What Is the Best Degree Path to Becoming an Architect?

Architect 1.2014If you’re considering a career as an architect, earning a degree in the field is a must. Bachelor of Architecture programs are both more time-consuming and more difficult to find than many prospective students may think, so choosing the right path for career preparation requires you to plan ahead.

Degree Options for Aspiring Architects

Bachelor’s degrees are generally considered four-year degrees, even though many students don’t actually graduate in just four years. In architecture, though, bachelor’s degree programs are designed to require five years of study, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These programs are for students with no existing experience working in or studying architecture. The National Architectural Accrediting Board currently recognizes only 58 Bachelor of Architecture degree programs across the nation. In addition to basic liberal arts courses, the curriculum in these specialized degree programs include subjects such as mathematics, physical sciences, construction methods, building structures and technology such as computer-aided design and drafting (CADD). An architecture student’s education will extend beyond book-learning to include hands-on work in a design studio, culminating in drawings and models.

A Bachelor of Architecture degree is the highest level of formal education required to begin working in the field of architecture. However, for established architects seeking to further their education, for purposes such as advancing their careers or becoming eligible for promotions to high-level positions, higher levels of education also exist. The National Architecture Accrediting Board also recognizes 95 Master of Architecture degree programs, which the BLS reports require between one and five years of study. Additionally, one school offers an accredited Doctor of Architecture degree, while others are in the process of developing a different professional degree program.

Beyond the Degree: Training, Exam and Licensure

Earning a college degree is only the first step toward becoming a full-fledged architect. There are still three other required parts of the process: getting hands-on experience through an internship, passing a qualifying examination and obtaining a state license.

Students in nearly every program of study wonder if they need to complete an internship, but for aspiring architects, an internship period really is mandatory. In most states, students have to gain three years of experience working with architectural firms, some of which can be completed while the student is still in school. Upon completing the relevant training requirements, students can take the Architect Registration Exam and apply for state licensure.

There are many steps on the path to becoming an architect, but don’t let the process overwhelm you. To start out, apply to a Bachelor of Architecture program that appeals to you, and plan devoting the next five years to learning the fundamentals. Working hard in school and retaining the information you learn will help you find an internship, succeed in your training and prepare for the Architect Registration Exam. Though each step in the process is important and necessary, doing well during your college career is imperative to your future success.

Brenda Rufener

Julie McCaulley

Carrie Sealey-Morris