Master of Science in Architecture (M.S.Arch.)
About the Program
As design professions respond to new challenges and opportunities presented by a range of social, environmental, technological and economic catalysts, designers are increasingly asked to work across scales and disciplines, to possess specialized expertise while maintaining a broad contextual grasp, and to emerge as leaders at the hub of collaborative endeavors.
Within this context, the Master of Science in Architecture program offers the opportunity for advanced study and research in specialized areas related to design, construction, operations, and human-material interaction at a range of scales, providing the basis for diverse career paths and/or entry into a Ph.D.-level program. The Master of Science program allows a student to conduct a research-based program of study which is expected to contribute to the body of knowledge in the design and building professions and may lead to future study in the doctoral program, where advanced standing may be awarded for acceptable graduate credits earned at the master’s level.
Candidates for the Master of Science in Architecture are encouraged to diversify their plan of study with courses from schools across the university and engage in collaborative research opportunities. Students will develop their own programs of study in cooperation with appropriate faculty and in consideration of the courses and facilities available. The Master of Science degree is awarded upon satisfactory completion of an approved plan of study of at least 36 credit hours, normally including a thesis representing up to 10 hours of the total hours required. (The MS degree is completed on the Blacksburg campus in 4 semesters, and on the WAAC campus in 3 semesters,).
While an undergraduate degree in architecture or a related field is not required, applicants must demonstrate relevant background and experience, as well as capabilities for undertaking advanced academic study. Applicants must have a clearly articulated statement of research intent and are encouraged to contact program specific faculty prior to the application process with any questions regarding concentration areas.
Note: The M.S. is not directed toward professional licensing.
While the Master of Architecture program accommodates a variety of interests, several concentration areas have been developed to help guide students in specific, at times related, areas of study.
Studies in the category of Building Science focus on various environmental systems issues over a broad range of scales and may concentrate on the following (or other) areas: energy and building design; mechanical systems and large buildings; lighting and daylighting; natural ventilation and air flow; indoor air quality; acoustics and theater design; and building structure, assembly, and/or economics. This concentration is available on the main campus in Blacksburg. Contact Professor James Jones.
This concentration allows those with professional degrees in Interior Design or closely related areas the opportunity for advanced research which is expected to add to the body of knowledge in the discipline of Interior Design. Potential research areas include design practice, history of interiors, computer applications in interior design, and environmental factors related to interiors. This concentration is available on the main campus in Blacksburg. Contact Professor Brad Whitney.
This concentration, available at the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center (National Capital Region – NCR), allows students an opportunity to engage in urban design research, addressing the design of safe, healthy, and sustainable urban environments. Emphasis is on the physical form of cities and the complex forces that shape them. Focused on the general underlying themes of security, resilience, health, and sustainability, possible research areas include but are not limited to mobility and infrastructure, conservation and preservation, and urban places and dwellings. Contact Dr. Paul Kelsch. (More info…)
Studies in this concentration examine the works, artifacts, and ideas of architects, historians, theorists, and educators to inform a deeper understanding of the contemporary issues in architecture. Includes reading in other fields such as philosophy, anthropology and histories of art, literature and technology, to reconsider and critique forms of knowledge, practice and pedagogy in architectural culture. Available at both the main Blacksburg campus and the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center (Greater Washington Metro Area). Contact Dr. Paul Emmons or Dr. Joseph Bedford
Studies in this concentration explore the relationship between the design of the built environment and global health. The immediate and critical global need for improved health has converged with an increasing understanding of the relationship of design and planning and health outcomes, and presents an unprecedented opportunity to re-position designers as leaders in the field of global health. The concentration in Design and Health aligns related research interests, complementary resources and expertise across campus and beyond, and strategic partnerships with industry, governments, and NGOs to reposition design as a leading force within critical areas of public health –in local, regional, national, and global contexts. This concentration is available on the main campus in Blacksburg and is supported by the collaborative Commonwealth Consortium for Design and Health.
Studies in this emerging concentration focus on understanding the impact of design and design processes across a range of scales and disciplines. The concentration in Impact Design is centered about defining and evaluating impact from perspectives related to the environment, education, economy, society, and individual health and happiness. Through a strategic network of partnerships students will engage in study related to development; evaluation methodologies; research methods; stakeholder engagement; policy and planning; non-profit management; design thinking; and strategies for engaging the design process to develop innovative- scalable solutions toward a better world. This concentration invites applicants with design and related background as well as those from other disciplines and is available at the main Blacksburg Campus. Contact Dr. Nathan King or Professor Robert Dunay
Studies in this concentration examine a comprehensive overview of emerging technologies, their consequences, and potential to inform new opportunities and solve critical challenges in design practice. Areas of focus include Computational Design; Building Information Modeling; Reality Computing; Design Robotics; Digital Fabrication; Additive Manufacturing; Construction Automation; Material Systems; and Interactive Environments. Students in the Design Technology concentration will have access to the School of Architecture and School of Design’s state of the art Design Robotics Facility and are encouraged to engage collaborators in the College of Engineering. This concentration is available on the main campus in Blacksburg.
MS.Arch. Program Policies, Procedures and Guidelines
Each candidate for the graduate degree must have an advisor or an advisory committee to guide his or her program of study, offer advice in meeting degree requirements, and aid in progress and accomplishments. The advisory committee must include at least three members in accordance with the current Graduate Policies and Procedures and Course Catalog. The advisory committee chair must be a full-time member of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies faculty unless approved otherwise by the Graduate Architecture Program Chair. It is the student’s responsibility to select the advisory committee prior to completing 15 graduate credit hours and prior to completing any Research and Thesis (5994) or Project and Report (5904) credit hours. Prior consent of each named faculty is required, and the advisory committee is subject to approval by the Coordinator for the applicable research concentration, the Director of the Master of Science in Architecture program, the Graduate Architecture Program Chair, and the Dean of the Graduate School. (Approval of the advisory committee is accomplished through approval of the Plan of Study.)
All graduate students must submit a Plan of Study. A sample of the required format may be picked up in the Department office. A Plan of Study meeting the requirements of a student’s particular concentration and meeting the minimum requirements for the Master of Science in Architecture degree as stated in the current Graduate Policies and Procedures and Course Catalog must be submitted prior to completing 15 graduate credit hours and prior to completing any Research and Thesis (5994) or Project and Report (5904) hours. This Plan of Study should be signed by all members of the student’s advisory committee, the Coordinator for the specific area of research concentration, the Director of the Master of Science in Architecture Program, and then submitted to the School of Architecture and School of Design office for approval by the Chair of the Graduate Architecture Program (see below*). The Plan of Study will then be entered and sent electronically to the Graduate School for approval. Both the composition of the advisory committee and the plan of study may be changed if the student’s interests and needs so demand and if all members of the committee and the Graduate Architecture Program Chair approve.
*The Plan of Study must be approved in the following order:
1. All members of student’s advisory committee
2. Coordinator for specific concentration
3. Director, Master of Science Program
4. Graduate Architecture Program Chair: Professor Kay Edge 5. The Virginia Tech Graduate School
- A minimum of 36 semester hours are required for the degree.
- The Plan of Study must meet the minimum requirements for the Master of Science degree. (see Graduate Catalog)
- The Plan of Study must satisfy the requirements of the specific area of research concentration and the student’s advisory committee.
- All courses, including supporting courses, must be taken on a letter grade (A-F) basis except for those courses approved to be graded on a pass-fail basis only.
- A minimum of 27 credit hours must be in 5000-level courses. Project and Report or Research and Thesis cannot be used toward this requirement.
- A maximum of 9 credit hours of Independent Study courses and a maximum of 9 credit hours of Special Study courses, with a combined total of no more than 12 credit hours, may be included on the plan of study.
Depending on the specific area of research concentration and the requirements of the advisor or the advisory committee, students in the Master of Science in Architecture Program may have the following options:
+ Coursework only (non-thesis option)
+ Coursework with Project and Report (non-thesis option)
+ Coursework with Research and Thesis (thesis option)
Coursework only students will develop their program of study under the guidance of an academic advisor who will chair their examining committee and be responsible for their final comprehensive coursework examination. (This option is available only with approval of the student’s advisor, the Coordinator of the specific research concentration, the Director of the Master of Science Program, and the Chair of the Graduate Architecture Program.)
Project and Report students will work under the guidance of a project advisor who, along with an advisory committee, will approve the Plan of Study, assist with the project, and form the examining committee. The final examination will be based on coursework and/or project work as determined by the examining committee. Students following this option may count up to 6 credit hours of 5904, Project and Report, toward the 36 (min.) credit hours required for the degree. (This option is available only with approval of the student’s advisor, the Coordinator of the specific research concentration, the Director of the Master of Science Program, and the Chair of the Graduate Architecture Program.)
Research and Thesis students will work under the guidance of a research advisory committee, with a designated advisory committee chair, who will supervise the research, approve the Plan of Study, and form the examining committee. In this option, the final examination will be comprised of a defense of the thesis work. Students following this option may count 6 (min.) to 10 (max.) credit hours of 5994, Research & Thesis, toward the 36 (min.) credit hours required for the degree. Submission of the thesis documentation electronically to the Graduate School is also required for completion of the degree.
A final exam or final defense is required for all graduate students. For Research/Thesis and Project/Report options, prior to scheduling the final exam, a draft of the student’s work must be reviewed and approved by the advisory committee. To schedule the final exam, the student must make a scheduling request at least two weeks prior to the proposed date of the examination to permit a complete clerical review and to ensure that all degree requirements have been satisfied; the online form is available at the Graduate School Forms web page. The online form should be completed by the student and then approved by the student’s advisor or advisory committee, the Coordinator for the specific area of research concentration, the Director of the Master of Science Program, and the Graduate Architecture Program Chair. A plan of study must be on file and approved before a final examination may be scheduled. At the time of the defense, the student must be enrolled in at least one course for at least three credits or enrolled under defending student status in order to schedule the final exam (please refer to the Graduate School’s published deadlines). If the exam or defense request is submitted on time and is approved by the advisory committee and the Graduate School, the student and the advisory committee will be notified by the Graduate School prior to the scheduled defense date. No student will be allowed to defend unless the exam is properly scheduled. The final exam result should be entered by the advisory committee chair within two business days following the examination. If a student fails an examination, one full semester (a minimum of 15 weeks) must elapse before the second examination is scheduled. Not more than two opportunities to pass any one examination are allowed.
This course of study provides students with an opportunity to carry out a defined project under the supervision of a project advisor. As such, the scope and limitations are fairly narrowly defined. Open-ended investigative work is a minimum, and results rather than findings are expected. The format is set by the advisor, and the report is submitted to the project advisor and examining committee only. The resulting report will be in a format suited to the nature and scope of the project, and two (2) copies are required for the Master of Science Program archive. The fact that a student has completed a significant project will be taken into account when setting the final examination.
Thesis students are required to engage in research work which demonstrates their preparation to contribute to the body of knowledge within their chosen disciplines and to the resolution of complex questions regarding the built environment. The thesis should provide the opportunity for maturation of the student’s knowledge and abilities, demonstrating their academic accomplishment and professional potential. The student’s thesis work must be documented in a manner acceptable to the student’s advisory committee and in accordance with the requirements of the Graduate School. Please refer to the Graduate School website for more information regarding required format and content. Since the Spring Semester of 1997, all students have been required to submit their thesis documentation electronically, normally in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). Additional instructions are located on the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) website. The Graduate School requires that a $20.00 archiving fee be paid prior to submitting the ETD.
Students have two weeks after the date of the exam to submit their ETD. If this deadline cannot be met, the Advisor must submit a request (email preferred) to the Dean of the Graduate School stating the reason for the delay and requesting approval in order for the ETD to be submitted late. Please note: Beginning Spring 2006, students who defended during a prior term must have received this approval and be registered for at least 1 credit hour for the term they submit their Electronic Thesis/Dissertation. In addition to the ETD, and the requirements specified by the student’s advisory committee, two (2) hardcopies of the thesis are required by the School, one for the Art and Architecture Library and another, unbound and printed on one side only, for the Master of Science Program archive. The student should submit the ETD online, and it must be approved by his or her advisory committee and by the Graduate School in order for the ETD to be accepted.
An Application for Degree (AFD) must be submitted by the dates listed in the Graduate Catalog. The application for degree may be submitted electronically via the Hokie SPA. The Graduate School requires a $25 Application for Degree fee. When the AFD is submitted a “to do” list is generated to assist in timely completion of all procedural requirements. If the student does not apply for the degree on time, his or her name will not appear in the Commencement bulletin and there will be a delay in receiving the diploma. Students who expect to graduate within the next semester should submit an Application for Degree as early as possible. An approved plan of study should also be on file when the Application for Degree is submitted. Students who do not complete their degree as expected will need to notify the Graduate School Programs and Clearances Office. A new Application for Degree should be submitted for the semester that the degree requirements are actually completed. The diploma will be mailed approx. 3-4 months after completion (except for Spring graduates) to the address that the student lists on the Application for Degree. Otherwise, the diploma will be held at the Graduate School Programs and Clearances Office.
It is strongly suggested that all students check with the Graduate School Programs and Clearances Office (540 231-8636) to verify that all records are complete before leaving campus. If the student needs a Statement of Completion, the request should also be made at the Programs and Clearances Office. Upon request, completion statements will be sent after all degree requirements have been met, including the submission of the ETD.
Last Modified: August 7, 2020