Jul 17, 2024  
Rensselaer Catalog 2024-2025 
Rensselaer Catalog 2024-2025

Master of Architecture - Professional Program

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Programs

The Master of Architecture is a three year professional degree. The degree provides a balanced education in architectural design, history, theory, and technology.  As a professional program, it centers on the design studio where projects address myriad design issues through multiple strategies ranging from the design of carefully crafted objects to architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design.

The National Architectural Accreditation Board (NAAB) accredits the Rensselaer School of Architecture’s Master of Architecture three-year program. The following statement is included in the catalog, In accordance with Appendix 2 of the 2020 Conditions— Statement on NAAB-Accredited Degrees:

“In the United States, most 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 professional degree programs in architecture offered by institutions with U.S. regional accreditation, recognizes three types of degrees: the Bachelor of Architecture, the Master of Architecture, and the Doctor of Architecture. A program may be granted an eight-year term, an eight-year term with conditions, or a two-year term of continuing accreditation, or a three-year term of initial accreditation, depending on the extent of its conformance with established education standards. Doctor of Architecture and Master of Architecture degree programs may require a non-accredited undergraduate degree in architecture for admission. However, the nonaccredited degree is not, by itself, recognized as an accredited degree.”

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, School of Architecture offers the following NAAB accredited degree programs: 

B.Arch. (172 undergraduate credits)
M.Arch (pre-professional Degree + 100 credits)
Next accreditation visit for all programs: 2025

Applicants to this program must have a bachelor’s degree.

It is strongly recommended that candidates have within their undergraduate studies a course in free hand or life-study drawing and eight to 10 courses in humanities and social sciences, one year of mathematics with a course in calculus, a course in physics, and additional courses in the sciences. Course work in the arts and art history is also desirable. A portfolio of creative works and critical commentary on those works is required for admission. Application is made to the Institute’s Office of Graduate Admissions. Students with previous architecture courses will be considered for advanced standing in this program. For information regarding program tuition and financial aid, please refer to the Tuition and Financial Aid section of this catalog.

The School of Architecture’s (SoA) curriculum includes required courses in Design, History / Theory, Technology, Ecology / Environment & Professional Practice, while encouraging innovative approaches to architecture education and professional preparation through elective courses. The program culminates in two semesters in the Center for Architecture at CASE New York. The SoA curriculum meets or exceeds the following Program Criteria learning outcomes and Student Criteria learning outcomes as defined in the NAAB 2020, Conditions for Accreditation.

PC.1 Career Paths—How the program ensures that students understand the paths to becoming licensed as an architect in the United States and the range of available career opportunities that utilize the discipline’s skills and knowledge.

PC.2 Design—How the program instills in students the role of the design process in shaping the built environment and conveys the methods by which design processes integrate multiple factors, in different settings and scales of development, from buildings to cities.

PC.3 Ecological Knowledge and Responsibility—How the program instills in students a holistic understanding of the dynamic between built and natural environments, enabling future architects to mitigate climate change responsibly by leveraging ecological, advanced building performance, adaptation, and resilience principles in their work and advocacy activities.

PC.4 History and Theory—How the program ensures that students understand the histories and theories of architecture and urbanism, framed by diverse social, cultural, economic, and political forces, nationally and globally.

PC.5 Research and Innovation—How the program prepares students to engage and participate in architectural research to test and evaluate innovations in the field.

PC.6 Leadership and Collaboration—How the program ensures that students understand approaches to leadership in multidisciplinary teams, diverse stakeholder constituents, and dynamic physical and social contexts, and learn how to apply effective collaboration skills to solve complex problems.

PC.7 Learning and Teaching Culture—How the program fosters and ensures a positive and respectful environment that encourages optimism, respect, sharing, engagement, and innovation among its faculty, students, administration, and staff.

PC.8 Social Equity and Inclusion—How the program furthers and deepens students’ understanding of diverse cultural and social contexts and helps them translate that understanding into built environments that equitably support and include people of different backgrounds, resources, and abilities.


SC.1 Health, Safety, and Welfare in the Built Environment—How the program ensures that students understand the impact of the built environment on human health, safety, and welfare at multiple scales, from buildings to cities.

SC.2 Professional Practice—How the program ensures that students understand professional ethics, the regulatory requirements, the fundamental business processes relevant to architecture practice in the United States, and the forces influencing change in these subjects.

SC.3 Regulatory Context—How the program ensures that students understand the fundamental principles of life safety, land use, and current laws and regulations that apply to buildings and sites in the United States, and the evaluative process architects use to comply with those laws and regulations as part of a project.

SC.4 Technical Knowledge—How the program ensures that students understand the established and emerging systems, technologies, and assemblies of building construction, and the methods and criteria architects use to assess those technologies against the design, economics, and performance objectives of projects.

SC.5 Design Synthesis—How the program ensures that students develop the ability to make design decisions within architectural projects while demonstrating synthesis of user requirements, regulatory requirements, site conditions, and accessible design, and consideration of the measurable environmental impacts of their design decisions.

SC.6 Building Integration—How the program ensures that students develop the ability to make design decisions within architectural projects while demonstrating integration of building envelope systems and assemblies, structural systems, environmental control systems, life safety systems, and the measurable outcomes of building performance.


The M.Arch. program culminates with a faculty directed project. 

The degree project is an opportunity to develop a point of view about architecture and its place in the world, to question conventions, habitual responses, and routine approaches to architectural design, and to investigate issues that the student demonstrates as significant to architecture.

The M.Arch. program is designated as a STEM program in Architectural and Building Sciences/Technology (CIP code 04.0902) making international M.Arch. graduates eligible to extend their F-1 Visas for up to three years in order to work in the United States.

First Year

Second Year

Applicants granted ‘Advanced Standing’ start studies with the Second Year Fall Semester.

Third Year

Students spend their third year at CASE in New York City


The degree requires 100 credits.

A Plan of Study is required for all graduate students. Admission with advanced standing can fulfill a significant number of the required 100 credits, especially for students who have been enrolled in undergraduate pre-architecture programs or non-accredited professional programs. Advanced standing requires approval by the School’s Graduate Program Director and the Office of Graduate Education. The final approval of advanced standing will be recorded on the student’s Plan of Study.

Additional Requirements

In addition to the Institute-wide academic regulations outlined in this catalog, the following pertain to graduate programs in architecture:

  • Academic Progress—To earn the professional M.Arch. degree, students must maintain a 3.0 or higher average in the following courses: 6 credits of 6000-level electives. Students whose cumulative averages for all course work drop below 3.0 will be reviewed for satisfactory progress. The architecture faculty, as part of its academic review process, will review professional M.Arch. students earning grades of C+ or below. A student earning a C+ or below in a subsequent required design course must either repeat the course or take another course specified by the faculty before advancing to the next course in the design sequence. Students who fail to earn a grade of B or better in the repeated or specified course or who earn a third C+ or lower in design may not continue in the design sequence.
  • Retention of Student Work—All student drawings and models created as part of the instructional program are the property of the Institute until the instructor releases them. The School of Architecture, at its option, may retain certain works for academic purposes.

During their third year, M.Arch. students participate in a year-long program in New York City at Rensselaer’s Center for Architecture Science and Ecology (CASE).  The program allows M.Arch. students to study in a collaborative interdisciplinary research environment focused on the development of advanced, next-generation building systems and sustainable technologies.

In regard to the above template, please note that although studios are generally sequential, ARCH 6620  should be taken after the completion of the ARCH 6610 . ARCH 6630  must be taken before ARCH 6948 .

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Programs