Architectural Design Schools in the U.S.

In most states, to become an architect, it is necessary to earn a professional bachelor's or master's degree, complete a residency and pass a certification exam. Read on to learn more about educational opportunities in this field.

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Some architectural design programs prepare students specifically to become certified architects, while others provide training for other jobs within the field. Relevant educational opportunities are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

10 Schools with Architectural Design Programs

Here are some public schools that offer programs that cover architectural design:

College/University Location Institution Type Degree Types 2015-16 Out-of-State Tuition (Undergraduate and Graduate)*
Arizona State University Tempe, AZ 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $25,458; $22,580
Ohio State University-Main Campus Columbus, OH 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, $27,365; $31,032
University of Florida Gainesville, FL 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctor $28,659; $27,335
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Minneapolis, MN 4-year, Public Certificate, Bachelor's, Master's $22,210; $24,508
The University of Texas at Austin Austin, TX 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctor $34,676; $20,762
Texas A & M University College Station, TX 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctor $28,768; $15,125
University of South Florida Tampa, FL 4-year, Public Master's $32,024 (Graduate)
Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus University Park, PA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $31,346, $48,900
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctor $30,214; $28,213
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctor $43,476; $41,688

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics

School Selection Criteria

Here are some things to consider when choosing between architectural design programs:

  • Students who plan to pursue licensure should make sure that the school is accredited by the National Architecture Accrediting Board (NAAB).
  • It is important to make sure that the school provides relevant training for the student's desired career; some programs provide specific professional training, while others are more research-focused.
  • Students may want to look into internship opportunities offered through the program, which can provide valuable hands-on training as well as professional networking opportunities.
  • It can be helpful to look at residency placement rates, licensure exam pass rates and/or graduate school acceptance rates when evaluating the quality of a school.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Aspiring architects can get the education they need from a five-year professional Bachelor of Architecture (BArch) program, which includes general education coursework, a basic introduction to the historical and theoretical foundation of architecture and an overview of professional practices in the field of architecture. Students build their design skills through studio work and may be required to submit a professional project prior to graduation. Upon completion, graduates are prepared to pursue licensure. An alternative is a four-year Bachelor of Science (BS) in Architecture program. While these programs also include liberal arts education and architectural design training, they do not provide the same career-focused professional education as BArch programs, so graduates must pursue a Master of Architecture (MArch) if they want to become certified. Otherwise, they may work at lower-level positions in architectural firms.

Master's Degree Programs

There are several types of master's degree programs available in architecture. The first is the professional Master of Architecture (MArch), which may allow for multiple educational tracks depending on the student's previous education. One option is intended for students who hold a non-professional bachelor's degree in architecture and want to get the professional training they need to pursue licensure; these programs typically take 2 to 2.5 years to complete. Another option is for bachelor's degree holders who have no architecture experience; these programs take 3 to 3.5 years. Alternatively, students may pursue an academic Master of Science (MS) or Master of Arts (MA) program; in these programs, students gain research and teaching experience in the field instead of preparing for licensure.

Doctoral Degree Programs

For students who want to advance to careers as university professors, there are PhD programs available in architecture. Students in these programs choose a particular subfield of interest within the field, such as building science, sustainability, architecture theory, urban development or landscape architecture, depending on the school. Then, they conduct research on a specialized topic within that subfield and write a research-based dissertation. While some schools may only require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree, a professional architecture degree may be recommended.

Certificate Programs

Some schools offer graduate certificates in particular aspects of architecture. These programs allow trained architects to expand their knowledge in topics such as urban design, lighting design, urban design or building science. There are also general certificates in architecture for students who want to study the topic without committing to a full degree program.

Both undergraduate and graduate-level architectural design programs are available at schools around the country. When selecting a program, prospective students must take their previous education and future career goals into account.

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