Whether to pursue a five-year Bachelor of Architecture (B ARCH) or a Bachelor of Science in Architecture plus a Master of Architecture (4+2) is a common question that many prospective students and their families wrestle with as they begin the selection process for architecture programs. Let’s see if the information below can help you to understand the many dimensions of this issue.
Initially the B ARCH would appear to be the most efficient and perhaps most cost-effective type of program as it is a year shorter in duration than a 4+2 degree track. Indeed the B ARCH may be a good match for a student coming out of high school with a very high degree of certainty that architecture is going to be her or his career of choice. It provides a seemingly direct track to the profession (5 years undergraduate plus about three years of internship).
The no-frills B ARCH provides a fast-track to the professional degree, but what suffers?
The drawback of a B ARCH degree is that it packs professional skills and knowledge into a more compact package than the 4+2 track. Most B ARCH programs take five-years to complete typically a minimum of 150 semester credit hours while 4+2 programs, as the short-hand abbreviation suggests, are typically 6 years in duration and require completion of 120 undergraduate semester credit hours plus 60 graduate credit hours (180 semester credit hours in all).
The B ARCH was developed in the 19th century principally as a vocational career track. With the professionalization of architecture in the 20th century, architecture programs nation-wide began to explore the idea that liberal pre-professional education should be an objective of undergraduate education while professional education should be reserved for graduate study. The 4+2 degree track answered this new objective for architectural education and for the most part reflects contemporary trends in architectural education. Through much of the 20th century the B ARCH has served us well in training new professionals for the conventional practice of architecture, but the 4+2 degree track educates future leaders in the dynamic and ever changing modes of practice that contemporary architects face today. You might think of it this way, the B ARCH provided good preparation for your grandfather’s mode of practice, but the 4+2 degree track offers substantially more preparation for you or your daughter’s future engagement in a 21st century professional context.
The additional year of education allows students in a 4+2 program to have a broader based educational experience at the undergraduate level. Bluntly put, students in 4+2 programs receive more opportunity for a rigorous liberal education, which means they are being better prepared to work their way through the host of unknowns will be faced in an evolving professional context. It permits students to minor in areas such as foreign language (read preparation for practice in a global economy) project management, sustainability, and a host of other subject areas that provide insights into the big issues of our age. The 4+2 degree also provides flexibility that most B ARCH degrees simply can’t provide. For example, we know that many high school students will share their career preferences but after a year or two of college (with first-hand educational experience under their belt) they come to the conclusion that their passion lies elsewhere. In a 4+2 program we can more readily shift a student from an architecture career path to urban planning, historic preservation, real estate development, business, or a host of disciplines. Many B ARCH programs do not provide this kind of flexibility because their pedagogical content is necessarily more narrowly professional.
One of the great advantages that we can offer with our 4+2 program here at Maryland is the possibility to complete a dual degree at the Master’s level, in nearly the same time that it takes to complete the Master of Architecture degree. At Maryland you can easily combine the Master of Architecture with a Masters in Urban Planning, Historic Preservation, or Real Estate Development.