Do you want to become an architect?  Today, starts a series of essays on the path of pursuing an architectural education on your way to becoming an architect; this first essay in on the different paths to an accredited architectural degree.

You may already know that you will want to pursue a NAAB accredited professional degree to meet the EDUCATION component of becoming an architect.

Before selecting an architecture program, you need to understand the different paths to obtaining a Natioal Architectural Accredited Board (NAAB) ( accredited degree.  Because there is more than one path, this may be confusing.  To become an architect, you will need to set an educational goal to obtain a professional degree accredited by the NAAB.

NAAB accredits three different professional degrees:

  • Bachelor of Architecture: (five-year)
  • Master of Architecture: (four-year pre-professional undergraduate architecture degree or a four-year undergraduate degree (B.A./B.S.) in a field other than architecture)
  • Doctor of Architecture: (three-four years)


While your eventual goal will be to obtain a NAAB-accredited professional degree, you may wish to consider starting your path at a community college.  Some community college programs have articulation agreements with programs at four-year institutions allowing a seamless transition. In addition, the cost of a community college education is MUCH less than a university education.

For more details, read the following:


The Bachelor of Architecture is an undergraduate five-year degree for students coming directly from high school. It is the oldest professional degree offered at the university level in the United States. Some schools, including Drexel University offer the B.Arch., but completing the degree may take more than five years because of work (cooperative education) programs that is required.

At most schools, enrolled students begin intensive architectural studies in the first semester and continue for the duration of the program. If you are highly confident in your choice of architecture as your academic major, pursuing a B.Arch. may be the ideal choice. If, however, you think you may not ultimately choose architecture, the five-year program is not forgiving, meaning that changing majors is difficult.

Recently, some programs offer a NAAB accredited non-baccalaureate Master of Architecture degree; in some cases, these programs transitioned from a B.Arch. to this “new” M.Arch.  While parallel to the B. Arch., these M.Arch. degrees may require an additional summer or semester of study resulting in either five+ or five-and-a-half years.  Some institutions may also provide an undergraduate pre-professional degree after four years.  For more details, contact each institution.



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. These degrees may have different actual titles—Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Architecture, Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies (B.S.A.S.), Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Architecture, Bachelor of Environmental Design (B.E.D.), Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) or Bachelor of Architectural Studies (B.A.S.).

The amount of architectural coursework in these pre-professional programs varies from program to program and determines the length of time required to complete further professional architectural studies, the M.Arch. Most pre-professional degrees are within universities that also offer the professional M.Arch. degree; however, others are offered within four-year liberal arts institutions. Your undergraduate degree may dictate the eventual length of your graduate program. Some graduate programs may be three years in length even though you have a pre-professional degree, although you may receive advanced standing or course waivers. Contact each graduate program for more details.

Another viable option for this particular route is to begin your studies at a community college. Often, the first two years of a B.S. degree are predominantly general education courses that can be taken at a community college. It is important, however, to be in touch with the institution at which you plan to continue your studies about what courses to take and when to apply.

Note that if you graduate with the pre-professional degree only, you will not be eligible to become licensed in most states. Therefore, if you desire to be a licensed architect, you should continue your studies and pursue the professional M.Arch. degree program. There are a few states in which you can pursue licensure with a pre-professional undergraduate degree, but you would not be able to obtain the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) Certificate  necessary for reciprocal licensure.

The professional M.Arch. is a graduate-level degree that typically lasts two to three years and offers a comprehensive professional education. The combination of the B.S. degree with the M.Arch. offers flexibility, as you can choose to take any number of years off to gain experience between the two degrees. Plus, you may choose to attend a different institution for your graduate studies.

Finally, a few institutions that offer the M.Arch. for individuals with the pre-professional architecture degree will require three years of study; these include most of elite institutions, but candidates may be eligible for some advanced standing.


A professional Master of Architecture program is available for candidates with an undergraduate degree in a field other than architecture (i.e., English, etc.). It offers a comprehensive professional education. Depending on the institution, this accredited M.Arch. will require between three and four years of study to complete. Some institutions may require that calculus, physics, and freehand drawing be taken prior to enrollment. Depending on your educational background, you may need to fulfill these prerequisites.

Some of these programs have the student begin coursework in the summer before the first semester, while others may require full-time study during a later summer semester. 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 consists of a four-year pre-professional degree plus three years of graduate study.  Those holding a non-pre-professional degree may require 3 ½ years of graduate study to complete the D. Arch.  The D. Arch. is unique in that it allows the graduate to fulfill the educational requirements for taking the licensing exam, whereas the post-professional doctoral degrees do not.

The University of Hawaii also offers the only dual degree program with an international partner.  Students with a pre-professional or professional architecture degree may enter into the three-year graduate program.  After a year of residency in Shanghai and successful completion of the second year at Tongji University, the students qualify for a Master of Architecture from Tongji accredited by the National Board of Architectural Accreditation (NBAA).  After successful completion of the third year in Hawaii, the students qualify for the D. Arch. accredited by NAAB.

Now, after learning some basics of the different paths for a degree in architecture, contact a few programs using our listing of architecture programs (with degrees identified) to begin your research.  From there, take notes on which of the degree paths may be best for you.

Architecture Programs



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