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What Architecture Degrees are Available in the U.S?

Are you planning to pursue a career in architecture? An academic qualification in architecture or a related field is necessary for you to be eligible for licensure. There are different types of architecture degrees available in the US and which fall under different categories.

Architecture is a great career for numerous reasons. It’s also one of many travel jobs that lets you see the world, while working.

Professional architecture degrees

These architecture degrees are direct specializations in architecture and design. They are NAAB accredited courses and are the best type of courses to take up when applying for an architect’s license:

Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch)

The Bachelor of Architecture course is a 5-year undergraduate course that covers the fundamentals of architecture. You must complete 150 semester credit hours to pass this course. After you complete the B.Arch, you can directly start your Architectural Experience Program (AXP).

Master of Architecture (M.Arch)

The Master of Architecture course is a 2-year degree course that is optional for students who have completed their B.Arch. It allows you to specialize in a specific type of architecture and can be a great value addition during your AXP. Depending on the specialization you choose, your M.Arch may be 3-years too.

Doctor of Architecture (D.Arch)

The Doctor of Architecture is a course that is offered only at one institution, the University of Hawaii at Manoa. To qualify for the D.Arch, students must have completed 120 undergraduate semester credits and 90 graduate semester credits.

Non-professional architecture degrees accepted for licensure

Due to a variety of reasons, students are sometimes unable to pursue formal courses in architecture. In such a case, you can pursue a non-professional degree, which is 4-years long in duration. The following courses are accepted by licensing bodies for an architecture license:

Bachelor of Arts in Architecture (BA)

The Bachelor of Arts in Architecture is a program that includes 108 required credits, 15 elective credits, and 60 integrative studies credits. Students will learn the fundamentals of architecture in terms of artistic design, but will not focus on the technical aspects of the field. This program is closer to a liberal arts degree than a technical degree.

Bachelor of Science in Architecture (BS)

The Bachelor of Science in Architecture is a program that focuses more on the material and technology aspect of architecture, as opposed to the design. Here, students study architecture, but with a focus on making the science behind construction and design more eco-friendly, durable, and practical. Students need to complete 123 semester credits to pass the BS course.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Architecture (BFA Arch)

The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Architecture is a highly-specialized course that teaches students about architecture from a cultural and historical design perspective. Students focus on the artistic elements of both classic and contemporary architecture, learning how to design and plan aesthetically beautiful buildings and public spaces.

Students must complete 180 hours of learning to pass this course.

Bachelor of Environmental Design (B.Envd or B.E.D.)

The Bachelor of Environmental Design is a specialized undergraduate program that focuses on the intersection between environmental studies and architecture. Students learn how to design sustainable and eco-friendly properties using practices like permaculture, rainwater harvesting, and zero-energy building, amongst others.

A total of 120 credits are required to pass this course.

It’s important to note that these degrees solely are not enough to get your licensure. These courses are not accredited by the NAAB, and you need to meet certain requirements to become eligible to sit for the Architect Registration Examination (ARE).

In the US, students from non-architecture backgrounds must mandatorily do a Master of Architecture from a NAAB accredited university. The NCARB has implemented the Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure program that allows students to club their undergraduate degree with the Master of Architecture program. So, for example, if you’ve pursued the Bachelor of Science in Architecture, you can club the 2-years Master’s course with it and take up both the courses in the same university.

Education alternatives for students with a non-NAAB accredited degree

Many times, students who do receive licensure after completing the Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure program and sitting for the ARE, may need to meet other requirements to retain their license.

For both such categories of people, the following options are available for licensure:

You must gain additional work experience

For this, you must complete the Architectural Experience Program twice. To become eligible for the two times AXP, students must:

  • Have held their architect license from the past three consecutive years in the US.
  • Have completed a degree that included architecture as a major study component from an accredited university in the US/Canada.
  • Have completed under 150 semester credits, of which 60 credits pertained to architecture coursework.

You must submit your NCARB Certificate Portfolio

The NCARB Certificate Portfolio is a way to match an architect’s expertise to the NCARB Education Standard. Here, you will have to provide detailed descriptions (with annotations) and evidence of the type of experience you have as an architect, the type of projects you’ve worked on, and how your expertise can add value to the US architecture industry.

This method is followed by licensed foreign/immigrant architects who need to meet NCARB requirements to offer their services in the United States. You can also follow this route if you do not qualify for the two times AXP option.

To qualify for this facility, you must:

  • Have a 3-year consecutive experience in the US as a licensed architect.
  • Have obtained an educational degree other than the accepted 4-year non-NAAB accredited courses.
  • You must get your expertise evaluated through the Education Evaluation Services for Architects (EESA) program

This is an extended requirement that must be met after applying for the NCARB Certificate Portfolio.

The EESA will share your transcripts and experience with the NCARB and compare them to the NCARB Education Standard. If there are any deficiencies, you will be notified, and you will have to study or gain experience as necessary.

What happens after you meet your educational requirements?

After you have completed your education in architecture, you can sit for the ARE exam. Once you pass the exam, you become a licensed architect who can start practicing in your US jurisdiction.

Before you take up your first project, remember to look into Architect Liability Insurance. Your job as an architect comes with potential risks. Clients may sue you for professional mistakes, errors and omissions. Architect Insurance will protect you from potential lawsuits, financial claims, and damages that you may face.

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