It’s not a question of whether you should get an MBA. It is more about how. The MArch. is the typical path for architects, but it’s not the only one.
The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a graduate degree program that prepares students to succeed in management, marketing, and finance. It’s a popular means of diversifying your skill set and earning an advanced degree.
But what if you’re already a practicing architect? Could an MBA be right for you? The answer may depend on your current career trajectory and goals. Below we explore whether or not pursuing an MBA makes sense for architects — and what it would take to get there.
As a profession, architecture can feel like it’s behind the curve regarding business skills. But in today’s economy, architects need a solid grounding in business fundamentals.
Architects are certainly not alone in this regard. Business education is becoming increasingly important for all professionals, regardless of their field. In fact, according to a recent survey by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), 57 percent of licensed architects report that they have taken at least one course in business or management within the past three years — with more than half saying they planned on taking more classes within the next three years.
Should architects get an MBA?
Many people who earn an architecture degree work for a large firm or corporation. While this job can be rewarding, it can also be challenging. Architects who want to advance their careers or become entrepreneurs should consider earning an MBA before entering the workforce. An advanced degree will allow them to take on more responsibilities within their company or start their own business.
So, should an architect get an MBA? The answer is a resounding “yes.” But why? What about the MBA would make it so valuable to a practicing architect?
The short answer is that the MBA can give you an edge over other architects in the job market. It shows that you are capable of critical thinking and problem-solving. It shows that you can manage people, resources, and projects — all vital skills for senior-level architects.
A long-time friend is also an architect, and he earned his MBA before I did. When I asked him if he thought getting an MBA would make me more employable as an architect, he responded with a question: “Why wouldn’t it?”
He explained that most employers look for people who have demonstrated their ability to work across disciplines and think critically about problems. Many employers hire MBAs because they know that MBAs have been trained in these very skills — and, therefore, will be better employees than someone without an MBA.
The ability to think critically about technical or business-related problems is essential for architects at any level of experience. Whether working on a project from inception through completion or managing multiple projects at once, you can benefit from an MBA. And while some architects may be wary of the MBA because they don’t want to leave their field, many do leap and find that it opens doors in ways they never expected.
What can an architect do after an MBA?
Architects have always been leaders in design, but today’s architecture firms are increasingly focused on developing and implementing business strategies that support their clients’ goals. In other words, they’re learning how to build successful projects—and sustain them over time.
The MBA is ideal for architects because it provides business training that complements the technical expertise gained through an undergraduate or graduate degree in architecture. It also helps architects develop soft skills like communication and leadership, which are crucial for success in today’s marketplace.
There are multiple careers architects can consider after an MBA:
Architectural Consultant: An architect is a professional involved in designing, planning, and constructing buildings. They are involved in every aspect of the building process from conception to completion. They also have expertise in construction materials, methods, and design principles. A degree in architecture is a must for becoming an architect, but this does not cover all aspects of the profession. Architects need to have excellent communication skills and problem-solving abilities. An MBA allows you to learn business management and marketing skills, which will help you manage projects better. You will also learn how to run projects efficiently and effectively, which will help you manage finances while keeping clients happy simultaneously. This makes it easier for architects to get new projects to help them grow their business further.
Project management: Project managers ensure that projects are completed on time, within budget, and according to specifications. They oversee all the work being done on a project, from design to construction. Project managers may have to manage multiple projects simultaneously and coordinate with other departments, such as purchasing or sales.
Business development: Business developers help companies grow by developing new products or services. A business developer might work with clients to create new products that meet their needs, including designing prototypes or building models for customers to test out in their businesses before committing to purchase anything.
Infrastructure consulting: With an MBA, you can work in infrastructure consulting. You will be able to advise on improving a country’s infrastructure, including roads and railway systems. This can be done in two ways: advising governments or businesses on how to improve their existing infrastructure or designing new ones from scratch.
Systems engineering and integration: The increasing complexity of software systems makes it necessary for architects to work on integrating different technologies into one platform or system.
Sustainable design strategy: Architects are increasingly asked to consider sustainable design strategies for their buildings, including LEED certification, green roofs, solar panels, etc.
Industrial design: Industrial designers are responsible for creating new products for companies selling to consumers. They commonly work in product development departments at companies like Apple or Nike, which means they have to think about how consumer products can be improved and marketed, so they sell better. An MBA would help you gain the skills necessary to become an industrial designer.
Construction management: Construction managers supervise projects and ensure they run smoothly and on schedule. This is a good career path for architects because it allows them to use their technical expertise while also managing teams of workers who carry out their plans. An MBA would give you the business skills needed to become a construction manager.
When should an architect NOT consider an MBA?
Architects are well-positioned to pursue an MBA at any point in their careers, but some considerations can make it more or less appropriate for different situations.
When should an architect NOT consider an MBA?
Some architects feel that earning a master’s in business administration (MBA) is not the right choice because of their busy schedules or other factors. The following considerations may help you determine whether you should pursue an MBA:
- You don’t have time to dedicate to your studies — If you’re already working full-time as an architect and have other responsibilities outside of work, it will be challenging to find time to study for an MBA program. You might want to consider getting a part-time job while looking or doing some of your coursework online to continue working full-time without sacrificing your career advancement opportunities.
- You don’t need additional education — Architects typically don’t need different degrees beyond their undergraduate degrees unless they’re hoping to move into other sectors of architecture or management. If this describes your situation, then pursuing an MBA may be something to reconsider.
- You’re afraid of taking risks and prefer following a traditional architectural path. If your goal is to become a designer who works within the system, then getting an MBA isn’t necessary; however, if you want to start your own business or become a leader in the profession, then getting an MBA would allow you to do so much faster than if you didn’t go down this path. The key is finding the right program that matches your background, career goals, and interests.
Best MBA programs for architects
The MBA is a program that can be customized to fit your needs, so here are some of the best MBA programs for architects because of the courses, experiential opportunities, and career outcomes they make possible:
- The University of Texas at Austin – McCombs School of Business
- Harvard Business School
- Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management
- MIT Sloan School of Management
- Stanford Graduate School of Business
- UNC Kenan-Flagler
- Cornell Johnson