The architectural profession sits at the intersection of engineering and the visual arts, giving students and professionals alike a unique set of challenges that bridges multiple disciplines and often requires you to think outside the box. Earning a degree in architecture can give you the tools you need to succeed in the field's competitive career environment.
Undergraduate degrees in architecture typically come in two forms: academic degrees that prepare you for graduate study and professional degrees that aim to give you all the knowledge you need to become a licensed architect without a master's degree. Coursework in both types of program typically includes architectural drawing, structural principles, environmental impacts and more.
Fully or partially online degrees for architecture students can help you manage your course schedule in a way that plays well with your existing responsibilities. If you've been finding it difficult to fit your continued education into your lifestyle, don't overlook online architecture degrees.
Best Colleges for Architecture Degree Programs
We gathered data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) on around 200 U.S. architecture schools and analyzed it to find out which ones would take the top spots. Tap the button below if you want to learn more about how we calculated the scores and rankings, and read on for our list of the ten best colleges for architecture programs.
Our No. 1 best college for architecture earned its place at the top of the list by turning in strong finishes in numerous categories of our analysis. The University of Oregon had the second-highest graduation rate among schools that made our top ten, and just one other school committed a larger portion of its budget to instructional expenses like course development and classroom technology.
The bachelor's degree program in architecture at the University of Oregon leads to a Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) degree and takes five years to complete. An accelerated option may be available as well, particularly for students who transfer in some courses from a different architecture program accredited by the National Architecture Accrediting Board (NAAB).
This Lubbock, Texas, school charged a lower average amount for tuition and fees than all but three other schools on our list, but flexibility was the main reason it landed in the No. 2 spot overall. Not only did Texas Tech University report more than 41 percent online enrollment in 2015 -- meaning partially online architecture degrees may be available -- but campus-based students have access to certain weekend/evening degree programs.
The Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in architecture program at Texas Tech is a pre-professional program for students who have earned up to 66 transfer credits in architecture at another institution. Texas Tech partners with El Paso Community College to assist first-year students in getting the lower division credits they need to enroll.
Boston Architectural College is the smallest institution on our list by far, awarding just 201 degrees in total in 2015, but it's also got the largest proportion of architecture majors in its student body. Nearly 80 percent of those graduates from this Eastern Seaboard school -- 159 out of 201 -- left the school with degrees in architecture.
Undergraduates have two options at the BAC. The B.S. in architecture degree is a four-year pre-professional program that leads into the school's two-year accelerated Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) program. The B.Arch. degree follows a full professional degree plan that prepares students to sit for the various divisions of the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) and work toward becoming licensed architects.
The Fargo campus of North Dakota State University ranked No. 5 among best schools for architecture on our list, for the affordability of its average cost of tuition and fees and tied for the second-best student faculty ratio in our top ten. It also had the second-highest rate of distance education enrollment in 2015 and offers select degree plans that can be completed exclusively with weekend and evening classes.
Professional architectural education at NDSU takes the form of a five-year blended undergraduate and graduate path, starting out as a B.S. in architecture program that gradually transitions into an M.Arch. beginning in the senior year of the undergraduate plan. The fifth year of the program focuses on intensive classroom and studio work and culminates in a design thesis project.
Kansas State University scored high marks for flexibility, offering alternative tuition payment plans, placement services for alumni and weekend/evening degree programs for on-campus students. The Manhattan, Kansas, school also posted a higher graduation rate than all but four of the other schools that made our top ten.
Architecture degree programs at K-State cover a wide array of subjects in the discipline, including structure, sustainability, environmental systems, construction, accessibility, computer design and regulatory issues like zoning and code compliance. No undergraduate degree in architecture is available here, but graduate students can choose between a Master of Science (M.S.) in architecture program, designed for working architects with a B.Arch. degree, and an M.Arch. for students with bachelor's degrees in other disciplines.
The second-lowest tuition and fees average of any school that made our top ten can be found at California State Polytechnic University's Pomona campus, where students paid a mean figure of just over $7,000 for the full year's enrollment expenses in 2015. The prestigious institution also posted our list's fourth-best graduation rate and reported that more than 26 percent of students took at least some of their classes online.
There's just one undergraduate architecture degree available at Cal Poly Pomona: a five-year B.Arch. program that culminates in a senior project that spans two academic quarters. Graduate students can choose between a conventional M.Arch. program and a Master of Interior Architecture (M.Int.Arch) program that's accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA).
The numbers suggest that student success is a high priority at this Alabama institution. Not only did Auburn University post the highest graduation rate among our top ten schools, but it earmarked fully half of its 2015 budget for instructional and academic support expenses like student advising, career counseling and classroom tech.
First offered more than 110 years ago, the architecture program at Auburn is one of the oldest in the country. Undergraduates have four architecture degree programs to choose from -- architecture, interior architecture, environmental design and pre-landscape architecture -- of which the first two are earned simultaneously in one five-year program if, as a second-year student, you decide to opt into the interior design study track.
University of Idaho students likely have access to personalized time with professors and advisors when they need it, thanks to a student-faculty ratio that ranked No. 2 among best architecture schools on our list. The Moscow, Idaho, school also just narrowly lost out on the No. 2 spot in our affordability category, posting a third-lowest tuition and fees average of $7,020 in 2015.
B.S. degree plans in both architecture and landscape architecture are available here, as well as a NAAB-accredited M.Arch. degree, an M.S. in integrated architecture and design and a Master of Landscape Architecture program. What's more, architecture graduate students at the University of Idaho have access to an Urban Design Center (UDC) and an Integrated Design Lab (IDL) in nearby Boise to help deepen their study.
Just two other schools on our list posted higher graduation rates than the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the flagship campus of the Cornhusker State's university system. The Midwestern institution also posted the third-highest percentage of students enrolled at least partially in distance education courses, which suggests that partially online degrees for architecture students may be available.
The 120-credit Bachelor of Science in Design (B.S.D.) in architecture at UNL leads directly into the school's M.Arch. program, which emphasizes design and research and prepares students to address real-world challenges in the field. A four-year undergraduate program for aspiring landscape architects focuses on interdisciplinary work, aiming to synthesize the study of architecture, interior design and planning into a well-rounded plan of instruction.
Coming in at No. 10 of best colleges for architecture is Montana State University, where students paid the lowest average cost for basic enrollment expenses of any school that made our list. The average bill for tuition and fees at Montana State University came in at $6,849 in 2015, which is about $2,800 more affordable than the mean average cost among our top ten schools.
A four-year Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) program awaits architecture undergraduates at MSU, who can also witness various applications of the principles of architecture and design to real-world problems at the school's Community Design Center (CDC). All bachelor's students in architecture here are required to apply to the school's environmental design program, which requires a 3.0 GPA and accepts 91 students each year.
Architecture Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
Architecture degree programs can prepare you for a few distinct careers in the fields of architecture and design. If you know which direction you'd like to go with your career after graduation, make sure to sit down with your undergraduate advisor and set up your schedule of courses and extracurricular activities to match your goals.
Career Outlook for Architecture Majors
The employment climate for various architectural careers is changing, and staying on top of its expected movements can help you navigate your plunge into working world after graduation with as few unpleasant surprises as possible. Take a look at these employment projections for jobs typically available to graduates of architecture schools.
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
|Urban and Regional Planners||$76,240||37,840||10.7%|
|Architects, Except Landscape and Naval||$88,860||104,360||8.4%|
|Architects, Surveyors, and Cartographers||$80,300||179,380||7.8%|
|Drafters, All Other||$54,240||14,580||4.4%|
|Architectural and Civil Drafters||$56,700||97,610||1.8%|
|Drafters, Engineering Technicians, and Mapping Technicians||$59,410||675,960||1.6%|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Architecture
Along with the federal government and individual university departments, charitable organizations like the Foundation for Enhancing Communities and the Association for Women in Architecture Foundation offer architecture scholarships and other financial aid to applicants who qualify. Here's a short list of aid programs for eligible students pursuing architecture degrees.
Recipient must reapply for renewal.
To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific subject being ranked.
- Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor’s) in that subject.
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in the most recent year of IPEDS data available.
Based on those criteria, we ranked all 2-year and 4-year schools in IPEDS that reported data for all of the following points. Ratings are calculated on a 10-point scale, using the weights specified.
- In-state undergraduate tuition & fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Accessibility, based on admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Institutional spending, based on two equally weighted factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student
- Instructional and academic support spending as a percentage of all expenses
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Flexibility, based on the following factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
- Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
- Whether the school offers job placement services for students who complete their programs
- Whether the school offers any alternative tuition plans, such as a payment plan or guaranteed rate
- Size of program, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015