Undergraduate Architecture Programs and Majors

To become an architect there are two options for undergraduate degree programs: the pre-professional Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Architecture, and the professional Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch).

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Essential Information

Applicants for bachelor's programs are usually advised to take advanced classes in math, art and physics during high school. Some schools also require applicants to submit an artistic portfolio. These programs are offered at both universities and art and design colleges.

Candidates need to be licensed by the state in which they're working to become professional architects. Pre-professional programs, BS or BA, are designed to take four years. Those who pursue these degrees will also need to complete graduate level education in architecture in order to become a licensed architect. Professional programs for a B.Arch typically take five years, and are a more direct route to obtaining a license.

Both types of programs may have coursework requirements such as foreign language, art, math, or science at an undergraduate level, and are generally not available online. Internships or externships, in addition to an accredited degree, are required prior to testing for licensure.


Bachelor of Science or Arts in Architecture

BS or BA in Architecture programs prepare students for advancement to, and possibly advanced placement within, the Master of Architecture (M.Arch) program. These degree programs provide foundational skills in design and construction. The BA program focuses more on studio art coursework and normally requires foreign language coursework, unlike the BS program. Students of either program learn the basic theories and practices used to design a variety of buildings and structures, and may participate in professional experiences through internships and externships.

Many bachelor's degree programs in architecture require students to complete prerequisite college classes before being admitted into the architecture program as upperclassmen. Applicants to these degree programs need to have exceptionally strong skills in mathematics and science, especially in geometry, calculus and physics. Students should also take art classes to help them learn to create visual representations of their ideas. Additionally, classes on computer-aided drafting (CAD) are helpful to those beginning an architecture program. The coursework of baccalaureate-level programs in architecture emphasizes the historical analysis of architecture, modern concepts in architecture, and architectural design. Students gain hands-on experience in graphic design and drafting. These topics are usually discussed:

  • Ancient and Roman architecture
  • Architectural design drawing
  • Modern architectural theory
  • Architectural computer software
  • Architecture and history
  • Design concepts

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  • Architectural History
  • Architectural Technology
  • Environmental Design
  • Interior Architecture
  • Landscape Architecture
  • Urban and Regional Planning

Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch)

Bachelor of Architecture degree programs cover the technology, design, communication, theory, history and aesthetics relevant to designing and creating buildings and other structures while providing students with opportunities to gain hands-on experience in the field. Applicants should submit a portfolio of artwork, such as drawing, sculptures or photography. Architecture students should be skilled at computer design and drafting software, trigonometry, geometry, and physics. Some programs may require students to take introductory-level design courses before they can take architecture classes. Many programs require that students complete internships before graduation.

These programs are professional architecture programs with National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) accreditation, and completing such a program satisfies one of the requirements for architects set by all U.S. states. Other requirements include completing a supervised internship and passing the Architect Registration Examination. Completing continuing education courses periodically is also necessary to remain licensed. Many architects seek voluntary certification from the National Council of Architectural Registration.

The coursework in B.Arch programs covers all facets of the discipline, including the practical and theoretical aspects. Students also learn to integrate their creations into existing settings, creating a unified aesthetic. Students are usually required to study the topics noted below:

  • Digital architecture design
  • Architecture's ecological impact
  • History of architecture
  • Architectural drafting
  • Concepts of structure
  • Graphic communications

Popular Career Options

People who choose to enter the workforce often enter the following careers:

  • Architect's assistant
  • Design assistant
  • Architecture firm intern

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that there will be a job growth rate of about 7% for architects in the decade between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). According to the BLS, the median salary for architects was $76,100 as of May 2015; the 90th percentile of architects reportedly earned $125,520 for that same period.

A BS or BA offers a more rounded education that requires an M.Arch to get internships and a license, while the B.Arch is a more focused approach leading directly to internships and licensure. Both options provide the unique skills an architect must possess and choosing depends on the student's interests and goals.

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