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Doctoral Studies in Architecture Introduction

The Ph.D. in Architecture was one of only four such programs in the United States when it was established in 1969, the first to offer the Doctorate of Architecture degree.

Important Dates & Information:

Application Deadline: December 15
Intent to Enroll Deadline: April 15
Visit the P.h.D. in Architecture admissions page to apply

Keep track of current events with the UMADS blog


Mission and Overview

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) invites applicants who wish to investigate architecture and the built environment in focused projects that unfold over a span of years. Students embarking on a doctorate conduct original research that yields new insights into past, current, and future developments of architecture and building practices. Doctoral Studies promotes independent critical thinkers and research specialists across a range of fields within the increasingly broad fields of architecture and the built environment.

The University of Michigan’s Ph.D. in Architecture was one of only four such programs in the United States when it was established in 1968. Since that date, the program has continued to evolve in response to changes in the discipline and the profession.  Studies currently underway at Michigan testify to rapidly shifting disciplinary boundaries and increasingly global outlooks in the field overall but particularly in areas in which our faculty are strong, such as global modernism, media practices in architecture, space syntax, structural modeling, envelope design, and urban history. Michigan’s remarkable research facilities allow our students to develop interdisciplinary research projects with partners across campus. The Horace H. Rackham Graduate School awards the Ph.D., generally after five or six years of study.

The architecture school environment continues to provide Doctoral Studies with a rich supporting context, ranging from robust lecture and seminar series, to remarkable technical facilities that support spatial and numeric data and global information systems as well as fabrication and testing facilities. A broad array of resources beyond our home on North Campus includes extensive research libraries and computing facilities that are among the best in the country. Students are encouraged to seek out resources that are necessary to develop and carry out topics of research, particularly for the dissertation, if any are unavailable on campus.


Because many of our entering students come from professional degree programs, we emphasize the importance of the subtle but substantive shift from design-based studio work to research in major subfields of architectural practice and study. This shift often requires significant re-training in basic skills such as reading, writing, and research methods. We require a relatively high number of course credits (40 in total), and a significant time commitment to completion of degree. Four years are normally spent in residence and are fully funded with tuition, stipend, and benefits. Two additional years of tuition benefit allow students to complete the degree with fellowship support from other university units or external sources, support that is typically raised in their fourth and fifth years.

The first two years of the degree are devoted to intensive coursework intended to train students in the principal methods and materials used in our subfields (organized here by faculty specialization as BT, DS, and HT). The third year is spent preparing for and passing doctoral examinations and identifying a dissertation project. Students advance to candidacy after taking their preliminary examinations, by January of the third year at the latest. HT students must satisfy the language requirement (minimally, competence in one research language) by this time as well. At the end of the third year, students defend their dissertation proposal in a public defense with their dissertation committee. Years four and five and, if necessary, six, are spent in researching, writing, and defending the dissertation. During the initial phase of dissertation research, students may spend substantial time off campus, supported by internal and external fellowships. They often return to Ann Arbor to write up the results of research. The dissertation is defended in a formal dissertation defense. Time to degree varies among the specializations of our program, but students typically take at least five or six years to complete the degree. [Please see chart on the last page of this handbook]

Training in teaching and research is an integral part of the degree. Faculty members work closely with students to provide them with necessary teaching and research skills. Students have opportunities to develop their professional capacities as Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs) and through research assistantships with faculty members.

Major and minor areas of specialization

Each doctoral student identifies a major and a minor area of specialization and works with faculty advisors associated with those areas. These advisors should be identified and contacted by the middle of the second year of coursework at the latest, although many students have identified a primary advisor before arriving in Ann Arbor. The major is defined within one of the three areas of specialization within Doctoral Studies (Building Technology; Design Studies; and History/Theory, all of which are titled "subplans" in the Rackham online application.) The minor is a distinct subject area that complements the major. The minor can be one of the other two areas within the doctoral degree, it may lie in Urban and Regional Planning, or it can be located in another University of Michigan department, program, or center. Coursework in the minor must be approved for Rackham graduate credit, deemed appropriate by the Doctoral Advisory Committee, and approved by the major advisor.

Visit How To Apply for information on the application process and online forms.

Admission Materials