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What Degrees Do You Need to Be an Architect?

Learn about what the education requirements are for architects. Also take a look at licensing requirements, the job outlook and salary information to learn a bit more about this career.

Becoming an Architect

Architects design buildings and manage complex construction projects. In order to be an architect, candidates need to complete either a bachelor's or master's degree in architecture. Upon graduation from an approved degree program, candidates are eligible to sit for the licensing Architect Registration Examination (ARE).

Bachelor's Programs

Students looking to complete pre-professional studies in architecture can enroll in a 4-year Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science program. Pre-professional programs are usually intended for those who wish to pursue a professional master's degree in architecture. However, the minimum education requirement to become a licensed architect is a professional Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) degree that takes 5 years to earn. During their final year, students may be required to complete an internship or preceptorship at a professional architectural firm and work under the supervision of a licensed architect.

In addition to having satisfactory college entrance exam scores and submitting an application essay, prospective architecture students usually need to submit a portfolio for admission. Some programs may also require that students complete an interview in order to assess their interest in architecture.

Undergraduate architecture program curricula generally cover a variety of topics related to designing practical and aesthetically pleasing structures, architecture theory, and project planning. Studio courses also help prospective architects develop critical-thinking and leadership skills through creative and environmentally-focused projects. The topics noted below are usually covered:

  • Architecture history
  • Building construction
  • Structural steel design
  • CAD drawings
  • Green/sustainable building design

Master's Programs

Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) degree programs are designed for students who have a pre-professional degree in architecture or architectural studies. There are also post-professional Master of Science in Architecture programs that allow students to specialize in an area like urban or sustainable design. Both types of graduate programs allow students to gain studio experience designing buildings.

Applicants to M.Arch. programs usually need to have undergraduate experience in the field. They should be familiar with architectural history, design theory, CAD software and construction technology. Most programs require applicants to submit letters of academic reference; some ask students to submit portfolios of their work.

M.Arch. students learn advanced concepts dealing with designing and preserving structures and understanding the theories and history of architecture. Some classes also teach students to relate architecture to city planning and urban development. Coursework emphasizes the subjects noted below:

  • Architectural criticism
  • Theory of architectural design
  • Digital design techniques
  • Building science
  • Environmental architecture and sustainability

Licensing and Certification

Each state requires architects to be licensed. While exact licensure requirements vary, most states require architects to complete an internship and pass a written exam. Many states also require architects to attend continuing education classes periodically to make sure their knowledge is up-to-date.

In addition to completing requirements for state licensure, many architects pursue voluntary certification through the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. To become certified, candidates need to graduate from a professional architecture program, complete an Intern Development Program (IDP), and pass all sections of the Architect Registration Exam (ARE).

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that there will be job growth of about 7% between 2014 and 2024 for architects, especially in green or environmentally-friendly design. According to the BLS, the median salary for architects was $76,100 as of May 2015.

To become an architect, you need to complete either a 5-year bachelor's degree program or a Master of Architecture (M.Arch.).

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