What Degrees Do You Need to Be an Architect?

Architects are responsible for designing buildings and managing 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 Degree in Architecture

Available as a Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts and professional Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) program, architecture degree programs often take five years to finish and cover a variety of topics related to selecting construction sites, designing buildings and construction. Studio courses help prospective architects develop critical-thinking and leadership skills through creative and environmentally focused projects. Students are also called upon to problem solve in relation to retail, recreational and educational urban design and housing. During their final year, students may complete an internship at a professional architectural firm and work under the supervision of a licensed architect.

Educational Prerequisites

Architecture programs seek students who have excellent skills in mathematics and the natural science; geometry, calculus and physics are particularly relevant. Applicants should also have some basic experience using computer-aided drafting (CAD) software programs.

Program Coursework

Undergraduate architecture program curricula include courses related to designing practical and aesthetically pleasing structures, architecture theory, project planning and environmental issues. The topics noted below are usually covered:

  • Architecture history
  • Green building design
  • Project management
  • Construction methods
  • CAD for architecture

Master's Degree in Architecture

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

Educational Prerequisites

Applicants to M.Arch. programs need to have undergraduate experience in the field. They should be familiar with architecture 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.

Program Coursework

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 impacts of architecture

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) predicts that there will be job growth of about 16% between 2008 and 2018, especially in green, or environmentally friendly, architecture. According to Payscale.com, the middle 50% of architects earn between $46,000 and $68,300.

Continuing Education Information

Each state requires architects to be licensed. While the exact licensure requirements vary, most states require architects to complete and 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, architects have to submit official copies of their college transcripts and references attesting to their professional ability in the field.

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