Architectural Design and Engineering Degree and Certificate Programs

Oct 10, 2019

Essential Information

Licensed architectural designers and engineers plan and design buildings. Certificate programs utilize courses in computer-aided design, digital modeling and 3-D printing to train students new to the field or teach industry professionals about new technology. An Associate of Science (A.S.) program in architectural engineering prepares candidates for more advanced study, with an emphasis on the mathematics and scientific principles used in architectural design.

A Bachelor of Science (B.S.) program equips graduates for technical and middle management positions. Students explore design and architectural engineering principles through classroom and hands-on experiences. Courses often include project management and engineering physics, and students usually have the flexibility to select electives that will help them meet their career goals. Employment at this level may require a state license in architecture and/or engineering. Senior level positions generally call for a Master of Science (M.S.) degree. Students explore topics such as seismic design and energy efficient design. A thesis is usually required. A high school diploma is necessary for associate's and bachelor's programs, and a bachelor's degree in architecture or engineering is needed for a master's program.

Certificate in Architectural Engineering

Certificate programs prepare students for some entry-level positions in architectural and engineering firms or for further study in architecture, engineering and related fields. Students develop skills in computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) as well as digital modeling and 3-D printing. Areas of focus include the preparation of architectural drawings, planning of project schedules and the creation of technical drawing sets. Although program lengths vary, most consist of 18-24 credit hours of coursework. Some programs are designed for existing architectural professionals who are seeking additional training in new design technology.

Students examine the roles and responsibilities of architects and architectural engineers in the overall planning, design, construction and operation of commercial and residential facilities. They gain knowledge of the various components that comprise a modern building, such as the enclosure, water, sound control, space and ventilation systems. Potential subjects of study include the following:

  • Introductory architectural engineering
  • Metals and structures
  • Technical communications
  • Solid digital modeling
  • Computer-aided design and manufacturing

Associate of Science in Architectural Engineering

Students in a two-year associate's degree program are introduced to architecture and engineering theory. These programs emphasize core mathematical and scientific principles in the study of the architectural design process. Students learn skills in sketching and computer-aided design (CAD). They also examine theories in structural and environmental design, construction methods and professional practices.

This associate's degree program may feature some of the same courses found in the certificate program, including study of general drafting and construction principles. However, the program provides a broader area of study that includes architectural history as well as general education classes. The following are some possible subjects covered in the curriculum:

  • Architectural drafting
  • Construction materials
  • Environmental systems
  • Building codes and local ordinances

Bachelor of Science in Architectural Engineering

A bachelor's degree program includes more in-depth study of the architectural designing and building process. The curriculum combines hands-on design work with a mix of technical electives including building systems and structures, energy conservation and sustainability. Undergraduate programs should be accredited by the ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology).

Classes in this baccalaureate program provide an overview of building and architectural systems leveraging core mathematical and science principles. Electives give students the opportunity to focus more specifically on areas such as design philosophy or urban planning. Students are tasked with completing a building design project that simulates professional practice. Course topics may include:

  • Construction graphics and design process
  • Engineering physics
  • Project management
  • Structural design and planning

Master of Science in Architectural Engineering

Students in this program, which should also be ABET approved, survey the major areas of systems design for contemporary buildings, including energy auditing, seismic design, materials such as wood and cold-formed steel, temperature control and lighting. Students gain hands-on experience with state-of-the-art design technologies and develop an awareness of the best practices in building architecture and design.

Applicants typically must hold a bachelor's degree in architecture, engineering or a closely related field from an accredited college or university. Candidates generally are required to have completed undergraduate coursework in areas such as mathematics, computer programming and physics.

These graduate degree programs contain classes that combine theoretical and practical knowledge of architectural design and engineering principles for use in a variety of building and construction settings. Possible course topics include:

  • Electrical systems design
  • Construction cost engineering
  • Issues in professional practice
  • Site planning

Popular Career Options

Graduates with architectural design degrees are equipped to seek positions in architectural and building design firms as well as to pursue advanced degrees in order to become licensed professional engineers. Master's degree holders are qualified to seek senior positions in engineering and architectural firms, as well as construction companies.

Certificate holders can find entry-level positions in an architectural engineering firm or a closely related business. Many students opt to pursue further education in the architectural engineering discipline. Some career options include:

  • Architectural intern
  • Architect
  • Estimator
  • Sustainable building designer
  • Structural engineer

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to, the median annual salary for an architectural intern as of September 2019 was $44,181. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment of civil engineering technicians will grow 5% from 2018 to 2028 (

In May 2018, the annual median salary for an architect was $79,380 with a 8% increase in job prospects from 2018 to 2028. Civil engineers made an annual median income of $86,640 and can expect a 6% job growth from 2018 through 2028, as reported by the BLS.

In addition, the BLS noted the annual median wage for architectural and civil drafters was $54,920. Drafters should see little or no change in job opportunities for the years 2018 to 2028. In September 2019, reported that the annual median salary for an architectural project manager was $74,202.

Continuing Education Information

Positions in the field of architecture often have licensing requirements. Architects must typically attain a certain amount of experience and education in addition to passing the Architect Registration Examination. States may have their own exams that must also be passed to earn licensure. Architectural engineers may need to earn a Professional Engineer license provided by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying.

Specific requirements for licensing vary by state, but all licenses typically need to be renewed every few years. The renewal process usually requires that licensees attend continuing education classes to remain current on trends in their field.

A degree in architectural design and engineering positions students to become anything from an architect to a structural engineer. They might work in an architectural engineering firm or a firm closely related to this field.

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