Architectural Education

Architectural Education

You should pursue a degree from an architecture program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) in order to meet the educational requirements to become a licensed architect

More than 125 architecture programs are accredited by the NAAB in the United States. NAAB accredits professional programs in architecture leading to the Doctor of Architecture, Master of Architecture or Bachelor of Architecture degree.  Students may graduate from either a pre-professional architecture degree or undergraduate degree in another discipline and then complete an accredited Master of Architecture program.


The Bachelor of Architecture is an undergraduate five-year degree typically for students coming directly from high school.  In a B.Arch. program, enrolled students begin intensive architectural studies in the first semester and continue for the duration of the program.

Recently, a handful of institutions began offering a five- or five and a half- year master of architecture programs.  How are these degrees different than the traditional bachelor of architecture?  Contact each institution and ask.


Often known as a 4 + 2, this path to the accredited degree involves first obtaining a pre-professional architecture bachelor of science (B.S.) degree followed by the professional master of architecture (M.Arch.).  Pre-professional degrees are four-year degrees that prepare candidates for pursuing a professional degree.  A viable option for this particular route is to begin your studies at a community college.

The professional NAAB accredited M.Arch. is a graduate-level degree may last from 2-3 years and offers a comprehensive professional education.  This combination of the B.S. degree with the M.Arch. offers flexibility, as you may choose to attend a different program for your graduate studies or take time between the two degree programs.


If you have an undergraduate degree in a field other than architecture, you may also pursue a professional master of architecture program.  Depending on the institution, this accredited M.Arch. will take between 3-4 years of study to complete.  Be sure to explore the curricular differences among the programs you are considering.


As a professional degree, the doctor of architecture (D.Arch.) is currently available only at the University of Hawaii.  The program is from 3-4 years in length and is unique in that it allows the graduate to fulfill the education requirement for taking the licensing exam.

The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture offers StudyArchitecture, an online database of all institutions that offer architecture programs in the United States and Canada.

Selecting a Program

How do you select an architecture program?  After learning of the different degree programs, choosing an appropriate program may seem daunting.  However, if you analyze the criteria that are most important, you can narrow the search and manage the process.

In this process, strongly consider the following: 1) Ensure that you pursue the NAAB accredited degree program; 2) Understand the possible paths – BArch, MArch, and DArch; and 3) Learn the coursework offered by architecture programs – design studio, structures, systems, graphics, architectural history, professional practice, electives, and general education courses.

As you search architecture programs, consider the following attributes in these three categories:

You: To find the best program for you, think about your level of confidence in pursuing architect, your personality type, the proximity of the program to your home – do you want to be close or far away from home? And, finally, what is your budget for attending a program.

Institution: Just as important are factors related to the institution – what type of institution is it?  What about the locale of the institution – rural or urban?  Is it private or public?  What is the overall enrollment of the institution?  What is the cost of attending the institution and what amount of financial aid (grants, scholarships, and loans) are available?

Architecture Program: As you will spend vast amount of time within the academic unit, you may wish to strongly consider aspects of the program. What is the overall academic structure of the academic unit?  What degrees are offered?  Consider the philosophy or approach of the program; what is the tradition or reputation of the program?  What about enrollment?  What resources, facilities, and special programs will be available to you as a student? Who are the faculty and student body?

Thus, as you choose an architecture program, review the criteria listed above to determine which program is best for you!  One valuable resource in your search is

You Are An Architecture Student

Congratulations! You are now an architecture student and embarking on the first phase of becoming an architect.

Typical courses during your program will include the following: general education, design, history and theory, technology, professional practice, and electives.

For an architectural education, design is the heart of every architecture curriculum.  Once you are in the studio sequence of a degree program, you will be taking design studio each semester, usually four to six credits.

Design courses are central to an architectural education, but what is studio? More than simply a place to work, studio is where design happens. A central aspect of an architectural education, the studio is the place to work and more. The studio becomes an extension of the curriculum as you combine what you learn from your architecture courses and apply them to your design work.

All architecture programs require courses in history and theory to address values, concepts, and methods. Most offer courses that provide an understanding of both Western and non-Western traditions across the ages, from ancient Greek architecture to the modern day. In addition, more focused history courses may be required or offered as electives.

Technology covers structures and environmental systems. Each program teaches these courses somewhat differently, but structures always involve basic statics and strength of materials — wood, steel, timber, and masonry. Courses in environmental systems cover HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), plumbing, lighting, and acoustics. As well, some programs have courses in construction materials and methods. All of these courses, required by most programs, are taught with the idea that you will connect what you learn in them to your work in the design studio.

As required by accreditation, all programs offer coursework in professional practice. This addresses the legal aspects of architecture, contracts, ethics, leadership roles, and business issues.