San Francisco Architecture Universities with Degree Program Info

Jan 11, 2019

There are fewer than five schools that offer architecture degree programs in the San Francisco area. To decide which one is right for you, read an overview of the program options and requirements at three of those colleges located within 15 miles of downtown.

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Architecture Schools in the San Francisco Bay Area

In the San Francisco area, aspiring architects can find undergraduate and graduate education options at three institutions. This article highlights the coursework and learning opportunities available in the colleges' programs -- all of which happen to be accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). Before exploring the degree options, check out the table of facts and figures for more details on the schools.

  • The University of California, Berkeley offers bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. programs in architecture. The campus is roughly 11 miles from downtown San Francisco.
  • Undergraduate students wishing to attend a school within the city might be interested in the University of San Francisco, a private Jesuit college located less than two miles from the city's center, offers a bachelor's degree program in architecture and community design.
  • Situated 1.5 miles from central San Francisco, California College of the Arts is a small, independent school in Oakland. Students there can earn a bachelor's degree or master's degree in the field. A master's-level option in advanced architectural design is also available.

Comparison of Schools

Some students prefer to learn in a smaller school environment while others want the big college experience. Both of these options exist among the profiled colleges, as seen in the enrollment figures listed in the table below. Find out even more about the schools -- including costs and acceptance rates -- in the table as well.

University of California, Berkeley University of San Francisco California College of the Arts
School Type 4-year, public 4-year, private not-for-profit 4-year, private not-for-profit
Total Enrollment (2017) 41,891* 11,063* 1,927*
Campus Setting Midsize city Large city Large city
Tuition & Fees (Undergraduate, 2017-2018) $14,170 for in-state students; $42,184 for out-of-state students* $46,250* $47,266*
% of First-Year Undergraduate Students Receiving Some Form of Financial Aid (2016-2017) 60%* 83%* 77%*
Acceptance Rate (Undergraduate, 2017) 17%* 66%* 64%*
Retention Rate (Undergraduate, 2016-2017) 97% for full-time students* 85% for full-time students* 84% for full-time students*
Graduation Rate (Undergraduate students who began studies in fall 2011) 91%* 77%* 61%*

Source: *NCES College Navigator

University of California, Berkeley

The College of Environmental Design's Department of Architecture brings together professors who have extensive experience in architecture, ranging from theory to application and research. Many of the faculty members are part of architecture firms and centers that contribute to building design in the San Francisco Bay Area. This liberal arts school promotes independent thinking, and students are encouraged to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills that will shape the architecture industry. Outside of the classroom, students can attend lectures that feature world-class professionals.

Bachelor of Arts in Architecture

This pre-professional degree program prepares students for either entry-level employment or, more commonly, graduate studies in architecture. The degree can also be applied toward California licensing requirements. Students learn about architectural history, design, research and technology in order to develop an understanding of buildings from structural and design perspectives. Additionally, the program provides many opportunities for students to develop portfolios of their work. For their senior year, students choose either a design research or a studio track. The university also offers a minor in architecture for students who want to learn about the field while majoring in another discipline.

Master of Architecture

This degree can be earned in two or three years, depending on the student's undergraduate experience. This professional degree program prepares students for advanced careers in architecture through classes that explore architectural design and theory. Students take on a number of case studies that help them understand actual architectural projects. Studio classes give students the opportunity to develop hands-on skills, as well as a portfolio. Students are able to complete fieldwork by studying architectural structures in and around the Bay Area.

Master of Science in Architecture

The Master of Science in Architecture is a non-professional degree program offering a research-based focus for students who have a background of studies in architecture. Students can focus on one of two areas of study: building science, technology and sustainability or history, theory and society. The degree can be earned in about two years, and many students go on to earn a Ph.D. in Architecture.

Ph.D. in Architecture

This is a research degree program that prepares students for careers in teaching architecture or in research-based consulting for the government or professional organizations. Students can choose between the same two areas of study as found in the MS in Architecture program. They then choose a specialty area inside the field of architecture as well as one or two outside the field, such as geography, anthropology or regional planning. As part of the degree requirements, students take classes in research methods and a foreign language. To graduate, students must pass examinations and complete a dissertation.

University of San Francisco

The College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Art + Architecture promotes issues of social justice and their relationship with architecture and community development. Professors frequently lead research studies and are professional leaders in the architecture community. In general, the university keeps classes small to promote interactions between faculty and students. The university also offers a study-abroad program that gives students a global understanding of architecture.

Bachelor of Arts in Architecture and Community Design

Coursework for this program covers the history of architecture, architectonics and sustainability; numerous studio classes offer the opportunity to develop professional experience. A practicum or internship with an architectural firm is another part of the program. Students can also minor in either architecture and community design or architectural engineering.

California College of the Arts

This small, private college focuses on the theory and application of architecture. The college hosts a lecture series in which professionals talk about their experience in the field and the future of architecture. In addition, students participate in research and design labs where they work on projects and digital design. An internship program provides students with real-world experience in project design, client meetings and construction management.

Bachelor of Architecture

This professional degree typically takes five years to complete and prepares graduates for careers in architecture. The degree requires a total of 159 units. Courses cover building technology, building energy, drawing and theory. Studio classes give students the opportunity to gain practical experience and develop portfolios.

Master of Architecture

This professional graduate degree program is geared toward prospective architects who have earned a bachelor's degree in another area. A large part of the program covers the history and theory of architecture, as well as the technology needed in the architecture field. Students can also take part in special summer courses and international study programs based in such places as Tokyo, Berlin and Latin America. Studio classes enable students to better understand how to transform an idea into a building design project.

Master of Advanced Architectural Design

This degree is meant for mid-level architecture professionals. Students can choose between three concentrations: digital craft, urban works or history/theory/experiments. In total, the degree requires 30 credits and can be completed in about one academic year.

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