Architecture Undergraduate Degrees and Training at a Glance
Architects design the buildings we live, work and play in. Earning a Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) is one way to enter this challenging profession. To prepare for this profession, B.Arch. students take courses such as computer-aided design and drafting (CADD), architectural theory, and art history. The B.Arch. degree is considered a professional degree because it prepares students to become licensed architects.
The National Architecture Accrediting Board (NAAB) determines which architecture degree programs are considered 'professional' and prepare students for a career in the field. Currently, the Board recognizes the Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) and the Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) degree programs as 'professional' programs. If you have already chosen an architecture school, you should confirm that it is a NAAB-accredited school to ensure that you are eligible to be licensed.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects employment for architects to increase 24% from 2010-2020, which is much faster than average for all occupations (www.bls.gov). The BLS reports that, in 2011, the mean annual salary for architects was $79,000.
|Bachelor's||Post-Baccalaureate Courses and Training|
|Who is this degree for?||Students interested in becoming architects||Students with bachelor's degrees who want to advance in their careers|
|Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary)||After getting this professional degree, at least 3 years of internship and licensing is required to become an architect: |
- Architects ($79,000)*
|- Architectural and Engineering Managers ($129,000 - several years of experience as an architect and in related-fields is usually required)*|
|Time to Completion||5 years full-time||One or more semesters|
|Common Graduation Requirements|| - General education courses, including physics, geometry and calculus |
- At least 20 courses in architecture
- Thesis or final research project may be required
|Most certificate programs require completion of 4-6 courses, but some programs require approximately 20 courses that must be completed within 5 years|
|Prerequisites|| - High school diploma|
- Some schools may require a design portfolio, an essay, or recommendation letters; other schools may require all three
| - Bachelor's degree is usually required or recommended|
- Letters of recommendation and a statement of intent may be required
- Some programs also require related work experience
|Online Availability||Hybrid programs are available||Yes|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).
Bachelor's Degrees in Architecture
Obtaining a B.Arch. degree is the first of three steps required to become an architect. After obtaining this professional degree, the second step is to complete at least 3 years of work experience as an intern. The last step is to pass the Architecture Registration Exam. Although most students may choose to study architecture because of their desire to design buildings from the ground up, this job requires much more than building design skills. As an architect, you may find yourself responsible for a project from its pre-design stage until its construction is complete.
B.Arch. degree programs provide students with knowledge of building design, construction and project management. The first two years of this program usually consist of a combination of architecture and general education courses, while the last three consist solely of architecture courses. By the end of the program, students usually know about:
- The use of modern theory and context in designing buildings
- Effective communication
- Aesthetic design
- The use of building information modeling (BIM) and computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) technology
- The materials, costs and environmental impact of building design
- Statistical interpretation
Pros and Cons
- Is an intense degree program designed to simulate real-world work conditions as much as possible
- Prepares graduates to enter a career field experiencing faster than average rate of job growth (24% through 2020)*
- Provides a broad mix of instruction about technological and liberal arts skills
- Does not directly lead to a career as an architect; it could take more than 8 years to become an architect*
- Graduates may compete with master's degree holders for the same job positions, particularly at high-profile architectural firms, where job competition can be intense*
- Does not guarantee employment; jobs for architects are heavily dependent upon the level of activity in the construction industry, which may not be active at the time of graduation
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Courses and Requirements
Classes in a 5-year, NAAB-accredited Bachelor of Architecture program are designed to give students a broad background in architectural design, structures and history. Design studio classes are the core of a B.Arch. program, with other classes serving as support and development for studio design components. The design studio is where students practice the concepts and skills they learn in the classroom. Typical courses for this degree program include:
- Freehand drawing
- History of architecture
- Green building design
- Technology and architecture
- Environmental technology
- Professional practice
- Computer applications and architecture
Online Degree Options
Online options for this degree are normally offered in the form of hybrid programs in which you can take courses online, but other courses are only available on-campus. This is usually because students need to access to a design studio to successfully complete the program curriculum.
Stand Out With This Degree
According to the BLS, in the future there should be an increase in the demand for architects with knowledge of green or sustainable design. Therefore, to stand out against your competition, make sure your portfolio demonstrates your understanding of these aspects of architecture. You can accomplish this by working on projects having green or sustainable elements in one of your design studios.
Also consider completing an internship. In addition to possibly giving you an edge with future employers, an internship could shorten the time needed to be able to test for your license after you graduate. According to the BLS, time spent as an intern before graduation may be counted towards the minimum 3-year work period required for you to be eligible to test for your license.
You may also want to join professional organizations such as the American Institute of Architects (AIA), which offers an intern membership, or the American Institute of Architecture Students. These organizations can provide you with information on what you may need to know to prepare for a career in architecture and may also offer networking opportunities.
Post-Baccalaureate Courses and Training Programs in Architecture
Post-baccalaureate courses, training and certificates in architecture cannot be used as substitutes for bachelor degrees in the field, but can be used to supplement what you learned in your B.Arch. degree program. For instance, if you believe that knowledge of historic preservation, landscape architecture or interior architecture can enhance your architectural career, courses or certificates in these areas may be what you need. Certificate programs are usually only available to graduates with bachelor's degrees. Some programs may also have a work experience requirements. If you need more flexibility and don't want to pursue a certificate, you may be able to take only the courses you need.
Most certificate programs include 4-6 courses and can be completed in less than a year. There are a few longer programs that mimic the course load required to earn a 2-year associate's degree, but typically these programs allow you up to five years to complete their requirements. This flexibility may allow you to complete these programs part-time while working.
Pros and Cons
- Offers the opportunity to gain supplemental experience needed to enhance your career as an architect in a short amount of time
- According to the BLS, architects with green design knowledge will be in demand in the future, so having a certificate in this field could impress potential employers or clients
- Are a good way to stay up to date on the latest advances in architecture and related fields
- According to the BLS, most architects can expect to work at least 50 hours a week, including nights and weekends, so it may be difficult to find the time to complete certificate programs*
- Cannot be used in lieu of a B.Arch. degree to obtain entry-level internships at architecture firms
- May be difficult to decide which certificate program to take without having related work experience
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Courses and Requirements
Certificate programs are usually short and intense in duration, so students entering these programs should already have a solid background in a related field. These programs are intended to be used to enhance a student's skills, and not as a replacement for earning a B.Arch. degree. Some certificate programs may also require the completion of a final project or internship.The 4-6 courses normally required can be completed in one semester full-time or at least two semesters part-time.
Examples of common courses in a certificate in landscape architecture program include:
- History of landscape architecture
- Plants and the environment
- Natural landscaping
- Urban landscaping
- Site analysis
- Designing and plants
Online Degree Options
A few schools offer fully online certificate programs, but most offer hybrid programs in which you complete some courses online. Generally, there is usually not much difference in the curriculum of online and on-campus programs.
Stand Out with this Certificate or Training
To stand out with a certificate or other training, choose a program or courses in areas in which you need to strengthen your skills or believe will help you advance your career. For instance, the BLS notes that environmental concerns and historic preservation currently play a large part in building design, and that this focus will likely increase in the future. To make sure you have the skills potential clients want, you may complete courses in historic preservation and sustainable design to hone your skills in these areas.