Just as there’s more than one way to build a house, there’s more than one way to become an architect.
In the past, it was simpler: getting a bachelor of architecture (BArch) degree was all one needed to become a working architect. Today, one can still join the architectural workforce with only a bachelor’s degree, but a broader range of options are now available.
Between 1965 and 1990, approximately 25 percent of American architecture students graduated with a master’s degree; by 2010, that figure had reached 40 percent, and now more doctoral programs are available to architects, too. But no degree program is strictly superior to any other in the architectural field, each simply serves a different purpose.
Read on to learn more about the types of architecture degrees available.
Bachelor’s degrees in architecture are the starting point for every aspiring architect. They generally fall into two categories: a bachelor of architecture degree (BArch), or a BS or BA in architecture.
The BArch is a professional degree, typically five years in length, accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB); it prepares one to become a licensed, working architect. A BS or BA in architecture is generally four years in length, regionally accredited, and can prepare candidates to pursue a master’s degree in the field.
Entrance requirements for bachelor’s in architecture programs will vary from school to school, but generally include some mix of the following: a competitive high school GPA; letters of recommendation; a personal statement; and SAT and/or ACT scores.
Dunwoody College of Technology (BArch)
Dunwoody College of Technology offers an online BArch degree as a degree-completion program. Students who have completed an associate’s degree in architectural drafting or a related field can transfer into the online BArch program at Dunwoody.
The program’s first year emphasizes design thinking and hands-on techniques, the second year focuses on research and participatory models using real-world projects, and the final year is split into two distinct studios. Including transferred courses, the program consists of 150 credits.
University at Buffalo (BS Architecture)
The University at Buffalo offers an on-campus, pre-professional bachelor of science in architecture program with a studio-based curriculum emphasizing thinking through making. It is home to one of the largest material shops for an architecture school and includes both conventional and digital fabrication technologies. The program is the foundation for the university’s master of architecture (MArch) degree. The program consists of 128 credits.
Master’s programs in architecture fall into two categories, the master of architecture (MArch) degree; and the MS or MA in architecture. The MArch degree is a professional degree and is typically for aspiring architects who do not have a BArch but a different undergraduate degree (e.g., a BA or BS in another field). The MS or MA in architecture is rare and is generally for those with research or academic aims.
MArch programs are typically 3.5 years in length; MS programs are typically two years. Admission requirements vary from school to school but generally include some combination of the following: an undergraduate degree in architecture or a related field; a portfolio of design, art, or other graphic work; letters of recommendation; a personal statement; and GRE and/or GMAT scores.
Boston Architectural College (MArch)
Boston Architectural College offers the first primarily online MArch degree accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). It is designed for students with an undergraduate degree in architecture or design with a strong work portfolio.
Students will engage in professional practice experiences with design firms, community projects, and research; by enrolling in the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) Architectural Experience Program (AXP), they may also be eligible to take their licensing exams while earning their degree. While most of the program can be completed online, students will need to participate in a series of eight-day residencies at BAC’s Boston campus.
University of Cincinnati (MS in Architecture)
The University of Cincinnati offers a post-professional master of science in architecture program at its Cincinnati, Ohio campus. The program focuses on acquiring critical skills related to architectural production, both built and theoretical.
The curriculum includes courses in advanced architectural theory, contemporary architectural theory, and critical theory and architecture. Students will complete a colloquium and a thesis. The program consists of between 42 and 45 credits.
Doctoral programs in architecture typically come in two forms: the PhD in architecture degree, and the doctor of architecture (DArch) degree.
The DArch degree is accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), but, as a relatively young degree format (the first DArch program was accredited in 1999), there are still limited offerings for it in the United States. It is a terminal degree in architecture. The PhD in architecture is generally for those who wish to contribute to research and education in the field of architecture. Both degrees include a significant critical component.
Doctoral programs in architecture generally include a mix of didactic coursework, hands-on experience, and a dissertation. Time to completion will vary, based on a student’s individual timeline: one can complete a doctoral degree in architecture in as few as 3.5 years or as many as seven.
Admissions requirements will also vary from school to school, but often include some combination of the following: a master’s degree in architecture or a related field; a portfolio of design, art, or other graphic work; letters of recommendation; a personal statement; and GRE and/or GMAT scores.
University of Missouri, Columbia (PhD Architectural Studies)
The University of Missouri, Columbia, offers an online PhD in architectural studies program that prepares students to conduct academic research that advances the field of architecture.
Students may choose to emphasize one of six different areas: aesthetics of design; design education; facility management and design; housing and neighborhood design; inclusive design and accessibility; or sustainable design. While no campus visits are required, students may attend an optional workshop in the summer to present research and receive feedback. The program consists of 72 credits.
University of Hawaii at Mānoa (DArch)
The University of Hawaii at Mānoa offers the first DArch program in the United States to be accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB).
The program focuses on guiding students through critical interrogations of architectural approaches; it includes a significant emphasis on Asia and the Pacific and culminates in a capstone project based on research and design. The program consists of 90 credits in total for those with a pre-professional degree, and 108 credits in total for those without.
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