@AustenNut, The educational paths to becoming a licensed architect are complicated, various and subject to re-direction along the way.
Although the general curriculums for BArch and MArch programs are regulated, there’s still a good deal of variation from program to program in specifics: in focus, in time, in extras like thesis semesters, travel opportunities, co-op work/study programs.
Undergraduate pre-professional programs are even more diverse as their curriculums are not regulated. (To clarify: the NAAB accredits only BArch and MArch programs. BS, BA, BED programs are not accredited though many are sited at schools of architecture that also host accredited BArch and/or MArch programs.)
I would agree that a student with a pre-professional degree (BS, BA, BED, etc) from a university that hosts a good-to-outstanding school of architecture is likely to be admitted to a good-to-outstanding MArch program and to be granted enough advanced placement to be able to complete the degree in two years. However – there are lots of “howevers” in architecture education – advanced placement is not automatically or consistently granted. The rules are somewhat clearer for students who continue on to their MArchs at the same institution from which they received their undergrad degree; however, the amount of time required to complete an MArch coming from another college/university can be unpredictable and time usually = money.
MArch programs seek diverse and balanced classes, by gender, by race, by educational experience, by nationality, by life experience, by work experience. They certainly do admit a good number of students with BA/BS/BEDs in architecture, but they also admit students with undergraduate degrees in art, art history, engineering, and just about every other degree imaginable, as long as the program’s admission pre-requisites are fulfilled. Pre-requisities would include some art studio and some art history. Some programs require calculus and/or physics. Some do not. Most if not all, require portfolios.
It’s not uncommon for MArch programs to admit older applicants who have already had entirely different careers before deciding to give architecture a go. And it’s also not uncommon for holders of BArchs to seek MArchs as well.
Porfolio and studio experience are definitely critical for admission to MArch programs that put high value on design and creativity, however not all do. Some are more focused on other elements of architecture such as technology, sustainability, restoration, construction. I think you’ll find that while most but not all BArch programs require a portfolio, only a few BA/BS/BED programs do.
MArch programs are irritatingly opaque about their actual admissions statistics, but the good news is that among the over 100 accredited MArch programs in the US and Canada, only a handful are severely selective (meaning under 10% acceptance rate). The rest cover a wide range of selectivity.
The combined cost of an undergraduate degree plus an MArch is a serious consideration. Grants are available for MArch students, however they’re unpredictable and generally fall into the range between $15 to $20K per year. The variables are so broad that I wouldn’t assume that the BArch is necessarily cheaper than the combined BA/BS+MArch. It really depends on the cost of each element.Co-op work/study programs are a great way to defray costs.
In any event, I would only recommend the BArch for students 100% sure that architecture is the career for them. A summer career exploration program can help gain an understanding of the field (and to build a portfolio).