Master of Architecture
The MArch degree prepares students for professional registration as architects in the United States. The MIT Department of Architecture offers the MArch degree, which is a professional degree structured to educate those who aspire to licensed registration as architects. It is the centerpiece of the Department of Architecture.
Architectural design studios are the center of the MArch program. Faculty in the Design discipline group provide the core of the professional education through the studio program. Studios begin with a 'core' sequence of three studios, followed by three 'option' studios and culminating with a design thesis. The great majority of students enter the program and graduate in 3.5 years. Students with extensive and sophisticated undergraduate architectural education may be granted Advanced Placement in the professional MArch Program at the discretion of the Admissions Committee. All applicants apply to the full MArch 3.5 year program, and the faculty will decide upon admission if a student can complete the program in 2.5 years. There is no MArch 2 program at MIT. Those with a first professional degree may be interested in the 2-year post-master's program, the Master of Science in Architectural Studies (SMArchS).
The pedagogical approaches that faculty bring to the teaching of architectural design derive both from their years of professional (often award-winning) practice and from their engagement with design research within the environments at MIT and beyond. The 'core' sequence of studios is structured to provide students with an intense and immersive experience in the contemporary discipline of design, where the understanding of drawing, geometry, representation and fabrication is integrated with classes that bring a core understanding of building technology and sustainability, architectural culture and precedent, urban theory and computation in architecture. During this three-semester sequence, students work through a series of exercises of increased complexity which form the launching pad for further investigative design studies in the option studios.
The three semester 'options' studios engage both MIT design faculty and a series of visiting studio professors noted for their work in contemporary practice. The problems that are chosen that relate to the issues in practice and society challenging the architectural profession and include a variety of offerings that vary in scale, context and content. Studios are also offered that interface to the joint program in City Design and Development. Studios often address cultural or urban problems in other countries- and recent studios have traveled to India, Japan, Iceland, Taipei, Brazil and China. Other studios might work on sites close to MIT including downtown Boston, its greater metropolitan area, and surrounding towns and cities- or might focus on theoretical or technical issues that culminate in fabrication and assembly, or even publications. In general design problems always include an awareness of issues of ecology and the broader debates of sustainability, and urbanism that combine with the search for appropriate expression of the specific culture and locale.
Studios will address problems that may, on the surface, be more technical, dealing for example, with the development of new building envelopes that have improved environmental as well as visual performance. Others may be more experimental in nature, utilizing some of the new digitally based tools for fabrication and assembly, as well as techniques for testing and simulation.
Students in the MArch program recognize the many possible roles within the architecture profession, and therefore should develop a responsibility for structuring their own educational programs, particularly in the selection of elective classes. While the curriculum specifies that students enroll in a range of subjects in several interrelated fields, they have some choice within each study area and an opportunity to concentrate in an area which they may define. Students are urged to have the concentration be reflected in their design theses.
Admissions for MArch
Applicants seeking admission to the MArch program compete each year for the approximately 30 places available. An admissions committee made up of both faculty and MArch students evaluates applicants individually. There is no specific "type" of applicant; MIT seeks to accept people with varied backgrounds and experiences. Applicants must demonstrate intellectual achievement, motivation, discipline, responsibility, imagination, perception and an open mind. Projects and experiences are judged, not only on their intrinsic merit, but also on evidence of the applicant's ability to initiate and follow through on work that is personally meaningful.
Students entering without any previous formal study of architecture will normally take 3-1/2 years to complete the MArch degree program. We admit a large enough group of graduate students in this category to form a cohesive class. They begin with one year of common architectural design studio and develop a sense of continuity and support for each other and for the activities of the department.
Those applicants who have taken architectural design at accredited architecture schools may be given some credit and/or advanced standing for their previous academic work. Their point of entry into the design sequence is determined by the admissions committee and if approved, will be admitted with advanced entry to complete the program in 2-1/2 years of study.
Applicants who already hold professional degrees are not admitted to the MArch program but instead should apply to the SMArchS program of their choice. A professional degree in architecture is a degree that provides training to become a licensed architect. If your goal is to become a licensed professional architect in the United States, you may apply to have your current degree evaluated by the Education Evaluation Services for Architects (EESA). EESA will compare your degree to the US National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) education standard; they will identify any deficiencies. This means you may have to take only a few classes, if any, on your path to becoming a licensed architect in the US instead of completing a second professional degree.
The Application Deadline is December 31 at midnight for all applications. Application material must be submitted by the deadline. Late applications will not be reviewed. It is the responsibility of the applicant to be sure that the application is completed.
Three letters of recommendation. Letters from instructors are preferred unless you have been working for several years, in which case supervisors may be included. The application can be submitted with fewer than three letters, but be sure to remind your instructors to complete their letters. Applications still missing two or more letters when review begins will not be reviewed. Review the instructions for letter submission in the "Letters Status" section of the application system. Applicants will send prepared emails to the recommenders containing a secure link to the recommendation form. We prefer that letters be submitted through the online application, and not a third-party letter distributor.
Transcripts for all relevant degrees, official or unofficial, must be uploaded to the application system. PDFs must be clearly readable and oriented correctly on the screen. Only those applicants who are accepted for admission will be required to send a hard copy of an official, sealed transcript (with English translation) from each school attended. Please do not have official copies sent to our office unless you are admitted. Certificate and community college transcripts do not need to be sent unless the courses are not also listed on your primary college transcripts. Non-English transcripts must be translated into English, and if necessary, signed by a licensed notary and accompanied by the original version.
In addition to transcripts, applicants should complete the Subjects Taken section with any relevant course work. If you have taken studios, indicate this on the Test Scores/Experience/Electronic Portfolio section.
IELTS or TOEFL Score.
Applicants whose first language is not English are required to submit either an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score (Academic test) or a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), regardless of citizenship or residency in the U.S. while attending other educational institutions. No exceptions are made. The admissions committee regards English proficiency as crucial for success in all degree programs. In order to meet the admissions deadline, it is recommended that candidates take the IELTS or TOEFL on the earliest possible date.
Applicants must request that an official copy of their test results be sent directly to MIT by IELTS International or Educational Testing Service. IELTS and TOEFL Scores must be no older than two years as of the date of application. To avoid delays, please use the following codes when having your TOEFL scores sent to MIT:
Institutional Code: 3514
Department Code: 12
The minimum score required for MArch candidates is 7 and the minimum TOEFL score is 600 (250 for computer-based test, 100 for Internet-based test). While either test score is accepted, the IELTS score is preferred.
All students whose first language is not English are required to take the English Evaluation Test (EET) prior to registration at MIT. Even students who satisfy the IELTS/TOEFL requirement for admission may be required to take specialized subjects in English as a Second Language (ESL), depending on their EET results. These subjects do not count toward the required degree credits.
Curriculum Vitae, uploaded to the system.
A portfolio of work, uploaded to the application. See MArch-specific instructions for portfolio requirements, below.
An Essay of one or two pages must be uploaded to the application system. Indicate why you are applying, and describe your qualifications for the degree.
A non-refundable Application Fee of $75 USD. You will need to submit a credit card number on the Architecture Graduate Application to process this fee. If you have a financial hardship, you may apply for an Application Fee Waiver: http://gradadmissions.mit.edu/feewaiver
Submission of completed application form by the application deadline.
You may apply to two different programs within the Department of Architecture. If you are considering two programs, it may be useful for you to discuss your plans with our admissions staff. The link to apply is: http://gradapply.mit.edu/architecture/apply.
MArch Admissions Requirements
The program requires the following academic preparation:
- A Bachelor's degree with high academic standing from a recognized institution or, in the judgment of the department, the equivalent of this degree.
- One semester of satisfactory study in college-level mathematics (such as, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, pre-calculus, calculus).
- One semester of satisfactory study in college-level natural sciences (such as, physics, biology, chemistry).
- Two semesters of satisfactory study in college-level humanities and/or social sciences.
Students may be admitted with limited deficiencies in 2, 3, or 4 above, but this deficiency must be removed prior to entry into the second year of graduate study in the department.
Graduate Record Examination
Applicants are required to submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. In order to meet the admissions deadline, it is recommended that candidates take the GRE on the earliest possible test date. Test scores must be no more than five years old. To avoid delays, please use the following codes when having your scores sent to MIT:
- Institution Code is 3514
- Department Code is 4401
A digital portfolio is required of all MArch applicants, including those who do not have a previous architecture degree or background. The portfolio file should be exported as PDF for screen viewing. The file should contain no more than 30 pages with a file size not larger than 15MB. Two-page spreads are allowed, but each spread counts as one of the 30 pages.
The portfolio should include evidence of recent creative work, whether personal, academic or professional. Choose what you care about, what you think is representative of your best work, and what is expressive of you. Work done collaboratively should be identified as such and the applicant's role in the project defined. Name, address and program to which you are applying should also be included. We expect the portfolio to be the applicant's own work. Applicants whose programs require portfolios will upload a 30-page maximum), 15MB (maximum) PDF file to the online application system. The dimensions should be exported for screen viewing. Two page "spreads" are counted as one page.
Interviews are not required for MArch applicants, however, we encourage all MArch applicants to attend our Open House event in mid November. All prospective students are welcome to visit the Department. If you would like to visit the campus for a student tour of the Department, please contact in advance of your trip:
Decisions and Notifications
Applicants will be notified by mail of the Department's decision by April 1. Decisions cannot be given by telephone.
In the United States, most state registration boards require a degree from an accredited professional degree program as a prerequisite for licensure. The National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), which is the sole agency authorized to accredit U.S. professional degree programs in architecture, recognizes three types of degrees: the Bachelor of Architecture, the Master of Architecture and the Doctor of Architecture. A program may be granted a six-year, three-year, or two-year term of accreditation, depending on the extent of its conformance with established educational standards.
Master's degree programs may consist of a preprofessional undergraduate degree and a professional graduate degree that, when earned sequentially, constitute an accredited professional education. However, the preprofessional degree is not, by itself, recognized as an accredited degree.
The 2009 Procedures for Accreditation and the 2010 Conditions for Accreditation are available in the Rotch Library and in the headquarters of the Department of Architecture. Revised guidelines will be available when they are made official. Information regarding accreditation also may be accessed via the NAAB website at www.naab.org.
Degree requirements for MArch
Those who have not yet studied in a department of architecture and are admitted to MArch at Year 1 require 3½ academic years of residency to fulfill the degree requirements. Students who have graduated with a four-year architectural design undergraduate degree at an accredited architectural school can be considered for advanced entry to Year 2, subject to compatibility with the Year 1 curriculum and an acceptable design portfolio.
A faculty advisor with a design background will be assigned to each MArch student before the first term of registration. This advisor will monitor the student’s progress through completion of the degree.
Subjects and Credit Units
The MArch is awarded upon satisfactory completion of an approved program of at least 164 graduate units and an acceptable thesis. Those who have not yet studied in a department of architecture must complete a program of 312 graduate units and an acceptable 24-unit thesis.
Subjects required for the 3½-year program include:
- Six architectural design studios (3 core studios and 3 option studios)
- Geometric Disciplines and Architectural Skills I (4.105)
- Computation restricted elective in place of 4.107 (4.s12, 4.521, 4.567, and 4.511)
- Materials and Fabrication for Architecture (4.109), if needed
- Geometric Disciplines and Skills (4.107)
- Four Building Technology subjects (students entering in September 2015 will take 4.464, 4.462, 4.463, and a BT Restricted Elective)
- Precedents in Critical Practice (4.210)
- Professional Practice (4.222)
- Architecture from 1750 to the Present (4.645)
- One History, Theory and Criticism restricted elective (4.241, 4.607, 4.612, 4.647, 4.621 or 4.652)
- One Computation/Media Lab elective (4.5xx or MAS.xxx)
- Urban Design elective (11.xxx)
- ACT elective (4.3xx)
- Five open elective subjects (one may be 4.109, if needed)
- Preparation for MArch Thesis (4.189)
- Graduate Design Thesis (4.ThG)
All elective subjects must be at least nine units.
Credit for Previous Academic Work
MArch students who have successfully completed the equivalent of one or more required architecture subjects outside MIT (or within MIT as undergraduates) may be given advanced credit for those subjects by submitting a petition for curriculum adjustment with all relevant material including a transcript, syllabi, reading lists, problem sets, paper assignments, and portfolios of work for ACT/Visual Arts electives. Petitions are submitted to Cynthia Stewart by the end of the first week of the term, and are then reviewed by the MArch Program Committee, which is composed of one faculty member from each of the four discipline groups, and acted on in the first month of the semester. Depending on the subject for which MIT credit is requested, students may substitute an elective in the discipline group or substitute a free elective. All requests for advanced credit must be resolved by the beginning of the penultimate semester.
Students admitted to Year 2 receive two semesters of studio credit with the letter of admission. It is assumed these students will have completed a curriculum roughly equivalent to the MIT Year 1 at their previous universities. The Program Committee reviews transcripts for these students in the summer before they enter and make recommendations for any necessary curriculum adjustments. Students and faculty advisors are notified of these recommendations before Registration Day.
English Proficiency Requirement
All students whose first language is not English are required to take the English Evaluation Test (EET) prior to registration at MIT. Even students who satisfy the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) requirement for admission may be required to take specialized subjects in English as a Second Language (ESL), depending on their EET results. These subjects do not count toward the required units but will prove helpful to students who need to develop the skills necessary to write a thesis.
Policy on Incomplete Subjects and Thesis Semester
MArch students may have no more than one incomplete in a required subject when they register for thesis (4.THG). This incomplete can be no older than one term (received the term prior to thesis registration).
Students who have incompletes from several subjects or incompletes from earlier terms will be denied registration until those subjects are finished and graded. This policy applies to incompletes in subjects required by the degree curriculum or needed for units toward the degree.
A chart indicating progress through the academic requirements will be maintained as part of each student’s file. The administrator of master’s degree programs will distribute this audit to students at the end of each regular term and to faculty advisors on Registration Day each term.
Thesis Preparation and Thesis
The core of the MArch thesis is architecture design. Students enroll in Preparation for MArch Thesis (4.189) during their next-to-last term of registration. The result of this 9-unit subject is a thesis proposal.
The MArch thesis committee is composed of three members. The thesis supervisor must be a permanent member of the Department of Architecture faculty with an architecture design background. The second and third members may be any member of the MIT faculty or research staff, an outside professional, or a faculty member from another institution. Download Thesis Committee Guidelines here.
Thesis co-supervision is permitted as long as one of the supervisors is a permanent member of the Department of Architecture faculty with an architecture design background. The other supervisor may be any member of the MIT faculty or research staff, an outside professional, or a faculty member from another institution.
MArch students are required to register for 24 units of thesis (4.THG) the final term.
The thesis proposal, including a thesis proposal form signed by all the thesis committee members, is due the first week of the term in which the student registers for thesis.
The MArch thesis review schedule includes deadlines for content review, schematic design review, public mid-review, penultimate review, final review and final thesis document.
The MArch degree is awarded after all the degree requirements have been met, and after two copies of the approved, archival-ready thesis have been submitted to the headquarters of the Department of Architecture by the Institute deadline for master’s theses as published in the MIT Academic Calendar. Students must adhere to the Specifications for Thesis Preparation published by the Institute Archives.