Master of Architecture: First-Professional

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The Master of Architecture, a professional degree accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) draws upon the tradition of inspired experimental architectural design in Los Angeles, typified by two of its most distinguished graduates, Pritzker Prize Laureates Frank Gehry, FAIA (B.Arch. 1954) and Thom Mayne, FAIA (B.Arch. 1968).



The School’s Master of Architecture is a NAAB accredited professional degree program in the area of architectural design. It is intended for individuals who have completed a bachelor's degree with a major other than one of the design professions, (typically requiring three years of residency); or, with advanced standing, for those individuals with a pre-professional undergraduate degree in architectural studies (typically requiring two years of residency).


This degree fully prepares graduates for the present and future professional activities in the ever-evolving field of architecture. As an accredited professional degree, it provides a solid intellectual base of knowledge in history, technology, professional practice and theory. Particular emphasis is put on each of the six-semester design studio sequence, where students learn to synthesize the social, environmental, and tectonic thinking through informed design practice. Exploring the many elective opportunities within the School, students are encouraged to develop a tailored curriculum, and if possible, to complete one of the several graduate certificates offered by the School or within the university-at-large.


M.Arch Expansion Announcement




NAAB Catalog Statement

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  8-year, 3-year, or 2-year term of accreditation, depending on the extent of its conformance with established educational standards. 



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


The University of Southern California School of Architecture offers the following NAAB-accredited degree programs:     


Bachelor of Architecture (160 undergraduate credits) 

Master of Architecture (pre-professional degree + 64 graduate credits) 

Master of Architecture (non-professional degree + 102 graduate credits)


Next accreditation visit for all programs: 2022


Download the reports: 2014 Visiting Report2014 NAAB APRNAAB Annual ReportsNAAB Conditions for Accreditation 2014 & NAAB Procedures for Accreditation 2012.


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A minimum one-semester college-level course in physics or calculus is required.



In order for the M.Arch. degree to be conferred, students must complete 102 credit units of both required professional and elective coursework during three years of residency, as well as continually meeting the established standards for graduate study at USC.


To meet NAAB accreditation requirements, all students must complete (before graduation) a combined total of 168 credit hours of study at the undergraduate and graduate level, of which at least 30 semester credit hours must be at the graduate level as well as a minimum of 45 units of non-architectural content.


Advanced Standing

Students seeking advanced standing must have a four-year architectural studies degree from: a U.S. school with an accredited professional architecture program; a U.S. school that is accredited by a regional accrediting body, without an accredited professional architecture program; or an international program that is deemed equivalent.


All students who meet the pre-professional undergraduate degree requirement and wish to be considered for advanced standing must request a course-by-course review.  Students must provide significant evidence from the coursework completed at the undergraduate level in order for waivers to be considered or granted for USC M.Arch. required courses. This review is conducted after admission to the program, during the summer prior to starting coursework. M.Arch. students with advanced standing are required a minimum two year residency, or 4 semester units of study at USC.


Summer Semester

A robust curriculum is available during the summer semester between the fourth and fifth semesters [of the full sequence; between the second and third of the advanced standing]. A combination of internationally based studios, field studies and the full first semester sequence of the M.AAS is available to allow students diverse and advanced opportunities that can expand their degree offerings.


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Following is a sample program curriculum for the 2014-2015 Academic Year.  For previous academic years, please consult the online USC Catalogue archive.


The USC Catalogue is the document of authority for all students. The program requirements listed in the USC Catalogue supersede any information which may be contained in any bulletin of any school or department. The university reserves the right to change its policies, rules, regulations, requirements for graduation, course offerings and any other contents of this catalogue at any time.


102-unit Sample Curriculum

Year One, Semester One Units
409* Design Foundation 2
410* Computer Transformation 2
505aL Graduate Architecture Design I - Principles 6
511L Materials and Construction 4
514a Global History of Architecture 3
543 Research Methods 1
    Total Units: 18

* ARCH 409 and ARCH 410 will be taken as a fall semester special session prior to the first day of classes.



Year One, Semester Two Units
505bL Graduate Architecture Design I - Site 6
514b Global History of Architecture 3
523aL Structural Design and Analysis 3
575a Systems: The Thermal Environment 3
525 Professional Practice: Pre-Design, Project and Office Administration 3
    Total Units: 18


Year Two, Semester One Units
523bL Structural Design and Analysis 3
561 Urbanism Themes and Case Studies 2
562 Architecture Themes and Case Studies 2
605aL Graduate Architecture Design II - Integration 6
611L Advanced Building Systems 4
    Total Units: 17


Year Two, Semester Two Units
575b Systems: Luminous and Auditory Phenomena in Architecture 3
563 Contemporary Architectural Theory 2
564 Descriptive and Computational Architectural Geometry 2
605bL Graduate Architecture Design- Comprehensive 6
  Electives 4
    Total Units: 17


Year Three, Semester One Units
526 Professional Practice: Legal and Economic Context, Project Documentation 3
705L Advanced Graduate Architecture Design- Topics 6
793aL Architecture Directed Design Research Option I, or  
795aL Architecture Thesis Option II 2
  Electives 5
    Total Units: 16


Year Three, Semester Two Units
793bL Architecture Directed Design Research Option I, or  
795bL Architecture Thesis Option II 6
  Electives 10
    Total Units: 16

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