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Architect: Educational Requirements for Architects

Architects require significant formal education. Learn about the degree options, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

'Rome wasn't built in a day' is an adage that could appropriately be applied to constructing a career as an architect. The process includes considerable education and a period of practical application, as well as licensure.

Essential Information

Architects design buildings that are safe, aesthetically pleasing and cost effective. State requirements mandate that individuals wishing to become architects complete a college degree in architecture. Common educational paths include 5-year bachelor's programs and professional master's programs. Architects are typically required to complete a three-year internship before taking the licensing examination, which is required by all states.

Required Education Completion of a professional bachelor's or master's degree in architecture and internship
Licensing and Certification All states require architects to pass the Architect Registration Exam for licensing; voluntary certification offered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB)
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 7%*
Median Salary (2015) $76,100*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes most states require aspiring architects to complete a professional degree program; however, some states may not require architects to graduate from an accredited program. High school seniors may consider entering a Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) program to complete a 5-year undergraduate degree. College graduates who haven't completed a B.Arch. program may enroll in a professional Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) program.

B.Arch. Programs

B.Arch. programs are catered towards students with no previous educational background in architecture. B.Arch. programs typically begin with courses in architectural history and design. Other introductory courses may cover concepts in geometry, modeling and traditional styles in architecture. Students may also study how to use fundamental architectural principles to create interior spaces and building structures.

Advanced courses typically focus on aesthetic style and physical requirements for designs. Students learn concepts and preferences in human behavior as it relates to architectural structures, as well as the chemical and physical properties of steel, concrete and other building materials. An integral part of all B.Arch. programs is the design studio in which students are able to use their learned techniques and personal tastes to construct sketches, models and prototypes.

M. Arch. Programs

College graduates who have completed a bachelor's degree program in another field may enroll in an M.Arch. program. These programs may last between 1-5 years, depending on a student's previous educational training. Students may already have taken some of the courses in the M.Arch. program and therefore may receive credit and not have to take those courses again.

M.Arch programs offer additional training in topics like sustainable design and digital-design media. This may include reviewing and discussing case studies on topics ranging from contemporary architecture to photography techniques. Like B.Arch. programs, M.Arch. programs also emphasize the design studio to prepare students to create and develop their own designs.

Career and Salary Information

The BLS estimates approximately 7% job growth for architects in the decade between 2014-2024. The median annual salary for architects was $76,100 in May, 2015, according to the BLS.

The most common path to becoming an architect consists of a 5-year program leading to a Bachelor of Architecture degree. However, if you hold a bachelor's degree in another field, you might want to consider completing a 1 to 5 year program culminating in a Master of Architecture degree. While certification by the NCARB is optional (but recommended), in order to practice you must be licensed in your state and pass the Architects Registration Exam.

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