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Is grad school for architecture worth going to?

To get other peoples opinions #architecture #gradschool #graduate-school #higher-education

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Michelle’s Answer

Hi Evan!

Matt's answer is great--so definitely defer to him, and anyone else in the industry that you may talk to. Admittedly, I don't know much about architecture, but I do know about how to assess if a financial opportunity is "worth it" (i.e. will have a good return on your investment).

Here's what you need to create a simplified way to think about this problem:

1. The cost of going to architecture graduate school. You can do some research and estimate for now. You should NOT include expenses like rent, food, etc. (You would incur these costs whether you go to graduate school or not). Let's say this cost (tuition, fees, etc.) is $20,000. Note: If you're taking this money out as student loans, use an online repayment calculator to factor in the interest payments over the life of the loan to get the total cost.

2. The salary you would expect to make right out of college if you didn't go to graduate school. This is called "opportunity cost". If you don't go to graduate school, you would make this money. If you go to graduate school, you lose out on this money. We add it to the costs in #1. Let's say this is $40,000 a year, and you will go to graduate school for 2 years. $40,000 x 2 years = $80,000. We now have your total investment: $20,000 (cost of grad school) + $80,000 (opportunity cost) = $100,000

3. How much money do you expect to GAIN on top of your non-graduate salary by going to graduate school? Let's say that after graduate school, you can expect to make a salary of $65,000 instead of $40,000. This is a $25,000 return for every year you work. Let's say you expect your career to be 30 years. To keep things really simple, we're going to ignore growth to your income and the time value of money. This means by going to graduate school, you gain $25,000 x 30 years = $750,000

4. We can now think about whether graduate school is "worth it" in a few different ways. One is to simply subtract your cost from your gain ($750k-$100k), showing that if you go to grad school you would net $650,000 over the course of your career that you would not otherwise earn. Another way is to think about how quickly you will earn back your investment. If grad school costs $100,000 and your benefit from going to school is $25,000 a year, then you will "make up" for that investment in 4 years. Finally, you could consider a Return on Investment calculation which is $750,000/$100,000 = 7.5. This is a good investment--for every $1 you spend getting your graduate degree, you will earn back $7.50.

Again, all these numbers are made up. You'll need to do the research to figure out what your actual investment and return will be. We also don't account for any risk in this calculation (i.e., the chance that your costs will be higher and your return will be less). Finally, this calculation also doesn't take into account the VERY important emotional aspects of the decision. Do you WANT to go to graduate school? Does the job you expect to have post-graduate school appeal to you more than a B.A. level job? Do you have anyone else that would be affected by this choice, like a partner or family member? Unfortunately, we can't do some simple math to take the emotional piece into account. Big life decisions would be much easier if we could!
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Matt’s Answer

It depends on your career goals and what type of undergraduate degree you receive. Do you want to be a registered architect in the future, or are you looking to move into other areas of the construction industry? If you would like to pursue architecture as a profession I would recommend becoming a registered architect. Registration will open up more doors later in your career. If you want to go into other areas such as construction a Bachelor's degree is probably fine.

If you attend one of the few colleges that offer a 5 year Professional Bachelor of Architecture degree you can become a registered architect with only the Bachelor's degree. There may be some issues with not having a Master's degree ten or fifteen years into your career when competing for promotions, but if you are talented and hardworking it shouldn’t hold you back. Some of the best architecture programs in the country offer the 5 year bachelor's degree.

If you attend one of the majority of colleges that only offer a 4 year non-professional Bachelor of Architecture you will need to continue to the 2 year Master of Architecture (Professional) in order to become a registered architect.

If you want a career in architecture I would suggest getting the Master of Architecture or a 5 year Bachelor of Architecture so that you can eventually become a registered architect. I would also be aware of the cost, your salary right out of school will be fairly modest and the market can be volatile. I would recommend finding a good school at a reasonable price and completing the degrees as quickly as possible to avoid a large amount of student low debt.
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