Concave's Divergence In Architectural Research PhD Symposium participants.

Ph.D. in Architecture

Ph.D. in Architecture

Doctoral studies in architecture train students for careers conducting research in academic settings, in scientific laboratories, and now increasingly in private firms as well. The aim of research is to create new knowledge that can help us build well and create responsible and responsive physical environments. Such a knowledge necessarily engages with the full complexity and messiness of human life. It includes understanding of social, physical, historical and cultural impact of design decisions and practices, as well as the development of technical methods and computational tools to improve decision-making in design.

Specializing in architectural research, therefore, requires mastering aspects of at least one cognate discipline—history, cultural studies, psychology, sociology, cognitive sciences, engineering, computation—and quite often of more than one of these. Not surprisingly, the study needed to do this is demanding. But those students who bring with them a deeply held curiosity about the built world, an ability to work independently, and an openness to learning new skills and ideas will find the work deeply satisfying and tremendously rewarding.  

Our Program

Established in 1982, the Doctor of Philosophy in Architecture Program at Georgia Tech is one of the largest and most expansive programs of its kind in the United States, with approximately thirty students in residence pursuing their Ph.D. coursework or completing their dissertation research. A diverse faculty of scholars and researchers advise students in one of the following four areas of specialization.

Bird's eye view of cul desacs, supergrids, and curvilinear grids for Atlanta, New York, Pittsburgh, and Washington D.C.

Architecture, Culture, and Behavior

Ph.D. student and Tarek Rakha fly a drone in the Hinman Courtyard

Building Design Technology

CULC Installation in the Clough Undergraduate Student Learning Commons

Design Computation

Heather Hyde Minor speaking at the Historic Academy of Medicine

History, Theory, Criticism

Rendering of an active mixed-use waterfront development in the evening


Our Ph.D. Process

Students devote most of their time in close individual work with a faculty advisor in one of these areas of specialization. The course of studies allows students considerable room to define their own course work, which can be taken both within the school as well as in other departments. Once the course work is completed, studies become practice oriented—most of the student time is spent in actual research, either on their own topic, or contributing to faculty-led research projects. The students’ progress towards the degree is charted through a series of qualifying milestones.

After identifying a topic of research within their area of specialization, students develop a preliminary research paper to demonstrate the ability to frame and describe a scholarly topic, pass a comprehensive exam that tests their mastery of both depth and breadth of knowledge in their field of study, and, finally, produce and orally defend a dissertation that makes a demonstrable original contribution to their area of study. Along the way, they are expected to produce scholarly publications and make presentations of their work to fellow researchers and scholars. A distinctive feature of our program is the availability of opportunities to teach, both as preceptors and assistants, but also as independent instructors.

Your Prospects

Ph.D. studies are a natural springboard for academic positions. The majority of the graduates from our programs have gone on to academic careers both in the US and internationally, often making quick promotion to leadership positions. The training to do independent work, to think abstractly, and to handle technical literature has also provided a strong general foundation for some graduates to find work in areas beyond architecture. Career pathways of our graduates are shaped to some extent on their areas of concentration. About 90% of graduates who specialized in History, Theory, and Criticism and Architecture, Culture, and Behavior areas of concentration in the last five years have teaching and research positions in institutes of higher education both in the Unites States and abroad; others have found positions as research leaders in industry, in firms involved with architecture and construction, product manufacturing, and cultural resource management. Students who specialized in Design Computing and Building Technology streams were split more evenly between academia and industry, with about 40% of the graduates in these areas in the last five years finding jobs in industry and in leading national research laboratories.

It is in the nature of research in any field to be at the cutting-edge of disciplinary development. The graduates of a research program should, therefore, expect come away not just with competence in a subject matter and ability to solve problems, but also the knowledge and ability to think of ways to advance ideas, techniques, and methods in their discipline. This is a remarkably fortuitous time to those who seeks to do just this in architecture. Recent developments in computational technology, in our ability to collect vast amount of behavioral and user data, in techniques of machine learning and data analysis, and in our ability to design and build highly complex forms using automated algorithmic processes, are not only creating an unprecedented appetite for research within architecture, but they are also erasing traditional sub-disciplinary boundaries between different areas of work. Beyond career opportunities, therefore, ambitious graduates of the program will also find themselves well positioned to make foundational contributions to a discipline that is in an excitingly formative stage.

Student Support

Our program is able to offer a limited number of research and teaching assistantships to students as a way to support their studies. Graduate teaching assistantships (GRAs) offer a stipend and cover the tuition for the semesters for which they are awarded; the stipend is given at either 1/3 time (15 hrs per week) or at ½ time (20 hrs per week) depending upon the requirements of the course to which they are assigned. Determination of the positions and selection is made every Spring by the school administration with recommendations from the faculty teaching the courses for which assistantships are available and from the students’ advisors. The selection criteria include academic performance, possession of knowledge and skills required to fulfill the tutoring, mentoring, or grading duties required for the assistantship, and evidence that the student can handle their duties responsibly.

Opportunities for Graduate Research Assistantships arise from sponsored research projects undertaken by the faculty. They may be also offered at either 1/3 time (15 hrs per week) or at ½ time (20 hrs per week) according to the needs of the faculty member offering the award. The selection for GRA positions is made by the individual faculty members according to their requirements. There is no formal common procedure to apply for these positions.

Each year the program offers the Presidents’ Fellowship to one selected student who has been offered a GRA or a GTA. The fellowship includes a stipend given over and above the tuition and stipend that come with the assistantship. There is no application for this award; selection is made on merit by the school administration on the recommendation of the PhD advising faculty. The fellowship is restricted to US citizens or permanent residents.

Each year the School of Architecture hosts approximately 60 Design and Planning firms at a joint career fair with the School of City and Regional Planning. This fair is open to all students from freshmen level undergraduate students, Masters students and PhD students. Many students receive summer internships, full year internships as well as permanent positions as a result of their participating in the fair. This provides the students with a direct line for employment opportunities all around the US, with participating firms.

About 70 % of the current students have GTA support, and the remaining are self-funded or received support for external sources.

Additional information about Graduate Assistantships, fellowships, loans, and off-campus employment options is available on the Office of Graduate Studies site. For more information on demographics, admissions, and time-to-degree for doctoral students in our program, go to Doctoral Student Statistics. Enter ‘Architecture’ as a term in the search criteria box.”

Meet our Ph.D. Students

Doctoral students in the School of Architecture develop knowledge and technologies that enhance design imagination and the design process. Learn more about our current Ph.D. students here.


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