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A degree in architecture prepares an individual with skills and knowledge to begin a career as an architect. Through an architectural program, students will be exposed to the various aspects of architecture, including structural engineering, aesthetics, building codes and so on.
Architecture students must be able to bring together a cross section of educational disciplines and apply them to the design and development of a structure. Most individuals pursuing a degree in architecture will do so through a five year architecture program, while others may enter into a master's program due to their educational background and experience.
How to Become an Architect
To become an architect, you will need to follow a series of steps we have detailed below. The process is critical to follow as variations can exist from state to state which makes research and detail orientation critical to the process. The steps to become an architect include:
Step 1 – Research Architecture Schools
Initially, would-be architects will need to begin by finding applicable colleges. Locating accredited universities offering degrees in architecture has never been easier. In years past, you would wait for a magazine or book to be published and call each entity to learn about their programs. Today, you can simply utilize vast digital libraries like ours to locate all accredited colleges offering architecture in seconds. You can search manually by name or quickly by using our degree matching portal.
Step 2 – Apply to Architectural Colleges
You will need to arrive at a manageable, short list of top programs in architecture to apply to. Invest time early in the process to understand the curricular approach, time involved in each program, financial aid packages, and online learning options. The burgeoning online learning model is quickly becoming the fastest growing segment within online learning in higher education.
The benefits of earning a degree online include: flexibility, cost savings, access, accreditation, pace, and quality curricular design. As part of your college application, make sure to highlight all related work experience and extracurricular activities that help define who you are as an effort to help you stand out from the other applicants in a hypercompetitive pool of students.
Step 3 – Attend School
After gaining admissions to the school of your choice, you will attend an accredited college or university to begin your studies as an architect. Classes will begin shortly after you complete your school orientation and register for classes in your area of study. A bachelor’s degree will typically take students 4 years to complete while master’s degrees will take an additional 2-3 years and PhD programs an additional 5-6 years of matriculation.
Step 4 – Graduate and Licensure
Upon graduating from an accredited college or university with your degree in architecture, you will be eligible to sit for licensure in your state of residence. Licensing examinations are mandated by your state and frequently offered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) known as the ARE (Architect Registration Examination).
Step 5 – Work and Continuing Education
After earning your degree and meeting all state-specific licensure requirements, you are ready to find work in the field and begin your career. It is key to establishing a mentality of a lifelong learner and continue to learn about the field or architecture, upskill, and seek continuing education opportunities to grow in your field. Some states require architects to log a specific number of continuing education credits perpetually, so check with your state licensing board to learn more.
Education Needed to Become an Architect
The subject’s studied to become an architect will vary from school to school but foundational courses will be essential to be an effective architect. The typical set of classed found in a course catalog for an architectural degree program include: architectural design studio, architectural design, trigonometry, physics, geometry, digital media, world architecture, environmental systems, construction, site planning, and information systems. A curriculum in architecture may include:
- Architecture Design
- Systems Design
- Drafting & CAD
- Computational Mathematics
- Architectural Engineering
- Survey Technology
- Project Management
- Art History
- Building Construction
- History of Architecture
Top Architecture Degrees
There are a number of educational options for those considering a future in architecture. The range of possible degree types include a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, doctoral degree, and a host of graduate certificate programs. An overview of each is listed below to provide you with a working understanding of each degree option.
Graduate Certificates in Architecture
A number of accredited colleges and universities offer graduate certificates in architecture to help professionals upskill and learn new disciplines. Schools offer a variety of certificate programs that may be of interest to practitioners that include: sustainability, spatial analysis, urban development, healthy cities, and real estate. To learn more about graduate certificates that may be best for you, simply request information from the best school for you below.
Bachelor Degree in Architecture
A bachelor’s degree in architecture is the four-year, entry-level degree program in architecture. The bachelor’s degree is conferred to students as a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Architecture and provides a broad education in architecture.
Classes offered in a bachelor of science program will typically include the following types of classes: calculus, basic drawing, visual studies, graphic communications, physics, construction, design fundamentals, fabrication, CAD, computer modeling, environmental systems, and structures.
Students earning a bachelor’s degree in architecture can elect to minor in associated areas of study that include business, art, engineering, or social work depending on program availability and areas of specialties of interest.
Master’s Degree in Architecture
A master’s degree in architecture can be conferred as a Master of Architecture (M.Arch.), Master’s of Science in Architecture (MS), or Master’s in Urban Design (MUD) in 2-3 years depending on the program attended and number of classes taken at a given time. A master’s degree is a rigorous course of study focusing on the application of theory, design, and production.
Coursework in architectural fabrication, history, design, and theory prepares students to create a research-based thesis project as the culmination of the degree program. Elective classes may include a variety of exciting tracks in architecture that include classes such as construction, environmental technology, sustainable design, urbanism, digital fabrication, computation, design, material systems, and value engineering.
Doctorate Degree in Architecture
The doctorate degree in architecture is conferred to students as a PhD in Architecture and can be earned in 5-6 years of study after all lower-level prerequisites are met. PhD programs investigate the discipline of architecture through a lens of past, present, and future to promote critical thinking, deep analytical skills, and research capabilities across broad fields of architecture and built environments.
Specialties in the doctorate track can include such areas of concentration as: theory, building technology, history, or design. The program is culminated with a research-intensive dissertation on an approved, organic topic in the field of architecture. Students with a PhD in Architecture will go on to perform research, teach, or join the business world in a variety of positions.
Employment Information for Architects
Every state in the United States requires an architect to be licensed and all states require 3 years of experience under a professional prior to becoming eligible for licensure, some states may allow internship in related fields to apply toward their three years.
Most states require graduation from one of the nationally accredited architecture schools, though some states have different requirements, thus schools without such accreditation may still fulfill licensure requirements.
An architect is responsible for the design of a given structure, be it office building or residence. The architect will determine the cost of construction and work with contractors to turn designs and models into reality. An architect must do this within code and budget. Architects will also typically visit worksites and oversee construction to ensure that work and construction are with spec.
How Much Money Do Architects Make?
Median annual income for architects is currently $76,930 which translates to $36.99 per hour. The top 10% of architects make $129,810 while the bottom ten percent make $46,600 annually. Income earned from the architecture trade will vary by individual and by location. Other common drivers of architects total compensation include education level, overall work experience, industry demand, reputation, portfolio of work, and areas of responsibility.
Top Paying States for Architects
Top Employers of Architects
- Architectural & Engineering Firms
- Federal Government Agencies
- Residential Building Companies
- Local Government Agencies
- Commercial Building Contractors
States with the Highest Employment of Architects
Resources for Architect Students
Individuals interested in architecture may also be interested in interior design, structural engineering and CAD. In addition, students may be interested in joining local chapters of popular architect associations that include the AIA, AAO, and ALA. Professional associations provide new and seasoned architects additional training, networking opportunities, and unique vocational opportunities.