The program leading to the Master of Architecture (MArch) is an accredited professional degree intended for individuals who have completed the bachelor's degree with a major other than one of the design professions or with a pre-professional undergraduate major in one of the design professions.

The course of study is rigorous and comprehensive, preparing graduates for the full range of professional activities in the field of architecture. It provides a solid intellectual base of knowledge in history, theory, technology, the social environment, and professional practice. Particular emphasis is given to developing mastery of design through an intensive series of design studio courses. Committed to developing independent thinking and resolving design issues, students are required to prepare a design thesis that serves as a transition from graduate school to professional practice. To attain registration for professional practice after completion of the degree, a candidate must complete an internship in an architectural office and pass a registration examination. Many students partially complete their internships during the summer while in graduate school.

Admission with No Previous Professional Education

Individuals who have completed a four-year Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree in any field (architecture or other) are eligible for admission to the first term of the professional degree program. Preference for admission is given to applicants who have completed a balanced undergraduate education that includes study in the arts, sciences, and humanities.  Four college-level, semester-long courses are specifically required as prerequisites for admission to the M.Arch-1 program: one semester of calculus; one semester of physics (algebra-based, covering mechanics and thermodynamics); and two semesters of history of architecture(together covering Renaissance through Modern periods at minimum). Applicants must achieve a grade of B- or better in each of these courses. Applicants who have scored a 4 or 5 on AP Calculus or AP Physics exams will be considered to have met these prerequisites only if their undergraduate transcript acknowledges the results by awarding institutional credit.

Preparation in the visual arts is desirable and may include drawing, sculpture, and/or graphics. Courses in the humanities, philosophy, literature, and economics are also recommended but are not required.

The Graduate School of Design offers a Pre-Core Workshop to incoming students, which is required for all entering Master of Architecture students without an undergraduate degree in architecture. The workshop may also be required or recommended for students whose portfolios demonstrate a need for more depth of knowledge with software used to design and represent architectural projects (for example, Rhino, V-Ray, AutoCAD, Illustrator, Photoshop). The workshop allows students to set up their computers, their GSD network accounts, and to familiarize themselves with the GSD’s Digital facilities prior to the start of classes. Most importantly, the workshop allows incoming students to gain a basic knowledge of the workflows and digital techniques used in the context of studios: 3D software basics, rendering basics, data-transfer from 3D software, output and model building techniques using CAD/CAM facilities. No academic credit is given for the workshop. Please refer to our sample Architecture Core Prep syllabus for additional details.

Admission with Advanced Standing (MArch I AP)

Individuals who have completed a pre-professional four-year Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree with a major in architecture or environmental design may be eligible for admission with advanced standing, subject to the review of the admissions committee. Such applicants will be considered for placement in the third term of the program, thus reducing the required course of study to two-and-one-half years. Applicants who are granted advanced standing must have completed the same preparation in college-level calculus, physics, and history as described in the previous section, as well as undergraduate courses that are roughly analogous to the course of study of the first year of the graduate program, demonstrating high achievement in design.


For students entering without advanced standing, a minimum of seven terms of full-time study in residence, including thesis, is required. Individuals admitted with advanced standing normally begin with the third term of the program and must complete a minimum of five terms of full-time study in residence. Under special circumstances, students may receive permission to reduce their course load and extend their studies over a longer period of time.

Please note that the MArch program is now designated as a STEM program. Accordingly, international students holding F-1 visas may be eligible for a 24-month Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension on top of their initial OPT of 12 months, for a total of 36 months, following graduation.  Each F-1 student must petition United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to approve the 24-month STEM extension, and Harvard does not represent or warrant that USCIS will grant any individual petition.

Accreditation of MArch I Degree Program

In the United States, most registration boards require a degree from an accredited professional degree program as a prerequisite for licensure. The National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), which is the sole agency authorized to accredit professional degree programs in architecture offered by institutions with U.S. regional accreditation, recognizes three types of degrees: the Bachelor of Architecture, the Master of Architecture, and the Doctor of Architecture. A program may be granted an eight-year term, an eight-year term with conditions, or a two-year term of continuing accreditation, or a three-year term of initial accreditation, depending on the extent of its conformance with established education standards.

Doctor of Architecture and Master of Architecture degree programs may require a non-accredited undergraduate degree in architecture for admission. However, the non-accredited degree is not, by itself, recognized as an accredited degree.

The Harvard University Graduate School of Design’s Department of Architecture offers the following NAAB accredited degree programs:

Master of Architecture  (non-pre-professional degree + 105 graduate credit hours on the NAAB scale)

Note: this is equivalent to 140 units in the GSD course unit calculations.

Master of Architecture AP (pre-professional degree + 75 graduate credit hours on the NAAB scale)

Note: this is equivalent to 100 units in the GSD course unit calculations.

NAAB Conditions and Procedures for Accreditation

For more information, please visit the NAAB Accreditation Information and Resources page.

NAAB Accredited MArch Badge