A candidate who enters the program will be recommended for the Master in Design Studies degree upon satisfactory completion of 48 units of course work, or 56 units if the student opts to complete an Independent Thesis in the spring of their second year.
No more than 8 units from the total of 48 may be from independent study courses and no more than 16 units from non-GSD courses. The Area Head may waive requirements or make exceptions to the maximum number of units allowed through non-GSD courses, however, a total of 48 units of course work must still be completed.

Specific course requirements are subject to change or substitution each academic year. The MDes Degree Requirements document in place at the time of matriculation serves as the official guideline for degree requirements. Requirements by Area of Concentration are available under each area's web page.

In the spring of their first year, students must choose from one of three options:

  1. The Three-Semester Coursework Option (48 units)
  2. The Four-Semester Coursework Option (48 units)*
  3. The Four-Semester Option with Thesis (56 units)**

*The 16-20 credits of the second year may be distributed across the final two semesters for an additional fee.
**Thesis may be done in spring of second year for an additional one quarter tuition, which only includes enrollment in ADV-9304 Independent Thesis for the Degree Master in Design Studies.

The Three-Semester Option (48 units): Coursework Path

  • In the spring of the first year, the student chooses the 3-semester option (deadline in April).
  • The student will enroll in 16-20 units per each semester.
  • The student must satisfactorily complete a minimum of 48 units, including all courses required for the concentration.

The Four-Semester Option (48 units): Coursework “Splitting” Path

  • In the spring of the first year, the student chooses the 4-semester coursework option (deadline in April).
  • The student will enroll in 16-20 units in each of the first two semesters. In the second year of the program, the student will enroll in 16-20 units distributed across the two semesters.
  • The student must satisfactorily complete a minimum of 48 units, including all courses required for the concentration.
  • International students should consult with the Harvard International Office on the minimum unit requirements for each semester in the final year.
  • An additional administrative fee of $1,000 will be added.

The Four-Semester Option (56 units): Thesis

  • In the spring of the first year, the student chooses the 4-semester Thesis option (deadline in April).
  • The student must satisfactorily complete a minimum of 56 units, including all courses required for the concentration.
  • The student must enroll in the 8-credit spring course ADV-9304 Independent Thesis for the Degree Master in Design Studies.
  • The student must secure a GSD faculty advisor and file a Declaration of Advisor form by the midpoint of Fall semester (For Academic Year 2018-2019: October 17, 2018).
  • If no advisor is secured, the student will choose either the Three-Semester Coursework Option or Four-Semester Coursework Option.
  • The student must present and defend the project at the MDes Thesis Reviews in May (For Academic Year 2018-2019: May 14-15, 2019).
  • The student must submit a written thesis to the program office by the deadline (For Academic Year 2018-2019: May 17, 2019).

Residence

Three terms of full-time study in residence are required for students entering into the program in the 2018-19 academic year. During their second semester, students may elect to complete the program in three semesters of coursework, or to extend their research into a fourth semester by completing a thesis. Students pursuing a concurrent degree are able to complete the program in 2 semesters. Requirements should be discussed with the Area Head and Program Coordinator.

 

For students who entered the MDes program prior to Academic Year 2018-19, please see the previous Degree Requirements.

 

Preparation for Admission

Applicants to the MDes program normally hold a professional degree in architecture, landscape architecture, or urban planning and design. Applicants with a degree in a related discipline such as engineering, geography, computer science, or industrial design also qualify for admission. The program seeks applicants who have demonstrated overall academic and/or professional achievement in the design fields and who have the potential for advanced work in the area selected for study.

Applicants must specify which of the offered eight areas of study they wish to pursue. Each area has specific course requirements and electives and is under the guidance of an area academic advisor. The specific course work is customized to each student’s qualifications and academic and professional objectives and is constructed by the individual student in consultation with his or her academic advisor.