Architecture Master of architecture degree

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A NAAB-accredited master of architecture program that provides a well-balanced education that integrates design, technology, and research with sustainability to prepare graduates to enter the modern field of architecture.


Outcome Rate of RIT Graduates


Median First-Year Salary of RIT Graduates


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.
  2. For those with no prior experience or background in architecture, the Standard Admissions track is available, providing a three and half year path.

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. Behind our focus on creativity and innovation is a dedication to diversity and inclusion that is fundamental to our mission. 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

  • Utilities and Renewable Energy

  • Interior Design

Featured Work

Featured Profiles

Curriculum for Architecture M.Arch.

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) (This class is restricted to students in the ARCH-MARCH program.) Studio 2 (Fall).
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) (Prerequisites: ARCH-611 or equivalent course.) Studio 4 (Spring).
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) (This class is restricted to students in the ARCH-MARCH program.) Lecture 3 (Fall).
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. (This class is restricted to students in the ARCH-MARCH program.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
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) (Co-requisites: ARCH-611 or equivalent course.) Studio 12 (Fall).
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- (Co-requisites: ARCH-641 or equivalent course.) Studio 12 (Spring).
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) (Co-requisites: ARCH-632 or equivalent course.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
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) (This class is restricted to graduate students in the Golisano Institute for Sustainability (ARCH-MARCH, SUSTSY-MS, SUST-PHD).) Lecture 3 (Fall).
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. (Prerequisites: ARCH-632 or equivalent course. Co-requisites: ARCH-741 or equivalent course.) Studio 12 (Fall).
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. (Prerequisites: ARCH-731 or equivalent course. Co-requisites: ARCH-742 or equivalent course.) Studio 12 (Spring).
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. (Prerequisites: ARCH-641 or equivalent course. Co-requisite: ARCH-731 or equivalent course.) Lecture 3 (Fall).
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. (Prerequisites: ARCH-741 or equivalent course. Co-requisites: ARCH-734 or equivalent course.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
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. (Prerequisites: ARCH-621 and ARCH-622 or equivalent courses.) Lecture 3 (Fall).
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) (Prerequisites: ARCH-621, ARCH-622 and ARCH-632 or equivalent courses.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
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) (Prerequisites: ARCH-761 or equivalent course.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
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. (This class is restricted to graduate students in the Golisano Institute for Sustainability (ARCH-MARCH, SUSTSY-MS, SUST-PHD).) Lecture 3 (Fall).
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. (Prerequisites: ARCH-734 or equivalent course. Co-requisites: ARCH-743 or equivalent course.) Studio 12 (Fall).
Architecture Studio IV: Integrative
This studio provides the opportunity for students to execute a comprehensive and integrative project from schematic design through design development. (Prerequisites: ARCH-733 or equivalent course. Co-requisites: ARCH-744 or equivalent course.) Studio 12 (Spring).
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 relate to building code regulations. Structural inquiry will continue with full coverage of strength of materials. (Prerequisites: ARCH-742 or equivalent course. Co-requisites: ARCH-733 or equivalent course.) Lecture 3 (Fall).
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) (Prerequisites: ARCH-743 or equivalent course. Co-requisites: ARCH-733 or equivalent course.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
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) (This class is restricted to students in the ARCH-MARCH program.) Lecture 3 (Fall).
Open Graduate Sustainability Elective
Open 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) (This class is restricted to students in the ARCH-MARCH program.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
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) (Prerequisites: ARCH-753 or equivalent course.) Thesis 6 (Fall).
Open 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. Study Abrd 3 (Fall, Spring, Summer).
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) (This class is restricted to students in the ARCH-MARCH program.) CO OP (Summer).
Total Semester Credit Hours


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 (BS, BA, BFA, or BArch) 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 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 that all PDF portfolios should not exceed 6.0mb. Files larger than this will not be accepted or reviewed. In the event the review committee requires additional information or higher resolution images, the applicant will be notified. You may submit only one PDF file as your portfolio. Your portfolio should be submitted through your application on the materials section.

Guidelines for portfolio preparation:

  • Image quality: A medium quality image setting on a digital camera is sufficient. No images should be pixelated.
  • File size: Your portfolio should not exceed 6.0mb. Alternatively you may use the PDF portfolio feature (found under FILE, in more recent versions of Acrobat) to create your portfolio.
  • Orientation: Landscape orientation is preferred.
  • 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 you are submitting. Please use caution. It is important to maintain the integrity of the original artwork. Images should be clear and free of reflections or ‘hot spots.’
  • Content:
    • Standard Admission Portfolio Content: In recognition that you do not have an architectural background, any variety of work in your portfolio is acceptable. While we value work related to architecture and the built environment, it is not essential if you do not have prior experience. Your portfolio should reflect your academic background and potential to creative expression by including things such as personal drawings, paintings, sculpture, crafts, or anything related to a design endeavor. Photography and creative writing such as poetry and music are also acceptable. Overall, the portfolio should display evidence of the potential for creative expression and critical inquiry.
    • Advanced Standing Portfolio Content: A portfolio of design work is required for all Advanced Standing applicants. The admissions committee is interested in the quality of the work, not the quantity, so please limit the portfolio to no more than 20 pages. Work can be academic or professional. If multiple people worked on a project included in your portfolio, please be sure to indicate your contribution to the project. Process work is highly encouraged.

Learn about admissions, cost, and financial aid 


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.

Learn more about our program advisory council.

See who has made our program possible.

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