AD Architecture School Guide: Carnegie Mellon University

The Gates Center for Computer Science, designed by Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, on ’s west campus. Image © Timothy Hursley

At Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Architecture, prospective students are likely to find a course of study that will interest them. The School’s newly revised undergraduate curriculum allows students to choose studios in their 4th and 5th year that concentrate on breadth or depth in the following topics of interest: Sustainable Design, Digital Design, Management and Critical Practice, Design/ Build, Urban Design, and Future Studios. For example, students interested in digital fabrication, computational design, and new materials may choose to concentrate in Digital Design.

Occupancy Studio, 2012, Matt Adler and Rohan Rathod, via Image Courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University

Students interested in graduate school have a choice of eight different graduate degrees. CMU undergraduates can choose to apply for an Accelerated Master‘s degree and begin pursuing their master’s in their fourth year. The graduate degrees offered are an M.S. in Architecture, M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Architecture-Engineering-Construction ManagementBuilding Performance & Diagnostics, or Computation Design, an M.S. in Sustainable Design, a Master of Tangible Interaction Design, and a Master of Urban Design. Carnegie Mellon University is also offering a brand new academic program, the Doctorate of Professional Practice (DPP), that is targeted for mid-career professionals looking to create positive change in the AEC profession.

While the areas of focus are fairly specific, students are not confined only to their tracks. Each of the graduate level programs, which can take up to sixteen months if desired, carry a list of “selectives,” or electives specific to that track, which can include classes from other CMU schools, such as the Heinz School of Public Policy and Management, or the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Coursework in the various tracks is supported by several research centers and institutes, including the Computation Design Lab or CoDe Lab, the Remaking Cities Institute and the Urban Laboratory. Students are thus able to explore other subjects while investigating their own concentrations in more depth. Graduate degrees can result in academic positions, management, and research development opportunities.

Advanced Construction, 2012, Alexandra Polk, via Image Courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University

Admission as an undergraduate is through the general admissions office, while graduate admission is through the School of Architecture. The cost of pursuing a graduate degree is $34,980 per year. For undergraduates, the cost is $46,670 for either four or five years. Ph.D. students are usually offered a way of supporting themselves, through a combination of Research or Teaching Assistantships or through grants and fellowships. Given that doctorate studies take considerably longer, it is advisable to check into further funding opportunities. As for Bachelor and Master level students, there are various annual travel and merit-based fellowships available.

Thesis, 2013, Henry Glennon, via Image Courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University

Sherin Wing is the writer of ArchDaily’s Architecture School Guides. She received her Ph.D. in the Humanities at UCLA and resides in Southern California. You can follow Sherin on Twitter (and send her tips) @SherinWing.

Cite: Wing, Sherin. "AD Architecture School Guide: Carnegie Mellon University" 25 Aug 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 29 May 2015. <>
  • common

    wow… Architecture-Engineering-Construction Management, Building Performance & Diagnostics, Computation Design, or Sustainable Design. Master’s degree in Tangible Interaction Design. All marketing buzzwords to help ‘sell’ the course(s).undergrads pay $40,000.a year..all for what??? astronomical school debt…into a profession which (in it’s current state) is increasingly becoming irrelevant?? you weigh the financial cost of education,four or five years of hard work,then you graduate, and cant find a job in your field, then ask yourself…’is it really worth it’?Personally…NO

  • Sophie

    I absolutely don’t understand why anyone would spend voluntarily 40 grand for an undergraduate degree?! You could easily choose an english course abroad in Netherlands or Germany where studying is still for free and probably better in quality.

    • Eric

      Wow people seem to be bitter… Being a recent alum from CMU (which certainly does give me a bias), I can give a few reasons why it is a worthwhile cost for any top university, but especially CMU:
      It is an investment in yourself, and one that has a fast return. CMU makes up 20% of this list, where the income gap between #1 (CMU computer science) and #2 is about 50% of the gap between #2 and #25. It’s also worth noting that CMU architecture is #15 on the list and the only architecture program listed. Of all the friends of mine who have since graduated, I can’t think of anyone who has a starting salary under 50k (excluding those choosing to do something like graduate school), and virtually all of them are debt free within a few years of graduation regardless of how much debt they had to take on.

      Connections. You meet world leaders in academic fields, as well as industrial ( With about 12000 current students, I would be astonished if I don’t know people on this list in 20 years. I already know 3 through small enrollment classes I’ve taken and research I’ve been involved in. CMU never felt like there was an economic downturn. I heard much more talk of “I can’t decide between these two awesome, well paying job/internship offers” than not having any opportunities. It is a very different environment where you are what is in demand. Top employers in every field actively recruit at CMU, and surviving the intense academic environment CMU sets up means that when an employer sees CMU, you automatically get a leg up on most people.

      The list of reasons could go on. The main misconception I see people make is the assumption that top schools claim you CANNOT be successful without attending, which isn’t the case. It is easy to see though, that attending a school like CMU has a clear correlation with success that far outweighs the debt.

  • Mahdi


  • Jkoon

    its a great school.
    comprehensive undergraduate education in a world class university.
    its not just architecture – computer science, art…