Were you the type of kid who would make elaborate buildings out of your Legos? Do you stop to admire the aesthetics of an office building? Ever wonder how houses are designed and constructed? Architecture encompasses all of those things, and more. It involves the design of most any manmade structure you can think of: buildings, houses, offices, churches, schools, airport terminals, and sports arenas, to name a few. The field attracts people who are interested in the design of these structures, are imaginative, like to visualize and communicate things visually, are scientifically and mathematically inclined, and want to leave their mark on the world – literally.
A degree in architecture would teach you the fundamentals of architecture, from various theories, construction technology, building design, and design programs like CADD. Students come away knowing how to build something that is architecturally sound, fits in with surrounding environment, and is aesthetically pleasing. Depending on the schools and degree level, applicants may be able to earn an architecture degree online.
Classes and Assignments of an Architecture Major
Exact classes will vary by program and concentration, through generally, an architecture student can expect to take introductory courses like architecture history and modern architecture, fundamental courses like building design, structural behavior, spatial composition, architectural theory, and environmental systems and design integration, and practical courses like construction technology and architecture programs and media. Art classes may also come in handy. Areas of specialization within an architecture degree may include city planning, building construction, industrial design, digital design and fabrication, Geographic Information Systems, high-performance building, and health and design.
Architecture classes would require a mix of research and design. Design work is crucial to most architectural programs so that students can apply the skills and concepts they learned in their courses to create drawings and three-dimensional models of their designs. Internships are also highly recommended and provide an advantage when applying for positions after graduation.
Degree Levels for an Architecture Major
- Associate. Architecture work and advancement is limited at the associate degree level. A program would generally teach some fundamentals, such as graphic techniques involved in production of architectural working drawings. Upon graduation, students are prepared for entry-level work in drafting, or for continued study at the bachelor's level. In fact, most online associate architecture degrees are geared towards students looking to go on to earn online bachelors architecture degrees.
- Bachelor's. Most bachelor programs in architecture are pre-professional degrees. That means you need to graduate from a master's degree program to be eligible to sit for a licensing exam. A Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies (B.S.Arch) or a Bachelor of Art in Architectural Studies (B.A.Arch) would provide a foundation for continuing on to master's program. Programs are usually tied with a master's degree, and combined can be completed in five years, depending on the program. For potential architects, those are generally the best college degrees to earn, as they provide a comprehensive program in a shorter amount of time than a separate bachelor's and master's degree would take.
- Master's. As mentioned earlier, architects need online masters architecture degrees to practice. The degree also needs to be accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board, which is the sole agency authorized to accredit U.S. professional degree programs in architecture (you can search for NAAB-accredited programs on the board's website). Master's degree are usually connected with an undergraduate program, and combined, take about five years to complete. There are also one-year, online degrees available at this level for those who'd like a more flexible schedule — just make sure that it is an accredited online architecture degree. Upon graduation, an architect needs to work for at least three years to sit for a licensing exam.
- Doctoral. Architects interested in specializing in a field or enhancing their academic or professional experience may consider a doctorate degree. Areas of concentration include building construction, design computation, and organizational and cognitive performance. During the degree, students conduct research, teach, and develop knowledge and technologies in their area of study. Upon completion, they may stay at the university level and teach, hold senior positions in architectural firms, or work in consulting, government, or research organizations. For additional continuing education options at the graduate level, there are also online post graduate certificate programs in architecture.
A Future as an Architecture Major
Architecture work can greatly vary. An architect may work for a firm, builders, government agencies responsible for housing, community planning, or construction of government buildings, or be self-employed. They may help design hospitals, stadiums, or offices, or conduct research into building materials, technologies, or areas. To become professionally licensed, an architect usually needs to work for at least three years before he or she can sit for a licensing exam. A license will open up more possibilities for advancement within the field. Salary will vary based on skill level, employer, and location, though the mean annual wage for architects is $78,530, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The field is a competitive one, especially for the more prestigious firms. Though overall, employment is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations. According to the BLS, hiring of architects is expected to increase by 16% between the period from 2008-2018. This growth is owed to the increase in population, which will require new places for people to live and work. The BLS does anticipate a decline, though, in employment of lower-level architects and interns who produce drafts of construction documents and basic design for large-scale commercial and residential projects. This work is increasingly outsourced overseas. For the best opportunities, the BLS recommends that students obtain internships while in school.