Monday, November 15, 2010

Lulu's Mailbag: Is a posh grad school worth it?

Today's letter comes from a fellow Gator (that is, attendee of the University of Florida), who writes:

I was curious as to how significant the grad school I attend is....Like if I get into say Harvard (which would be fantastic), is it worth it to attend there considering the loans i might have to take out. Will I be getting a significantly better paying job if I graduate from Harvard than say the University of Florida (i graduated from there and if i go there it would probably be free) or University of Texas, University of Pennsylvania...(other schools i'm applying to are Wash U, UVA, M.I.T.).....

This is a good question, and I'm surprised I haven't been asked this yet: if I go to a more prestigious graduate school, will I make more money coming out of it? And the answer is no, not really. You may be more highly sought after for having a more prestigious name on your diploma, but it's not really going to affect your pay out of school. The architectural profession pays you more for your experience than for your education. If you want to make more money coming out of graduate school, your best bet is to get a summer or part time job during school so that you have some familiarity with the practice before you start.

Myself, I graduated from the University of Florida in 2000, and my starting pay out of grad school with no experience was $14.50/hr. You might expect kind of around that much out of graduate school in 2012, but maybe perhaps more like $15-$17/hr starting pay. My husband graduated from Kansas State University with a 5-year B.Arch in 1998, and his starting pay was less than my starting pay. The M.Arch is still being paid slightly more than the 4-year degree or the B.Arch, even though it's really just an extra year of school. But ultimately, you're being paid for experience, not the school.

I've met architects from Montana State University who could draw and detail circles around people who went to Harvard, and I've met University of Colorado students who could draw and detail circles around people who went to a 2-year college and have been working in architecture for fifteen years. The point is that the school does not make you a good architect; YOU make you a good architect, and your own skills make you worth hiring, paying, and paying more. (By the way, I've met good people from Wash U in St. Louis and from UVA, and they're good, though they could tell you stories of not so good graduates as well. Every school has some winners and some losers. :-p )

That being said, going to Harvard, Cooper Union, SCI-ARC, and the like are a good move if you're really interested in teaching at some point (like during or after you get licensed). If teaching architecture (especially teaching design) is your ultimate professional goal, then Harvard and its cohorts will be more worth the loans.

Got a question you'd like to ask or a topic you'd like to see discussed here? Drop me a line via the comments or in an email at my address in the sidebar. Thanks!

1 comment:

  1. Lulu Brown,

    Assuming one wants to attend a posh grad school after getting a B.arch, have you heard of many people attending grad school after licensure? I have about 3 years of work experience under my belt and while life is slow and easy, have started my way through the ARE. However, I still have dreams of going back to school in the next couple of years (post-ARE), because a) there is still so much to explore and b) to keep the option of teaching open. I'd love to hear your thoughts!