Architectural Degree Programs by Program Level

Associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral architecture degree programs are all available. Those pursuing architecture degrees study engineering and the aesthetic principles behind designing and constructing houses, buildings and other structures.

Essential Information

An associate's degree in architecture is designed to prepare individuals for entry-level careers in survey assisting, drafting and CAD designing. A professional bachelor's degree in architecture, which takes five years, is designed to prepare students to work as licensed architects. Students take several lab courses in which they learn how to design structures, use CAD tools and choose construction sites.

A professional master's program in architecture teaches the same skills as a bachelor's program, except this program is designed for those without an undergraduate background in the field. Graduates of professional bachelor's and master's programs can pursue an architecture apprenticeship and work toward getting licensed. Those who want to teach at the college level or do research in a specialized area of architecture may pursue a doctoral degree. Depending on the level, a research project, thesis, or dissertation may be required.


Associate's Degree in Architecture

Associate's degree programs in architecture are designed to provide individuals with the skills and knowledge needed to pursue entry-level positions in the architectural services industry. Coursework emphasis is placed on the practical side of architecture, with classes covering building materials and codes, CAD drafting principles and environmental issues. These 2-year programs are often offered at technical or vocational schools in the Associate of Applied Science format.

Individuals applying to an associate's degree program in architecture typically must submit high school transcripts or their equivalent. Other requirements, such as standardized test scores, are usually not required by technical or vocational schools. The curriculum of an associate's degree program in architecture is topically focused, with few or no other elective requirements. Sample core courses are included below:

  • Surveying
  • Building technology
  • Introductory technical drafting
  • Cost analysis
  • Estimating

Bachelor's Degree in Architecture

A bachelor's degree program in architecture is the most common path to becoming a professional architect. These 5-year programs are designed to provide the education and studio lab experience needed for apprentice architect positions. A bachelor's degree program in architecture relies on an interdisciplinary academic approach, with classes from various departments. Degree candidates enroll in numerous lab studio courses, in which students apply the technical skills learned in the classroom.

Individuals applying to a bachelor's degree program in architecture often submit high school transcripts, an admissions essay, standardized test scores and recommendation letters. Admission to some programs may require submission of an artist's portfolio, highlighting any design work done to date. A small number of programs feature math and engineering competency exams as admission requirements. In addition to a core architecture curriculum, degree candidates enroll in a set number of liberal arts electives. The architecture curriculum may cover the following course topics:

  • Structural design
  • History of architecture
  • Computer-aided design
  • Site selection criteria
  • Construction technology

Master's Degree in Architecture

Master's degree programs in architecture are typically designed for individuals who want to pursue an architectural career but are in possession of an undergraduate degree in an unrelated field. Individuals study the theory and practice of building and infrastructure design, along with the aesthetic principles behind contemporary architecture. Nearly all master's degree programs in architecture feature a master's thesis or research project as a graduation requirement. The coursework of a master's degree program in architecture can usually be completed in 1-3 years, depending on the program and the emphasis of study.

To be admitted to a master's degree program in architecture, individuals must have an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution. Other admissions requirements include standardized graduate test scores, such as GRE scores, and letters of recommendation. The curriculum of a master's degree program in architecture is designed to provide comprehensive instruction in all relevant areas of architecture theory and practice. Course content may include the following:

  • Design theory
  • Building theory and analysis
  • Resource management
  • Construction synthesis
  • Fundamental structures

Doctoral Degree in Architecture

Doctoral degree programs in architecture are most often offered in the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) format. Doctoral degree programs in architecture are designed to prepare individuals for advanced research and teaching positions in the architectural and urban planning fields. Degree applicants select a concentration or topical focus for their studies, such as sustainability or cultural landscapes, and a curriculum is designed around this focus. Doctoral degree programs in architecture feature the completion and defense of a doctoral thesis as degree requirements.

Most doctoral degree programs in architecture require applicants to have a master's degree in architecture or a related field, such as urban planning. A smaller number of programs admit candidates who have a graduate degree in an unrelated field. Some schools offer supplemental architecture courses that candidates must complete before being officially admitted to the doctoral program.

The curriculum of a doctoral degree program in architecture depends in large part on the academic concentration chosen by the student and his or her advisory committee. Sample core areas of study are included below:

  • Building types and settings
  • American regional architecture
  • Architectural research methods
  • Environment-behavior relationship theory
  • Urban design

Popular Career Options

Becoming a professional architect, requires a bachelor's degree; however, job opportunities for graduates of an associate's degree program in architecture includes surveying assistant, drafting technician and assistant CAD designer. Doctoral degrees in architecture are designed primarily for individuals desirous of a career in research or teaching. Professional architectural job titles for graduates may include those listed below:

  • Architect
  • Urban planning consultant
  • Professor of architecture
  • Sustainability researcher

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for architects are expected to increase by 7% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The median annual salary for architects (except for landscape and naval architects) was $76,100 as of May 2015. New York and California offered the most employment opportunities for architects, as reported by the BLS.

Continuing Education Information

Graduates of a bachelor's or master's degree program in architecture need to be licensed before offering their services professionally. This licensing or registration process is administered at the state level. The licensing procedures vary between states but generally include completion of an architectural degree program from an accredited institution and a certain amount of field work completed under the supervision of a licensed architect. More information about the licensing process can be obtained from the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (www.ncarb.org).

There is a full range degree options from the associate's through the doctoral level for those interested in architecture, with the bachelor's and master's options leading to careers as professional architects. Licensing requirements for architects vary by state.


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