Surveying 5 years of alumni from the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University

GSAPP.AP visualizes the responses of 5 years of GSAPP graduates in an attempt to capture and analyze the state and evolution of the school's alumni. Based on a previous survey of the 2012 Masters of Architecture class, GSAPP.AP compares the different disciplines and graduating classes that make up the school, thus providing insights into the school's professions and helping record the different paths its graduates have taken.

The initial questionnaire was sent out to more than 1,900 graduates over the months of February and March 2014, and it included questions about their background, their job search, their current jobs and their views towards the future. Here we present their responses, hoping not only to provide valuable insight into the graduates themselves but also to study, analyze and question the professions they have chosen and the school as a center for education and professional development.

For reference, the acronyms used here signify the following: M.Arch - Masters in Architecture; MS.AAD - Masters of Science in Advanced Architectural Design; MS.AUD - Masters of Science in Advanced Urban Design; MS.HP - Masters of Science in Historic Preservation; MS.RED - Masters of Science in Real Estate Development; MS.UP - Masters of Science in Urban Planning; Other includes double majors as well as PhDs and students in the Masters in Critical Curatorial and Conceptual Practices.

1938 23%
Total GSAPP Graduates % Replied to The Survey

Even though the survey was sent to all GSAPP alumni graduating between 2009 and 2013, only 23% of graduates responded. However, small as this may be, this constitutes a meaningful sample and provides valuable information.

Overall, the class that had the highest response rate was the M.Arch class from 2013, with over 50% of the graduates responding to the survey. One of the limitations of the survey was the lack of response rate in certain class years and majors. Below is the comparison between 5 years of GSAPP graduates as a whole, and those who responded to our survey.

Survey Response Rate / GSAPP Graduates


Even though talking about salaries can be difficult, we feel that having more information and transparency on this subject is always welcomed. Especially for young graduates, knowing what other people in similar positions make can be an invaluable tool when negotiating their first salary after of graduate school.

71% 1.5%
Real Estate Graduates Making More Than $100,000 Other Graduates Making More Than $100,000

Overall, our survey shows that most people make between $40,000 and $70,000 with a great portion concentrated between $50,000 and $60,000. However, this varies greatly both in terms of the specific majors and when looking at how much time has passed since graduating. For example, the majority of Real Estate Development graduates make more than $100,000 per year, while in the rest of the disciplines, less than 4% of graduates make more than $100,000 per year.

Annual Salary

$ Amount in Thousands

In addition to the differences in salaries between the different majors, our survey also shows a disparity between how much men and women make in each profession. Overall, we see 16% of men making more than $100,000 while only 5% of women make this much and only in Urban Planning is there a greater proportion of women than men in the top range of salaries. In all other disciplines, men make on average more than women.

Salary By Gender

$ Amount in Thousands

It is surprising how few people use the advanced software programs learned during their time in grad-school. For example, less than 25% of GSAPP grads use 3DS Max, Grasshopper, Revit or ArcGIS at work, and less than 5% use Maya, Catia or Processing. By far the most widely used softwares are the Adobe Creative Suite (around 70% of graduates use it) and Microsoft Word and Excel (used by around 85%).

There are also differences between the types of software used by different majors and by the different salary ranges. Real Estate graduates, for example, use almost exclusively Word, Excel and PowerPoint, while M.Archs, MS.AADs and MS.AUDs use a combination of Adobe Creative Suite, with 2D and 3D modeling software (Rhino and AutoCAD) and Microsoft Office. Finally, theres seems to be no correlation between increased salary and the use of scripting or 3D modeling. In contrast, the use of Microsoft Office and the Adobe Creative Suite most commonly associates with higher paid alumni.

Software Used By Salary and Major

$ Amount in Thousands

As much as architects and people in related fields like to complain about the long working hours, the data collected in this software doesn't necessarily confirm those complaints. Overall, most people work between 40 and 60 hours a week, and this seems to be true for most GSAPP majors, with the exception of Real Estate, who report working longer hours, and Historic Preservation, who report working less hours.

In regards to salary, also, there doesn't seem to be a very strong correlation between working more hours and making more money.

Average Hours Worked Per Week By Salary and Major

$ Amount in Thousands


Since almost half of GSAPP graduates major in Architecture or Advanced Architectural Design, we could estimate that more than 50% of graduates practice in a architectural related field post graduation. However, there's also a large portion of graduates that work in interior design, something GSAPP students learn very little of, and there is also some graduates who work in graphic design (9.3%), engineering (10.9%) and data visualization (6.4%), all fields that are not specifically studied in school.

Current Employers Type of Work

Company size varies by major, with most people working either for large firms with more than 100 employees (35%) or in small to medium firms with less than 50 employees. The M.Archs, MS.AADs and MS.AUDs all maintain these proportions, but the Real Estate and Urban Planning graduates tend to work overwhelmingly in companies that have more than 100 employees, while the Historic Preservation graduates tend to work more in small firms with less than 10 employees.

Current Employers Company Size

Overtime payment seems to be another prominent issue with GSAPP graduates, with almost 50% of firms not compensating at all for extra time. In fact, only 15% of firms pay their employees overtime, and the rest compensate them with various perks, like an occasional office party, paying for dinner and cabs home, or giving extra vacation days. The most extreme case is Real Estate Development, where almost 60% of firms don't compensate at all, while in contrast in Urban Planning 31% of firms pay for extra time.

Company Overtime Policy


Even though the past 5 years have been difficult for the professions taught at GSAPP, most graduates seem to have stable jobs with 82% reporting being employed full-time and only 3.5% either unemployed, interning, or employed part-time. However, it is interesting to see that overall 13.5% of graduates have a different work status: they are either working full-time while freelancing, just freelancing, or have become independent and own their own business. In this regard, the class of 2010 sticks out, with more than 20% of graduates describing themselves as freelancing or self-employed.

In terms of how many jobs graduates have had since graduating, it is typical for alumni to have only one or two, even for students who graduated in 2009.

Current Employment Status

Amongst reasons for changing jobs, the answer that alumni mention the most is better pay, followed by work being more interesting, and better work environment. Few people mention having problems with co-workers or bosses as a leading cause for changing jobs.

Reasons for Changing Jobs


Concluding the analysis of the survey, GSAPP graduates are mostly employed in the field of their choosing, live on the eastern coast of the United States, and have ambitions of advancing in their respected professions. Although their are outliers, graduates tend to be satisfied with their education and have been consistently employed since graduating. This survey is meant to examine why alumni choose GSAPP for their professional education and how they have shaped their careers in the last 5 years.

We thank both the GSAPP administration and the alumni network for their support and outreach to the alumni population as well as former Dean Mark Wigley and current Dean Amale Andraos for their support. Please contact us for more information about the survey, the methods used, or the creation of the website.