Architects plan and design modern structures including city buildings, residential homes, shopping centers, hospitals, and factories. Architects require specialized skills and expertise to develop everything from individual rooms to downtown skyscrapers. To succeed as an architect, you must pair an engineer’s technical prowess with an artist’s creative eye.
The road to a career in architecture may take some time, with many industry professionals reporting up to 11 years to become fully licensed. To start a career as an architect, the minimum educational requirement is a Bachelor of Architecture degree. Upon completion of this degree, potential architects can sit for the Architect Registration Examination.
Bachelor of Architecture Program (B.Arch.)
For some bachelor’s programs, potential students must earn sufficient entrance exam scores and submit a portfolio to showcase a talent for design. Some programs may require an interview to gauge interest in the architecture curriculum. Earning an undergraduate degree in architecture consists of studying a range of topics including project planning, architecture theory, and practical structure design. Students engage in studio courses geared to enhance leadership skills and develop critical thinking through design and planning-focused projects. Courses to earn a bachelor’s degree in architecture include:
- Structure design
- Graphic design
- CAD software
- Building development and construction
- Physical sciences
- Architecture history
- Sustainable design
In most cases, the bachelor’s program for architecture is a five-year program. During the final year, students gain practical experience while completing work at a professional firm with a licensed architect. This is one of the main differences between this program and a Bachelor of Science in Architecture program.
Bachelor of Science in Architecture (B.S. Arch.)
A Bachelor of Science in Architecture degree offers a more broad curriculum for potential architects. This program allows students to study niche areas of architecture like construction management or environmentally-focused building design. The Bachelor of Science in Architecture degree is aimed at students who are deciding if a degree in architecture is the right fit. This program is designed to complement coursework that prepares students to earn a master’s degree in architecture.
When studying for a Bachelor of Science degree, students will obtain critical thinking skills and vital knowledge of technical design. Unlike the Bachelor’s of Architecture degree, a Bachelor’s of Science degree is completed in four years. After two years of master’s coursework, students in this program will have the educational credentials to sit for the Architect Registration Exam.
The three primary steps to becoming a licensed architect include:
- Degree: Earn a professional degree in architecture accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB)
- Internship: Receive professional practice and experience with a licensed architect
- Final Exam: Pass multiple comprehensive exams referred to as the Architect Registration Exam (ARE)
A master’s program offers students with a bachelor’s degree the opportunity to specialize in a specific area like sustainable design or city planning. Students pursuing a master’s degree must display advanced experience in designing buildings, construction technology, architecture theory, and Computer-Aided Design. Many master’s programs require the student to submit reference letters from professors and provide a portfolio to showcase previous work. Courses to earn a master’s degree in architecture include:
- Building science
- Architectural engineering
- Environmental sustainability
- Design studio
- Digital design
- Architecture criticism
- Design theory
The master’s program serves as a graduation from the bachelor’s program and offers advanced concepts in design. This program complements undergraduate coursework with more in-depth knowledge of theory and history. Students in the master’s program must display an enhanced understanding of architecture principles. Most master’s programs are completed in three years.
Certification and Licensing
Architects are required to earn a license in every state. While specific requirements vary from state to state, architects are required to pass a written exam and complete an internship to receive licensing. Some states require architects to undergo continuing education to ensure basic knowledge and practical applications remain up-to-date.
Many architects voluntarily apply for certification with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. To receive certification, the architect must pass the Architect Registration Exam, earn an undergraduate degree in architecture, graduate from a master’s architecture program, and complete an Intern Development Program.
With architecture expected to grow 7% by 2024, the need for licensed architects is at an all-time high. From sustainable design to architectural progression, architects are needed to renovate existing buildings and design innovative new facilities. With the advancement of Computer-Aided Design and Drafting (CADD) and Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology, the work of architects has become more efficient and productive.
Whether you opt to receive a Bachelor’s of Architecture degree or a Bachelor’s of Science in Architecture degree, the road to a promising career in architecture requires hands-on experience, completing advanced coursework, and passing the Architecture Registration Exam.