Graduate Program

The MS ARCH program is not taking new applicants. We anticipate a new revised MS ARCH program opening to new students starting Fall 2026. 

Master of Science in Architecture

The Master of Science Architecture (MS ARCH) program prepares graduates for specialist and consultation positions in the broad field of Environmental Design within the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry. The MS ARCH program provides opportunities for specialization and interdisciplinary collaboration through coursework and research. The program welcomes applications from candidates holding bachelor degrees, including graduates with a Bachelor of Architecture seeking post-professional specialization and those with a degree outside of architecture.  The post-professional Master of Science in Architecture (MS ARCH) Degree is not a NAAB-accredited professional degree in architecture. Read more about the differences between professional/non-professional degrees and requirements for licensure at NCARB.

Blended Program 

Students currently pursuing a Bachelor of Architecture at Cal Poly have a unique opportunity to enter the MS ARCH as a a blended program starting in the 4th or 5th year of the B ARCH. Click here for more details.

University and Program Application and Deadlines

Please find information about the application process here: 
MS Architecture Application Process and Deadlines

For more information, contact the MS ARCH program at

Graduate Study Areas

The MS ARCH provides these focus areas of study and each student selects one of these areas to focus coursework and individual scholarship. Regardless of the selected research area, however, students are expected to develop knowledge about fundamental building design and building science principles, and advanced information technology concepts. Graduate students are encouraged to build on the knowledge that they have gained from their previous academic studies and/or professional experiences, as they acquire and contribute new knowledge in their chosen research specialization within one of the following broadly defined research areas:

  • Urban Architecture and Design: Architecture has a significant relationship to the urban environment. Most of the global population lives in cities today. Recent environmental challenges facing our local to global populations are in part the result of social, political, cultural, economic, and technological factors shaping cities. Population density and distribution, infrastructural networks, spatial conditions, building technologies, biological and botanical ecologies, material resources and energy allocation systems, social proximities and cultural iconographies, socioeconomic structures, community engagement, and importantly ethnic, racial, and identity politics are all among a few of the many significant factors affecting human life. Urban architecture is extremely important in this respect as it attempts to comprehend the impact architecture and infrastructure has and has had not only on city life, but on global and local society, culture, politics, and economics. Study and research areas include, but are not limited to: 2d GIS mapping of defined range of urban architecture parameters (i.e, biological and botanical ecologies, material resources and energy allocation systems, social proximities and cultural iconographies), 3d city modeling with open source dapps with anonymized telecom data, use of smart city animations, robotics, sensory, and machine learning in the urban design of buildings, and infrastructure. [Professor Stephen Phillips]

  • Innovative Materials Practice: This practice specialization focuses on design integration through innovations in materials and material assemblies enabled by contemporary modes of digital fabrication and their impact on design and construction processes. Of particular interest are sustainable practices in digital fabrication from material economies and cradle-to-cradle methodologies to responsive envelopes. The Innovative Materials Practice research area promotes interdisciplinary work as essential to innovation in design and construction with connections to other disciplines including: Architectural Engineering, Landscape Architecture, City and Regional Planning, Construction Management, Material Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. Study and research areas include but are not limited to: parametric design and fabrication of material systems, prefabrication, responsive envelopes, material performance/properties, and phase change materials. [Digital Fabrication Laboratory]

  • Circular Communities: Given the increasing number, intensity and size of natural and social catastrophes in the world today, it is apparent that sustainability principles may not be explicit enough to ignite the kind of societal and economic transformations that are needed for the health of the planet and all its inhabitants. The root of this problem lies in the linear economy, a “takemake-dispose” system, which strips the Earth of natural resources and fills it with waste. The built environment contributes significantly to this destructive process. In Europe, for example, the building industry is responsible for about 50% of total resource extraction while construction and demolition account for 35% of total waste. Study and research areas include, but are not limited to: adapting full circle principles involving theory and practice examples, design detailing for deconstruction, biomaterials development for construction, service-learning education opportunities with local schools and businesses, and construction waste reuse for industrial byproducts. [Professor Clare Olsen]

  • Interdisciplinary Building Design: The making of architecture is a complex process and involves multiple disciplines to be successful. The reality of all projects, especially the ones that are considered innovative regarding creative approaches to building systems integration regarding structure, cladding, passive / mechanical, or other aspects of building development, do require a multi-disciplinary approach to be successful. Studying this collaborative model for design and understanding the range of work flow strategies, tools and coordination issues, design challenges and the implications for applying new approaches to a component of this building design / systems integration process should be the focus. The study of best practices for multidisciplinary design with connections to other disciplines including, but not limited to, Architectural Engineering, Landscape Architecture, Construction Management, and Mechanical Engineering. The study and research areas include, but are not limited to: collaborative projects involving two or more disciplines, collaborative workflow strategies, advanced tools for collaboration, and small scaled design-build projects that model proof of concept multi-disciplinary examples. [Professor Thomas Fowler IV, DPACSA, FAIA]

  • Sustainability and Resilient Design: Study of the built environment as a low impact, necessary enhancement of the natural environment in the service of humankind. Study and research areas include, but are not limited to, renewable energy systems, waste recycling, energy conservation concepts and practices, self-contained biospheres, materials of construction and embodied energy considerations, green buildings, and unhealthy building environments.

Curriculum Overview

The MS ARCH degree involves a master’s research project as the principal component. Forty-five (45) total units are required for completion of the degree. A research proposal is prepared by each student, based upon their scholarship interests formulated during the first year of the program.

Professional Practice Interdisciplinary Building Design Focus

This course of study is designed for applicants holding an accredited architecture degree or a degree outside of architecture wishing to pursue advanced studies with a strong professional practice focus. The first year of the curriculum immerses students in multi-disciplinary design teams on professionally-oriented projects. Students learn best practices of collaboration, and skills are developed through partnerships with students in other disciplines and with industry professionals.

Environmental Design Focus

This course of study is designed for applicants holding a bachelor's degree in an environmental design or allied discipline wishing to pursue advanced studies with a strong cross-disciplinary focus. Students have opportunities for coursework and engagement with the four other departments in the College, which include City and Regional Planning, Architectural Engineering, Construction Management and Landscape Architecture. The common curriculum aims to establish a central core of advanced studies and research, while directed electives provide an opportunity for in-depth study in one of the contributory disciplines of Architecture, including City and Regional Planning, Architectural Engineering, Landscape Architecture and Construction Management.

Graduate Program Curriculum

Program Options:

1 Year + 1 Qtr Accelerated Program (click on chart to enlarge)

2 Year Program

MS ARCH Flow Chart (click on chart to enlarge)

    Graduate Scholarships

    For information on scholarships available to MS ARCH graduate students, see Architecture Department Scholarships & Awards.


    updated 10.28.2020

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