The studio classes that dominate most architectural degree programs make distance-learning options in this area uncommon and hard to find. However, some associate's programs in architectural drafting and master's programs in architecture fields offer a few courses online.
Associate's degree programs take two years to complete and typically provide vocational training for those interested in work as drafters. At the master's level, students learn more about conceptual theory and advanced architectural design. Applicants must meet standard admission requirements, such as holding a high school diploma to enter an associate's program, or a bachelor's degree for entry to a master's program.
Associate's Degrees in Architecture
An associate's degree program in either architecture or architectural drafting and estimating teaches students how to prepare technical drawings for commercial and residential construction projects. The emphasis is on job training instead of theoretical skills, and students receive extensive instruction in manual and computer-aided design. General education requirements are related to the major and students will take classes in English composition, public speaking, technical communications, algebra, business and the social sciences.
Architectural and computer-aided drafting classes form the core of the program. Other course topics generally include these:
- Methods and materials used in construction
- Structural steel
- Structural wood
- Electrical systems
- Estimating for construction projects
Master's Degrees in Architecture
Low-residency graduate programs are viable alternatives for busy working adults who may not be able to attend a scheduled class. A small number of schools offer hybrid programs that lead to either a Master of Architecture or a Master of Science with a specialization in interior design. Both offer advanced coursework in design, theory and professional practices and build upon what students have already learned in school and through work. In addition to self-directed research, students fulfill course requirements by exchanging ideas and participating in critiques in an online 'classroom'. Those who already hold bachelor's degrees in architecture or a similar major and have industry-related experience can apply to these programs.
Hybrid programs in architecture typically require that students complete their studio work on campus. Online classes can include the following:
- Architectural design
- Architectural management and technology
- Architectural research methods
- Laws and ethics
The majority of graduates from associate's programs begin their careers as computer drafting technicians. Potential employers include architectural firms, engineering firms, manufacturers, building centers, home builders and private contractors. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that drafters can expect to earn a median yearly salary of $52,720 as of May 2015.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20% of licensed architects are self-employed. Industry jobs can be found in architectural, engineering and construction services for commercial and residential buildings. As of May 2015, the median annual salary for an architect (excluding naval and landscape) was $76,100.
Continuing Education Information
Second associate's degrees are available in related areas, including construction supervision, management and technology. Students who want to earn a Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) and apply for a state license will need to enroll in a program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board, or NAAB. Online programs that lead to a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in architecture are rare, and in terms of licensure, only a few states will consider a degree from an unaccredited program.
A NAAB-accredited Doctor of Architecture program is rare. Students who want to take their architectural studies to the highest level can earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Architecture, a Ph.D. in Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, or a Ph.D. in Educational Studies with a specialization in architecture education.
Although architecture distance learning programs are uncommon, some schools offer hybrid associate's programs in architectural drafting or master's programs in architecture. While associate's programs can prepare students for entry-level drafting work, master's programs are usually designed for working individuals with some architecture-related experience.