Education Needed to Become an Architect

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an architect. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

Architects are licensed professionals who design and plan structures that are attractive, functional and safe. They can be involved in every phase of a building's development from conception to construction. Architects are required to have either a professional bachelor's or master's degree in architecture and state licensure.

Required Education Professional bachelor's or master's degree in architecture
Other Requirements State licensure; Voluntary certification available through the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB)
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 17%*
Median Salary (May 2013) $74,110*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

Prospective architects must complete a professional degree program that is accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board in order to become licensed in most states. High school graduates who want to become an architect may enroll in a Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) program. Students who have already earned a bachelor's degree in another field like architectural history or construction management and want to pursue a career as an architect may matriculate to a Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) program. These advanced programs are also open to applicants who have professional B.Arch. degrees and want to specialize in a field, such as historic preservation, design theory or solar design.

The B.Arch. program is typically completed in five years, while pre-professional bachelor's degree programs in architectural studies or construction management take four years to complete. Students can earn a professional M.Arch. degree in two years with a pre-professional undergraduate degree in architecture or three years with a bachelor's in another field. Students who have already completed a B.Arch. program can generally complete an M.Arch. program in one year.

Educational Prerequisites for Professional Architecture Programs

Prospective undergraduate architecture students may be required to submit a portfolio demonstrating their design skills. College entrance exam scores and high school grade point averages are also carefully considered, since architecture programs tend to be highly competitive.

Students seeking admission to professional M.Arch programs may have an advantage if they have design experience and an undergraduate education in humanities or art. Some schools require a portfolio featuring the applicant's best sketches and models. Once enrolled, M.Arch. students may be required to complete certain prerequisites, such as architectural theory, before proceeding with professional coursework.

Curriculum for Architecture Education

The core curriculum is similar in both professional bachelor's and master's degree programs. Topics of study generally include:

  • Building and materials construction
  • Freehand and digital drafting
  • Modern and historical architectural styles
  • Environmental systems
  • Architectural design

In-class learning can be complemented by work in a design studio, where students implement what they've learned to create drawings and 3-D models. Both programs generally culminate in a design or research thesis project.

Internship Requirements

In order to be licensed, prospective architects must complete an internship administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). The internship program requires completing a minimum of 5,600 hours of training.

Interns work under the supervision of a licensed architect and gain experience in a variety of architectural skills, including schematic design, building cost analysis and project management. Once these requirements are met, interns are eligible to take the Architect Registration Exam (ARE) to become registered - or licensed - architects.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

A 17% growth in employment was expected for architects between 2012 and 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The annual median wage for this profession was $74,110, according to the BLS in May 2013.

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