Montana State University

Environmental Design

School of Architecture

The School of Architecture offers a four year Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Design undergraduate program which combined with our three-semester graduate program leads to a fully accredited Master of Architecture degree. The Master of Architecture degree is a first-professional degree.

In the United States, most state 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 US professional degree programs in architecture, recognizes three types of degrees: the Bachelor of Architecture, the Master of Architecture and the Doctor of Architecture. A program may be granted a six-year, three-year, or two-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 consist of a pre-professional undergraduate degree and a professional graduate degree, that, when earned sequentially, constitute an accredited professional education. However, the pre-professional degree is not, by itself, recognized as an accredited degree.

Montana State University, College of Arts and Architecture, School of Architecture offers the following NAAB-accredited degree program:

Master of Architecture (Pre-professional degree + 42 graduate credits)

The next accreditation visit for this degree program will take place in 2014.

The School of Architecture seeks to prepare students for a lifelong critical engagement in the arts and science of architecture. Located in "the last best place" of the Northern Rockies we are in an extraordinary position to engage questions regarding the relationship between the natural and built environments. To that end, we teach and practice a moral, ethical and aesthetic responsibility to society and the natural world in the design of the built environment. It is in our design studios, that this philosophy is most clearly demonstrated. Each studio is conceived to build upon the previous studio in a manner that develops a student's mastery of the science of architecture while at the same time exposing the student to the rich diversity of our faculty's philosophical beliefs. Within a structured sequence of increasingly complex problems emphasis is placed on teaching both an iterative design process and the visualization skills necessary to demonstrate the resultant design proposals. The science of architecture is continuously evolving and will do so over the life of every architect. We are committed to preparing our students to enter the profession with both the contemporary scientific knowledge and emerging technical expertise to further this evolution while at the same time ensuring that our graduates are grounded in the fundamental processes, composition and drawing skills that have been central to architecture throughout its history. In addition to the science of architecture we are equally committed to ensuring that our graduates acquire a critical philosophy with which they can engage the design of the built environment.

Knowing how to build is a matter of science and technology but knowing what to build is a question of morality, ethics, and aesthetic responsibility. In this regard the faculty shares a commitment to the stewardship of our environment. This is particularly important in the Northern Rockies where our historic fabric of cities, rural communities and the natural landscape coexist in a tenuous balance. Focusing on the broad principles of creating a sustainable social, cultural, economic and physical environment we utilize the region, from its major cities to its national parks, as the canvas for our teaching, research and creative activities.


Briefly defined, architecture is the art and science of designing buildings that provide appropriate accommodation for human activities. Professional practice requires a person with the unique combination of creative ability, technical knowledge, human understanding, and administrative skill. The undergraduate Environmental Design curriculum, which leads to the Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Design degree, prepares students to enter the graduate program in Architecture at MSU or serves as a basis for application to other graduate programs or for employment as a non-architect in environmental design fields. However, the Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Design degree by itself does not qualify students to become registered architects. Students wishing to become registered architects must complete the graduate program of study and receive the accredited Master of Architecture degree. A Bachelor of Architecture degree is no longer offered at MSU.

Once admitted to the Environmental Design program, and after completing their fourth year design studios, students with an acceptable academic record may apply to the Master of Architecture professional program. Specific dates for graduate applications can be obtained from the main office of the School of Architecture. The program offers a professional education as well as exposure to other academic disciplines, and provides the foundation for an internship with a practicing architect, required after graduation.

In most states, a graduate with a professional degree in architecture needs the equivalent of three additional years of varied experience in an architectural office to qualify for the examination for a professional license. A person is not authorized to practice architecture until the architectural licensing examination is passed and a license is issued. Other areas of employment open to the architecture graduate include construction, government service, industry, and education.

In addition to the college preparatory curriculum, high school students planning on enrolling in architecture are especially encouraged to take art courses such as basic design and drawing.

Students must begin the undergraduate program in the fall semester because the first course of the design studio sequence is offered fall semester only. Students that have completed their university core requirements or have completed a previous degree may enroll in an accelerated first year design sequence offered in the summer semester.

Admission of transfer students is selective and highly competitive; only those students whose past academic performance and portfolio submission indicate a probability of success are admitted.

Admission to the Environmental Design Program

  1. Admission to the first year, the Pre-Environmental Design Program, is open. During the spring semester of the first year of the Pre-Environmental Design Program, students are invited to apply for admission to the remaining three-year curriculum leading to the Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Design degree. All applications for admission are subject to the approval of the Second Year Admissions Committee. Total enrollment in the program shall be limited by the teaching resources and space capacities of the School of Architecture. An enrollment quota will be established prior to each admissions cycle.

  2. To be considered for admission to the second year of the program, applicants must:

    1. Be in good scholastic standing with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher.

    2. Have satisfactorily completed all required course work of the first year of the Environmental Design Program.

    3. Be enrolled full time during the fall and spring semesters of the year of application. This is a demanding program and students must demonstrate their ability to succeed while maintaining a full-time course schedule.

    4. Have a design portfolio that indicates creative potential. Transfer students from other architecture or environmental design programs must have, prior to acceptance and advanced design year placement, an overall grade-point average of 3.0 or above and a high quality, creative portfolio. Transfer students planning to attend the fall semester must submit their application and portfolio to the Environmental Design Program by May 1. Applications received after that date will be considered on a space-available basis only.

  3. Application procedures for admission to the Environmental Design Program:

    1. An application for admission, including portfolio requirements, may be obtained from the School of Architecture after March 1st. The completed application form, plus portfolio of design and graphic work, are to be submitted to the School of Architecture by May 1.

    2. Applicants are required to submit a portfolio including examples of their design and graphic work.

    3. An applicant who has applied previously for admission and has not been accepted or who fails to enroll in the environmental design program after acceptance or who fails to complete ARCH 253 must re-apply in the regular manner.

Spaces available each year will be awarded to those applicants with the highest scholastic achievement and who show the greatest creative and professional promise. The Second Year Admissions Committee reserves the right to leave available spaces unfilled if it determines that the remaining applicants have not performed at an acceptable level in the first year of the Environmental Design Program. Applicants who are not selected have the right to meet with the Second Year Admissions Committee for a review of their application materials.

Students not admitted to, or not enrolled in, the Environmental Design Program may not take courses in the curriculum without permission of the director. Former students who have withdrawn after being admitted to the program must be in good scholastic standing for re-admission and will be readmitted on a space available basis only. Former students must contact the School in writing, stating their intent to return, at least two months prior to their return so that a decision can be made regarding space availability.

Architecture Internship Program

This is an optional enrichment program for students who, for a short period in their education, would benefit at least as much from professional experience as academic experience. The goals of the program are those of the required architecture courses plus those which can be sought only in the office context, such as familiarization with the relationship of all aspects of professional practice.

Students must obtain their own employment in an architecture firm for a continuous period of not less than 24 weeks.

Students must apply in writing to the coordinator of the program by the fifth week of the semester prior to the internship during the student's fourth year in Environmental Design. The faculty reviews all applications and makes the decision concerning acceptance into the program. A student meeting the criteria listed below may still be denied acceptance if the faculty determines that the student would benefit more from a formal design studio. The criteria for admission are:

  1. A minimum 3.0 overall cumulative grade point average and a minimum 3.0 in all architecture courses.

  2. Completion of all required courses as tabulated through the third year.

Foreign Study Program

This is an optional enrichment program which allows qualified students to participate in an intensive semester of foreign study. Students pay the additional costs of travel, lodging, and administration related to this program in addition to normal tuition and fees. The program is typically offered both Fall and Spring semesters, subject to funding constraints, and is organized and directed by a faculty member(s) from the School of Architecture.

The criteria for acceptance into the Foreign Study Program are as follows:

  1. A high degree of self motivation and self discipline as demonstrated by performance in required course work.

  2. A minimum 3.0 overall cumulative grade point average and a minimum 3.0 in all architecture courses.

  3. Completion of ARCH 121IA, ARCH 322IA and ARCH 323IA.

  4. Completion of all required courses as tabulated through the third year.

Admission to the program requires submission of a request in writing to the coordinator of the program by the fifth week of the semester prior to the program. A cash deposit may be required at this time. Requests will be reviewed by the faculty for approval.

Standard of Work in Architecture Courses

Any student receiving two consecutive grades of C- or lower in any design sequence course will be required to repeat the last course in which a C- or lower was received.


Costs for an architectural education are similar to, though somewhat higher than, other programs in the university. An academic exposure to both rural and urban settings through class field trips, the integration of computer technology, networking, printing as well as other program enhancements are an important part of an architect's education. In order to meet this need and help defer costs of the field trips, computer integration, lecture series and program enhancements, a Program Fee is assessed to each student in the pre-environmental design, environmental design and architectural programs that reflects the student's degree status in the program. For current Program Fee costs, students may contact the School of Architecture.  Students are required to purchase their own personal notebook computer, which meets the specifications of the School of Architecture, during the second year of the Environmental Design undergraduate program. The computer will be an essential tool for use throughout the Professional Program.

Beyond normal tuition, fees, room, board, and supplies, an architectural student requires drawing equipment and materials for drawing and models during the school year. This can be expected to add at least another $600 per year to the cost. Inquiries for financial aid or assistance should be sent directly to the Office of Financial Aid Services at Montana State University.

Curriculum in Environmental Design


First Year F S
ARCH 121IA--Intro to Design 3
ARCH 151RA--Design Fundamentals I 4
ARCH 152--Design Fundamentals II 4
M 151Q--Precalculus 4
or M 171Q--Calculus I
PHSX 205--College Physics I 4
University Core 3 9
14 17
Second Year F S
ARCH 243--Architectural Structures I 4
ARCH 244--Architectural Structures II 4
ARCH 253--Architectural Design I 5
ARCH 261--Architectural Graphics I 3
ARCH 262--Arch Graphics II 3
ARCH 322IA--World Architecture I 3
ARCH 323IA--World Architecture II 3
University Core 6
16 15
Third Year F S
ARCH 241--Building Construction I 3
ARCH 313--Professional Practice 3
ARCH 331--Environmental Cntrl I 4
ARCH 332--Environmental Cntrl II 4
ARCH 340--Building Construction II 4
ARCH 354--Architectural Design II 5
ARCH 355--Arch Design III 5
ARCH 363--Arch Graphics III 3
15 16
Fourth Year F S
ARCH 456--Arch Design IV 5
Take one of the following:
    ARCH 450--Community Design Center 5
     Electives 7
     ARCH 498--Internship 12
     ARCH 414--Arch Study Abroad 9
     ARCH 428--Foreign Study History 3
     ARCH 458--Arch Design VI 5
Electives 7
University Core 3
Non-Architecture Electives 7
15 12

ARCH 414, 428, 450 and 498 are offered both fall and spring semesters in Fourth Year to provide diverse options.

A minimum of 120 credits is required for graduation; 42 of these credits must be in courses numbered 300 and above.

The School of Architecture reserves the right to retain student work for exhibition and instructional purposes.


For students interested in obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Design degree leading to a Master of Architecture degree, one graduate level design studio must be taken during a summer semester to complete the Master of Architecture program. For additional advising information please contact the School of Architecture at 160 Cheever Hall, 994-4255.


Students interested in obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Design degree and considering entry into the Master of Construction Engineering Management Program will be required to take additional Math, English, Natural Science, Business and Engineering courses from those listed above. Students interested in this Construction Engineering Management focus should contact the Department of Civil Engineering, 3900 Cobleigh Hall, 994-2111 to obtain the specific course requirements.

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