have completed (or will soon complete) a baccalaureate degree (B.S., B.A. or B.Arch.) from an accredited institution.
  • Submit official transcripts (in English) of all previously completed undergraduate and graduate course work.
  • Submit a one-page personal statement explaining your reasons for wanting to study architecture at the graduate level.
  • Submit scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Applicants who exceed the general admission requirements may be considered for a GRE waiver, or conditional acceptance before GRE scores are available.
  • Submit two letters of recommendation. One from any two of the following: a current or former instructor or academic advisor, a current or former supervisor, and someone familiar with your creative abilities.
  • Submit a portfolio of creative work, which may include sketches, constructions, graphics, and/or photographs (while student portfolios will likely not include examples of architectural drawing/design, evidence of creative talent will be important in determining admission).
  • Have earned an undergraduate cumulative GPA of B (3.0) or higher (or equivalent).
  • International applicants whose native language is not English must submit scores from the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE. A minimum TOEFL score of 88 (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.

We encourage applicants to demonstrate creative curiosity along with an interest in collaboration and leadership. We value applicants who can show an eagerness to contribute to the built environment and a sustainable future.

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 the 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 the 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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