Monday, May 25, 2009

Architecture vs. Interior Design; M.Arch. vs. B. Arch.

I have a BS in nursing and I'm considering going back to school to study architecture or interior design. I've been studying decorating magazines and drawing house plans since I was little, and I've been debating which major I should choose. I didn't pursue either one the first time around because I was unable to attend a university where the programs were offered. Frankly, I didn't think I'd be very good at it since I'm not a very good artist. But I'm older now and I've spent 20 yrs. in hospitals. I'm tired out, stressed out, and burned out. I'm kind of nervous but, good or bad, I'm ready to try something new.

I think an architecture degree would be more versatile than a degree in interior design. From what I've read, architects can specialize in interior design if they want to. Assuming I enroll in an architecture program, I have 2 questions. First, I would be attending LSU which offers a 5 yr. B.Arch. program and a 3 yr. professional M.Arch. The M.Arch. would be the logical choice for me. But I've read some comments from students online stating that a B.Arch. program teaches more "fundamentals" than a M.Arch. Is this accurate? The B.Arch. curriculum includes 5 yrs. of design courses and the M.Arch. includes only 3. Is there something missing from the master's program or is it the same material taught in a shorter period of time? Would I gain anything by taking the longer program? How would each degree affect my future salary?

Second, how can an architect specialize in interiors without the training in color, furniture, and fabrics, etc. that an ID program provides? I wish I could do both. Would it be possible to have a double major in these 2 fields?

I know this sounds like nitpicking, but I just want to make sure I have all the facts straight so I know what I'm getting into.

I plan to take physics and another drawing course ahead of time. Any other advice or suggestions would be much appreciated.

You basically have asked two questions -- architecture vs. interior design and if architecture, M.Arch. vs. B.Arch.

With respect to architecture vs. interior design, you are correct in that architecture is more versatile than interior design. I have often told many architecture students that architects can do interior design but interior designers cannot do architecture. With that said, you must decide which is best for you.

Resources to review are the following:

Becoming an Architect: A Guide to Careers in Design

Becoming an Interior Designer: A Guide to Careers in Design

Your question about how architects can do interior design without training -- typically, it is through experience and working for a firm that specializes in interiors. Certainly, you could attend an architecture program at an institution that also has an interior design program. You could probably do a double degree, but you may learn as much through experience.

Ultimately, you must connect what you want and pursue it will full vigor.

As for the M.Arch. vs. B.Arch, you should pursue the M.Arch. (3-4 years) as it is designed for individuals who already have an undergraduate degree such as nursing. You will wish to verify that both degrees are accredited by NAAB -- --. You are correct in that most B.Arch. may have more design studios than a M.Arch, but more is not always better. The M.Arch. will be a sound program for you. Given that your commitment, the M.Arch. will serve you well.

As to salary, typically individuals with a M.Arch. are paid more.

You are smart to take physics and drawing. Begin the research process so you can apply for Fall 2010. Start the portfolio that will be required -- -- Talk with architects and interior designers to gain perspective.

Finally, you may be burned out on nursing, but strongly consider a career in heathcare architecture, one of the largest industries within architecture. Given your experience, you would be valuable to employers.

Dr. Architecture


Anonymous said...

I am currently a student at Auburn University and am enrolled in a dual degree program of Architecture and Interior Architecture. I will graduate with two professional degrees in which I can gain licensure as an Registered Architect and Interior Designer.

Perhaps a program like this is what you are looking for, good luck.

Check this out.

jbhollis said...


Thanks for your comment. My daughter is very interested in Auburn's dual dregree program in architecture and interior design.

Is it difficult to make the cut after the 1st yr's summer program where they weed out students. Is it difficult to maintain the 3.0 average in the dual program? It appears to be a 5yr program w a summer session in the 4th yr.

Please offer some insight as we are visiting their architecture school in October of 2010.


Pragga Saha said...
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