Decision-Making Process: YOU

Regardless of the architecture degree you may pursue, how do you select an architecture program? After learning about the many degree programs, choosing among them may seem a daunting task; over 135 institutions in the United States and Canada offer professional architecture degree programs. However, if you analyze the criteria that are most important, you can quickly narrow your search and manage this process.

Decision-Making Process does NOT need to be difficult

Consider that your formal education in architecture is only one-third of the path to architectural licensure. There are three Es to complete before becoming an architect: (1) education—a professional NAAB-accredited degree (Canadian Architectural Certification Board [CACB-CCCA] in Canada), (2) experience—fulfilling the requirements of the Architect Experience Program (AXP), and (3) examination—satisfactorily passing the Architect Registration Examination (ARE).

When choosing the institution where you will pursue your architecture degree, strongly consider the following:

  • Ensure that you eventually pursue the accredited degree program. Degree programs are accredited by the NAAB (or the CACB-CCCA in Canada), not the institution itself. (For a current list of institutions offering accredited programs, see Appendix B.)
  • Be sure to understand the possible paths to obtaining your professional architecture degree: (1) bachelor of architecture; (2) master of architecture, following a pre-professional architecture degree or a degree from another discipline and (3) doctor of architecture. Each path has advantages and limitations. Consider which is best suited for you, which will help narrow your choices.
  • Identify the typical coursework offered in most, if not all, architecture programs: design studio, structures, systems, graphics/drawing, architectural history, general education, computer, site, professional practice, programming, and architecture electives.

You know the degree paths, the list of architectural programs, and the courses offered, but what is most important to you? Think about the criteria listed below in the following categories: You, Institution, and Architecture Program. Take time to think about answers to the questions posed and write them down.

By going through this process, you will be better matched with your eventual college choice and more confident in your decision. As you develop criteria on which to base your decision, certain degree programs and universities will surface as logical choices.


Consider the following attributes prior to selecting a school and an architecture program:

Level of confidence: What is your confidence level in becoming an architect? Do you want options as you progress through college, or do you want to dive right into architecture?

For example, if you are not completely confident in becoming an architect, you may consider a program that offers the pre-professional four-year bachelor of science; this way you can begin to explore architectural studies but not in full force, as in a professional B.Arch. program.

Personality type: What type of person are you? Will you feel more comfortable at a large school or a small school? This is a difficult criterion to nail down but also a critical one. Ask yourself, “Will I be comfortable here?”

Closeness to home: How close do you wish to be to home with respect to miles or time? Proximity to home is typically a top reason for selecting a school. If it is important to you, draw a circle on a map around your hometown indicating your desired distance from home.

What schools are inside the circle you have drawn? However, challenge that notion and select the school that is best for you regardless of its location. You should consider each of the over 135 accredited architecture programs. Narrow the choices later based on other criteria.

Budget: Do you have a specific budget for college? Obviously, with college costs increasing at a rate greater than inflation, cost is an important criterion. However, recognize that your college education is an investment in your future. Remember, once you have your education, no one can take it away.

Next week, we will introduce — Institution Criteria.

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