Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture
M.Arch Curricular Structure



For students without previous experience in architecture, the first-year curriculum uses an “atelier model” for design instruction. In place of the typical 18-unit (6 credit-hour) introductory design studios taught in parallel with separate support courses, we have created a comprehensive 48-unit (16 credit-hour) studio: in effect, all studio, all the time. The atelier studio combines and integrates studio design instruction with the closely related content from history/theory, computing/representation, and materials/construction. Underlying this design pedagogy is our conviction that design is best learned through projects in which many kinds of knowledge and thinking are integrated into a constantly iterative process of action and reflection.


Students with a rigorous pre-professional baccalaureate in architecture usually enter the M.Arch program with “advanced standing,” and begin in Year 2. The second-year curriculum features more advanced design methods that focus on integration at every level: site, building, and technical systems. The "Integration 1: Environment, Form & Feedback" studio is followed by "Integration 2: Advanced Construction" studio. Depending on background and undergraduate coursework, students will also take required technical courses in materials and assembly, statics and structures, environment and sustainability, and a course in “Architectural Theory” covering current discourse pertaining to the built environment. Electives, either inside or outside the SoA, allow students to begin to establish their own particular specialization.


In the summer, students are encouraged to intensify their engagement with architecture outside of the Pittsburgh campus setting and explore individual areas of interest and specialized career paths, including study abroad trips or professional internships at offices around the world. Internships that satisfy NCARB’s professional Architectural Experience Program (AXP) requirements are particularly encouraged. Since the program is STEM eligible, international students are able to arrange paid internships across the US.


The third year allows students to begin to specialize and craft a unique curriculum that reflects their emerging professional interests from a wide range of electives offered within the SoA, College of Fine Arts (CFA), and CMU. They may also begin work towards another specialized, post-professional graduate degree at CMU SoA (see the AMP program described below). In both the fall and spring of 3rd year, students select from a diverse range of Advanced Synthesis Option Studios (ASOS). The ASOS are a set of advanced studios offered every semester on various topics chosen by studio faculty based on their research and design interests. Topics vary from year to year, and are constantly evolving to keep pace with the rapidly changing profession and global scene. “Global Studio” options allow students to travel to foreign sites during the semester. 

Students interested in doing the optional M.Arch Thesis begin conversations with the Track Chair during the “Architectural Theory” course, enroll in a “Pre-Thesis” mini to explore topics, develop the design project and argument in “Thesis Prep Seminar” in the fall of their final year, and culminate their studies with a one-semester M.Arch Design Thesis that is included in the SoA’s Thesis exhibition.    

AMP: ACCELERATED Master's Program

By strategically using electives to enroll in courses required for other SoA Master's programs, including Sustainable Design (MSSD), Computational Design (MSCD), or Urban Design (MUD), M.Arch students can work towards a specialized concentration or dual degrees. The Accelerated Master's Program (AMP) allows M.Arch students to apply up to four courses (48 units) from their M.Arch curriculum to another Master’s degree, allowing them to graduate with a dual major, save a semester of time and tuition, and enter the job market with specialized knowledge.