Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mathematician to Architect

First, I have to say that I love your blog. You're very informative, and although there are resources available online that have vast amounts of information, few of them feel so personal and reliable. Just had to get that out of the way first.

I have a question for you regarding a career switch. I've just received a Bachelor's in Mathematics from a small state university in Oklahoma (University of Central Oklahoma), and I am considering making a change to architecture. For some context, I have obviously had way, way too much math, including every Calculus course to be taken, but I also have a minor in Engineering Physics, which allowed me to take classes regarding static structures and forces, something I understand could provide a very good foundation for some architecture coursework. I am, however, very interested in the design side and many of the less "scientific" aspects (although I find them just as captivating), so rather than Architectural Engineering, I'd like to pursue Architecture. I have had a consistent passion for art and for design, and have actually done a few things such as building my own guitar, sketching and designing small things around the place I have like a drug addict, and carving and painting, so building a portfolio may not be as hard for me as for others, but it will still take a long, long while and I have a long, long way to go.

I have done some - though not enough - research into options for making a switch this dramatic, but as it stands, going back for another undergraduate degree would be highly difficult for me as I have no means to pay for it now that I've invested so heavily in something so much different (different courseloads, different research, different everything, it seems like). I am convinced that this is something that I'd love to do, but four years of experience tell me not to jump into something so quickly. I've thankfully had the fortune of saving a little bit of money on school so far, so it's not altogether not an option to go back, but I've also located some programs that are "career-switch" programs for graduate degrees, such as one at UT-Austin or the University of Cincinnati that require about 3.5 years to finish, but results in an accredited degree (or something close to it) through a Master's in Architecture.

However, again, money and funding are a huge problem for me. I simply can't afford to take out loans that something like UT-Austin or other places would require, but I haven't found much information on ways to pay for something like this. In mathematics, the way I know people usually get around this is getting some kind of assitantship for the duration of their M.S., M.A., or Ph.D, so it comes out fairly even. I'm noticing the system in architecture is a little different.

So, here's the question: would there be any good resources you could point me to, or any advice you could give me, on funding such a long shot option? I've read a lot of posts - including on here - about how one of the greatest architects of the 20th century started architecture pretty late in his life, so I know it's possible, but it just seems so difficult. My grades were decent - 3.25 GPA overall and 3.5 subject plus several honors and awards, and some research to my name - so hopefully there is some hope.

Also, are there other programs in the U.S. or in Europe that have the career-switching Master's like this that you know of? I've found about three or four, but have had some trouble finding more. 

Thank you for the time, and keep up the awesome work on this blog!


Thanks for the compliments on the blog.

Given you have an undergraduate degree (albeit in another discipline), you are eligible to apply to a Master of Architecture degree at any number of institutions.  The MArch will take between 3-4 years depending on the program to which you attend.  To research schools, visit or -- both have a list of accredited programs.

Given some of your coursework was related, you may receive the waiver of some courses but because of design studio, the overall length will still be 3-4 years.

As for funding, contact the programs directly as many have assistantships and fellowships for students.  Most of these will be awarded on merit.

You will also need to develop a portfolio for admission.  Consider taking an art or drawing course to create materials for your admission.

Finally, visit -- and consider purchasing Becoming an Architect, 2nd Ed.


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