Architecture to Electrical Engineering. PostBac, Second Ugrad, or Masters?

Hi College Confidential!

Going into my 5th year of a 5-year architecture program. Basically, slowly realizing that buildings themselves aren’t my cup of tea, but rather the design process that we learn is something I can carry into something I’m really passionate about: Hardware and Software (EE)

I will graduate from this program strong, 3.5 cumulative GPA, with commendations in studios where I have been able to get more electronic and technical. I have also had the opportunity to do research with faculty in smart buildings, lighting, and AI as the “hardware guy” of the team.

I want to continue my education and specialize in electronics. What I am wondering is if there is any precedent of someone pivoting from design to engineering, specifically with circuits, chip design, and hardware-software interface. If I were to continue to specialize, what would be my best option: A second bachelors (which I’m coming to understand is exceptionally rare and exceedingly difficult) or doing PostBac studies and applying to a masters program?

How would these look to potential employers? Does a second undergraduate make more sense when you’ve had somewhat limited exposure to the more specialized math and physics? (I have thru physics 2 and calculus 1) Or can I get the courses I need from a postbac->masters track?

Any and all help is greatly appreciated!

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This really depends on how you want to deploy your electronics knowledge. If you want to do it within the paradigm of architecture, I would think you could just take additional coursework and/or self teach. If you want to abandon architecture all together, that’s a different story. If the later, likely post-bac, MS is the best route, but you’d have to talk to the schools where you’re interested in doing your MS for entry requirements. What school are you getting your Arch degree from?


I will be getting a B.Arch from University of Oregon next spring.

Unfortunately, I shot myself in the proverbial foot by choosing a school where there is no engineering. I think the signs were there early in my college career, and would have most likely switched majors. But, I stuck it out thinking that I could pivot to an engineering career path if I still felt dissuaded at the end of my degree. Here we are, and having been exposed to the hardware world through family members, something told me that’s where I belong.

I enjoy the whole aspect of architecture where we have learned to design intelligently for users, and I have found that it’s applicable at all scales. Ultimately, if I can, I’d pivot away from buildings and take the design education into intelligently designed tech and products.

In short, I don’t see buildings being as personally satisfying as something like technological product design, so to answer your question, abandon is the right word. While I definitely wouldn’t be opposed to designing technologies for buildings (i.e. Smart Building/IoT) I don’t necessarily want that to be my only specialty.

Would the path foreword basically be me reaching out to admissions staff at different engineering schools and making a case for myself, as well as figure out what coursework I would need to do the post-bac → masters track? Or even if they are interested?

Can I ask why post-bac → masters is more ideal than second bachelors? Is it simply the rarity of second bachelors programs in the United States?

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B/c 1) you don’t need a lot of what is included in a bachelor’s degree, so no reason to spend the extra time & $$ and 2) you are pretty clear on the area in which you want to specialize, which is exactly what a Masters degree is for.

Masters degrees vary more by institution than (say) an UG Bio degree, so do some homework, searching for the exact parts of EE / building technologies you are interested in. Your Arch degree could well provide some of the required background; id the specific courses needed to qualify you for specific programs. If you are feeling adventurous, take a look at programs such as the “Master of Science in Building Technology” in Finland (taught in English, 2 years full time, tuition €15K/pa) and other similar programs.


Great insight, thanks so much, collegemom! I’ll do more of my own research and determine which masters programs align most with my interests in the field.

Do most universities offering masters programs allow for the post-bac coursework I would need (i.e. more calculus thru diffEq, more physics and chemistry) to be completed at the university itself? Or would I be looking more at community colleges for those?

I guess I’d imagine, especially for masters programs, universities want to see specific calculus, physics, and chem coursework, ideally their own. Is post-bac a defined path at a university? Or is it more like, take the courses you need to catch up, then jump into masters…?

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Which combination of courses & universities will depend mostly on the specifics of the Masters you choose. Look at the coursework you already have, what experience (if any) you already have, and what the required coursework is for the masters you want to do. You will likely be anomalous, so be prepared to put in more work finding the info you are looking for. I suspect you will end up having to approach programs directly and say ‘really love your Masters program, but am having trouble figuring out what (if any) pre-reqs I am missing- can you help me figure it out’. Remember also that even within Masters programs there is often some variability (ie, specialization)- so you may not need to fulfill all of the usual pre-reqs. In most cases, where you take the pre-req doesn’t matter (as long as it’s accredited, obvs!).

Fyi, I got a Masters in a field that I didn’t do as an UG- but had relevant work experience that compensated. There were a couple of moments where not having had a specific class meant I had to work a little harder to fill in the gaps- but surprisingly few, and not that hard to fill in.

Also, do some homework as to what exact jobs you would like to get when you finish, and the expected qualifications. I don’t know much about the field you are looking at, but for example I can imagine a qualified architect with a Masters in Building Technology, specializing in sustainability (or whatever) could find a happy home in an arch/eng firm where you are the bridge between the two teams.


I teach at a university where I advise many post-bac students. So it’s not an unusual thing, just not something they go around publicizing. Inquiring at non-competitive universities with an ABET accredited engineering program will yield the most fruitful results.

Are you in-state for Oregon? Portland state university has a website for post bac for civil engineering. But you can contact their EE department and see if they have a postbac for EE. Generally a postbac program only requires the additional courses for the major and some X amount of credit hours, where X is much less than the standard 120 or so credit hours for a full BS degree. See the following general information website.

Another option is ASU Online. They have an ABET accredited program and you can reach out to their admissions folks to see how many credit hours you would need for a second bachelors. I assume they have a lot of non-traditional students and so would be able to help you.

For EE, there are so many fundamental UG level courses, I think it would be difficult to just jump into an master’s without taking a lot of prereqs that may not count for the master’s degree. Also, MS degrees cost more per credit hour. You need to do some research into the different degree options before deciding. Also, what do employers consider to be better prep? If you know engineers in the field, ask them . There are also many engineers on this forum who can maybe help @NJEngineerDad @MaineLonghorn .


I agree- but the first thing to sort out is if an EE qualification is the best suited to the work you actually want to do!


Mechatronics. It can be reached from either EE or ME. It depends on the school and what angle interests you most. My son has a ME BS/MS with a mechatronics concentration. He works on a consumer hardware project and does quite a bit of EE including working in the lab.

If you’re from Oregon, the first thing I’d do is call the department of engineering at Oregon State, or just show up. As you know, it’s all of 45 minutes away. They offer MS in EE, ME and Robotics (a subset of mechatronics). The entry requirements are BS in math, science, or engineering. You’ll have to backfill of course, but the amount of post-bac work will depend on which angle you choose and the school.

It would be challenging to do an online program, because what you want to learn is very lab intensive.

Is Oregon your home state? There are three state engineering programs in OR, OSU, OIT and PSU. I’m not as familiar with OIT and PSU though, as OSU is the flagship.


i cant offer insight - but i read these posts as i have an engineering kid and an architecture kid. My question is what is the difference between post bac and a masters? Is post bac just course work in areas of interest that doesnt lead to a degree?


typically post-bac simply refers to taking UG classes after you have an UG degree, usually to meet some sort of program pre-reqs (commonly seen with students who need to do pre-med pre-reqs).

Randomly, I actually know a student right now who was 2 years into a Hx PhD (at Princeton) who is now doing post-bacc work for engineering pre-reqs.


Post-bac work can lead to a second bachelor’s degree. It’s called “post-bac” because the student already has one bachelor’s degree. At my math department, we’ve had students with an English or History degree return to get a second bachelor’s degree in math so that they can teach high school math (greater demand). In our administrative and accrediatation materials, we refer to these students as “post-bac” .

It can also just mean courses to satisfy prerequisite work.


Thank you all for your great insightful replies. I really appreciate it!

There has been a question a couple of times as to whether Oregon is my home state. I actually went to high school in southern California, and my parents still live there so my residence is actually California if that helps.

I’m starting to put together a timeline in my head in terms of my course of action. I think the general consensus among us is that post-bac is the first step so that I may get the more general prerequisites done like physics and math.

Then, I’m gathering that there is some research to be done directly with schools to see whether their specific program fits my desires in EE.

To get more specific for any engineers that might stumble upon the thread, I’m pretty familiar with IoT and Arduino/MBed, and am currently exploring bare-metal programming to avoid all of the extra overhead software that I may not need for a project. I’m also beginning to self-teach FPGA design and programming, as one of the more appealing parts of EE to me is custom, task-specific hardware that runs extremely fast. I adopt the mindset of integrating software and hardware directly to promote speed and ease of use. Any and all recommendations of programs that specialize in this would be greatly appreciated. My end goal, if wishes were fishes so to speak, would be to develop products using either off-the-shelf, or in a perfect world, custom silicon. I figure with the architecture background, I would have a more end-user experience perspective that would then help with the hardware development. I really do enjoy the nitty-gritty of chip design and have a lot of programming experience relative to my major. But being able to bridge the gap between the designers and what would be my engineering team sounds really engaging and appealing.

At this point, I feel as if post-bac → masters is the way to go, but I share the observation of @momprof9904 in that there are too many fundamental UG courses in EE for me to be prepared enough for a masters. I also know very little about how masters programs work in engineering, and would love some more insight there. If I were to find a program that aligns with my end goals of chip design and hardware integration, I suppose it would be a conversation with the school as to whether they could accommodate my more unusual background, and therefore requiring more post-bac courses than most students looking for a masters in EE. I came into this discussion figuring that the amount of pre-requisites I would need, being that my school has no engineering, would mean that I would need a second undergraduate, not a masters. But, if this is not the case and I could do what I need in a post-bac setting, then that would probably be more ideal.

I should admit that my connections at Apple and QUALCOMM suggested that either a masters or a second undergraduate would be fine as long as my personal projects represented more of what I was interested in, specifically. I understand that these companies represent the top of the field, but dream big, right?

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Find the target first. Then determine how to get there.

Since you’re a CA resident, call Chico first just to see what course of action they’d recommend. That might not be where you land, but since they have an ABET accredited mechatronics program (the only one in the nation, not just a concentration in ME or EE) you might be able to avoid some of the foundational ME/EE things you’d never use.


Try talking with your professors and career placement center. It’s possible that you can combine your artchitecture degree plus extra skills/knowledge into an enjoyable career without more schooling.


Second bachelor’s degree programs are not that rare, but are mostly found at less selective colleges that have space for “extra” students. Oregon State and Portland State have second bachelor’s degree admissions.

However, a full EE bachelor’s degree will likely need about 3 academic years of course work, if your prior course work can only be applied included only general education and you need to start over in math and (calculus based) physics, followed by engineering science and design course work. Some of the lower level course work may be doable at a community college.