How to Select an Undergraduate Program


When picking a school, there is an ideal match for everyone. Our goal is to help you find that match. First, find out if the school offers professional or preprofessional degrees. Professional degree at the undergraduate level is the Bachelors of Architecture, or the B.Arch. The B.Arch. is an accredited degree that typically takes 5 years of full time study, and qualifies you to take the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®). Before taking the ARE you need to enroll in an internship program. This usually takes about 3 years, but you can do much of your internship while still in school.

A four year major in architecture is considered a preprofessional degree, and requires you to later receive a Masters of Architecture, or M.Arch., in order to become a licensed architect. The Masters track also requires an internship. Some schools offer an undergraduate preprofessional degree, specifically designed to be followed by a Masters degree at the same institution. These programs are typically 6 years in total and commonly referred to as the 4+2 program. The last 2 years in this program, at the Masters level, constitutes the accredited portion.

It’s a good idea to fully understand the accreditation status of a program before you apply. Architecture degrees can be complicated. So try to find out as much as you can before you apply, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.


You should spend some time thinking about both your professional and personal goals. If you have always wanted to be an architect, the B.Arch. might be the fastest way for you to get your license. But if you’re interested in design, but not sure which aspect, that’s okay too. If that’s the case, you might consider a B.Arch. program that offers the opportunity to transfer into other programs at the same school after 1 or 2 years, such as interiors, or planning. You might also consider a preprofessional program in architecture or other design related disciplines. This course of study will provide you with a broad liberal arts education to prepare you to later study architecture at the Masters level, in order to get your license.


On the personal side, you might think about your ideal setting for learning. This might be at a large public university or a small private college. A large school might offer a great diversity of programs and studio offerings, while a small school might specialize in one or two things, such as sustainability or community design. Whether those schools are in a city or small town, might also matter to you. An urban university can offer better access to internships, while a school in a small town might offer a quality of life better suited to you. Not sure where to start? Take our Quiz on the homepage.


This is where finances come into play. Public universities are designed to be affordable, especially if you live in a state that the university is in. Many public universities publish their return on investment to put the cost in context. You might want to look at those. Urban schools might have a higher cost of living, but schools in a small town might compel you to bring a car. You should also find out what kind of teaching assistantships a school offers and what sorts of scholarships, loans, and grants you can apply for. Ask if there is an honors program and find out what the qualification requirements are.


Most importantly, you want to find out what the school’s philosophy is. What is its specialty? What does it emphasize? Some schools, especially bigger ones, might have more than one specialty. Try to find out what a school is known for and see if that appeals to you. You can start by exploring and visiting school websites. Most schools have videos or galleries showing student work. Visit to see student and faculty work from a variety of architecture schools and decide what appeals to you. This gives you a flavor of what the various institutions are all about. Don’t forget to read the school’s mission statement, or message from the dean or chair. Also, look at a school’s catalog and read some of the course descriptions. This is where you will find out what the school’s real focus is. Most schools with a graduate program allow undergraduate students to take graduate courses one you reach a certain level. Here are some other questions you might ask: Does the school provide opportunities to design and build real structures? Are there connections with local communities, where you can apply your design skills while still in school? Does the school have a coop or internship program? Is there a program for study abroad? If so, where and for how long? Understanding each of these opportunities gives you a better idea of what the school’s philosophy is.


In the end, architecture is a profession and the school you choose will prepare you. Each school balances the technical and the artistic in different ways. The community of disciplines that an architecture program surrounds itself with tells you a great deal about it. You might want to ask what the school’s connection is to engineering or construction. Are there interior and industrial design programs that share faculty, and can you take one of those courses? Are there other programs, such as theater or fashion, that you want to take courses in? If those courses are at a nearby sister school, how easy is it to enroll? Can you double major? Some schools allow you to customize your degree. It’s a good idea to find out to what your options are before applying if that is important to you.


Find out how the school you are considering teaches digital media. Will you have to rely on your laptop, or will you have access to a powerful computer at your desk with all the software you need? Does your school teach you to produce elaborate renderings or does it also focus on data analysis? What kinds of software are available? Building information modeling, often referred to as BIM, is increasingly becoming a necessary tool in the profession. Based on how and where you want to practice, you may want to find out a school’s approach to BIM. How a school teaches an awareness of digital tools can significantly impact your future.


Find out who will be teaching you. One benefit of a large urban school is that it draws working professionals from a wide range of backgrounds. This might be adjunct professors who teach one course or studio. These professionals bring the very latest practice approaches and might expose you to the widest range of ideas. A college in a smaller town might have a higher range of new professors who each bring specific design or research interests. See if you might have the opportunity to intern with them. Some of the schools might bring in faculty for short but intense bursts of activities. These individuals will have a significant impact on shaping your future, so it helps to get an idea of who they are before applying.


Architects are shapers and custodians of the physical environment. We strongly recommend visiting the school you are applying to. Spend some time in the facilities. Walk through the studios. Try to sit in on a final review. Is there a gallery? What kinds of exhibits does it show? Also, visit the library. Take note, is it in the school or across campus? Look at what kind of shop facilities there are. School increasingly include more digital tools like laser cutters and 3D printers. Ask about their availability and if there is a cost associated with using them. Some architecture schools have relationships with other university departments and their resources. Ask how accessible those might be. Architecture school is going to be your home away from home for quite some time. So think about whether it’s a good fit.


During your time in architecture school you will probably be spending most of your time in studio, so try and visit it while school is in session. Things you might look for are: What is the quality of the space? How much space will you have allocated to you? Will you have room to build large models?


When you visit the school and studios, try to talk to as many students as you can. It is often said that you learn as much from your classmates as you do from your professors. Get a feel for how large the student population is and how diverse they are. Explore the school’s social media to see what students are doing and talking about. Many schools have student organizations like American Institute of Architecture Students, the student chapter of the American Institute of Architects. AIAS chapters do lots of things like organize lectures, workshops, and lead field trips. Try to find out about other organizations like Tau Sigma Delta and Alpha Rho Chi. These are honor societies, and some are residential.


Be sure to explore our Where to Study section to learn more about the schools and check out the What to Know page for more information on studying architecture.

The Animator: An Unexpected Journey

In a studio in New Zealand there lived an animator. Not a cold, lifeless studio void of creativity and laughter, nor a bland, boring studio with nothing to play with or draw on: it was an animator’s studio, and that meant excitement.

If you didn’t read The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, you might not recognize the passage above which is adapted from “Chapter 1: An Unexpected Party.” Today, we have the immense pleasure of emerging from the Hobbit hole with Eric Saindon. For those of whom don’t know his name, you definitely know his work. Eric is an animator for Weta Digital (the folks responsible for Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, iRobot, Avatar, and many more). What a résumé, #amiright?


Eric Saindon and Peter Jackson on the set of The Hobbit

The moment our team learned that he graduated from architecture school at Washington State, we actually did a little dance around the office because that meant we had a reason to interview him! So our fearless writer emailed him an invitation to chat and 30 minutes later, he wrote back enthusiastically, “Sure! When are you free?”

That brings us to a sunny Thursday afternoon in Washington D.C. (and sixteen hours ahead in New Zealand) where we got to chat with Eric about his time in architecture school, post-grad life, why he chose to pursue animation, and everything in between.

Read more

Summer Architecture Programs

Follow @DocArchitecture

New Programs added by @acsaupdate


Barnard College – New York, NY
June 26 – July 23, 2016 (4 weeks)

Boston Architectural College – Boston, MA
July 2016                                                                                                            

Carnegie Mellon University – Pittsburgh, PA­‐college-­‐architecture
June 25 -­‐  August 6, 2016 (6 weeks)

Catholic University of America – Washington, DC­‐programs/experiences-­‐in-­‐architecture.cfm
July 11 – 29, 2015 (3 weeks)

Center for Architecture – New York, NY
June 20 – August 26, 2016 (week long Architecture Camps Grades 3-­‐12)

City College of New York – New York, NY­‐lab.html
June 27 – July 29, 2016 (4 weeks)

Columbia University – New York, NY­‐architecture
July 6 – August 5, 2016 (5 weeks)

Cooper Union – New York, NY­‐architecture-­‐summer-­‐programs
July 5 –  29, 2015

Cornell University – Ithaca, NY
June 20 – August 1, 2016 (6 weeks)

Design Science Lab –  Chestnut Hill College – Philadelphia, PA
June 19–27, 2016 (1 week)

Drexel University – Philadelphia, PA
July 10 – 23, 2016 (2 weeks)

Harvard University – Cambridge, MA
June 13 – July 22, 2016 (6 weeks)

Fallingwater – Mill Run, PA
July 9 – 16; July 24 – 30, 2016

Maryland Institute College of Art
June 25 – July 23, 2016 (4 weeks)

University of Maryland College Park
July 10 – 29, 2016 (3 weeks)

Marywood University – Scanton, PA
July 18 – 29, 2016 (2 weeks)

University of Massachusetts Amherst – Amherst, MA
July 10 – 30, 2016 (3 weeks)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Boston, MA – ­ ‐ !2015-three-public-squares/c11cd

National Building Museum – Washington, DC
July 5 – 8; July 11 – 22; August 1 – 12, 2016

New Jersey Institute of Technology – Newark, NJ
July 10 – 15, July 17 – 22, 2016 (1 week)

New York Institute of Technology – Old Westbury, NY

July 6 – 28, 2016 (4 weeks)

Norwich University – Northfield, VT
July 10 – July 16, 2016

Parsons The New School For Design – New York, NY
June 27 – July 29, 2016 (5 weeks), July 11 – 29, 2016 (3 weeks), August 8 – 19, 2016 (2 weeks)

Pennsylvania State University – State College, PA

University of Pennsylvania – Philadelphia, PA
July 3 – 30, 2016 Residential (4 weeks); July 4 – 29, 2016 Day (4 weeks)

Pratt Institute –  Brooklyn, NY
July 5 – 29, 2016 (4 weeks)

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – Troy, NY
July 10 – 22, 2016 (2 weeks)

Rhode Island School of Design – Providence, RI
June 25 – August 6, 2016

Roger Williams University – Bristol, RI
July 3 – 30, 2016 (4 weeks)

Syracuse University – Syracuse, NY
July 3 – 30, 2016 (6 weeks)

Temple University – Philadelphia, PA
July 11 – 22, 2016 (2 weeks)

Yale University – New Haven, CT
June 26 – July 16, 2016; July 17 – August 6, 2016 (3 weeks)



AIA Memphis/University of Memphis – Memphis, TN

Auburn University – Auburn, AL

June 19 – 24; July 10 –  15, 2016 (1 week)

Clemson University – Clemson, SC
June 12 – 18 (1 week), June 26 – July 2, 2016 (2 weeks) 

Florida Atlantic University – Boca Raton, FL
June 13-24; July 11-22; July 25 – August 2, 2016 (2 weeks)

University of Florida – Gainesville, FL
June 19 – July 8, 2016 (3 weeks)

Georgia Institute of Technology –  Atlanta, GA
June 20 – July 1, 2016 (2 weeks)

Kennesaw State University
July 12 – 28, 2016 (3 weeks)

Louisiana State University – Baton Rouge, LA
June 12 – 17, 2015 (1 week)

University of Miami – Miami, FL
July 5 – 25, 2016 (3 weeks, full-time in-residence)

Mississippi State University – Starkville, MS June 10 – 17, 2016 (1 week)

University of North Carolina at Charlotte – Charlotte, NC
June 12 – June 17, 2016 (1 week)

North Carolina State University – Raleigh, NC
June 27 – July 1; July 11 –15, 2016; (day)
June 12 – 18; July 24 – 30, 2016 (overnight) (1 week)

Savannah College of Arts & Design – Atlanta and Savannah, GA
June 20 – July 22, 2016 (5 weeks)

University of Tennessee – Knoxville, TN
July 10 – 15, 2016 (1 week)

Tulane University – New Orleans, LA
July 10 – 29, 2016 (3 weeks)

Tuskegee University – Tuskegee, AL summer_program.aspx

Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University – Blacksburg, VA
June 26 – July 1, 2016 (1 week)



Andrews University – Berrien Springs, MI
June 11 – 22 (2 weeks) June 13 – 17; June 20 – 24; June 27 – July 1; July 4 – 8; July 6 – 17, 2016 (1 week)

Ball State University – Muncie, IN

July 10 – 22, 2016 (2 weeks)

University of Cincinnati – Cincinnati, OH
June 6 – 10, 2016 (Day); June 19 – 25, 2016 (Residential)

Cranbrook Summer Art Institute – Bloomfield Hills, MI
July 18 – 29, 2016 (2 weeks)

University of Detroit Mercy – Detroit, MI
June 20 – 24, 2016 (1 week)

Drury University – Springfield, MO
June 6 – 17, 2016

Lawrence Technological University – Detroit, MI
June 20 – 24, 2016 (1 week); July 11 – 15, 2016 (1 week); July 18 – 29, 2016 (2 weeks)

Miami University – Oxford, OH
July 3 – 15, 2016 (2 weeks)

University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, MI
July 11 – August 1, 2016 (3 weeks)

University of Notre Dame – Notre Dame, IN
June 12 – 24, 2016 (2 weeks)



Institute of Technology – Chicago, IL
July 4 – 15, 2016 (Commuter); July 17 – 30, 2016 (Residential) (2 weeks)
August 1 – 15, 2016

University of Illinois at Chicago – Chicago, IL (college students/working professionals)
July 5 – 29, 2016 (4 weeks) (high school students)
July 11 – 15, 2016 (1 week)

University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign – Champaign, IL
June 19 – July 2; July 10 – 23, 2016 (2 weeks)

Iowa State University – Ames, IA

Judson University – Elgin, IL
July 10 – 15, 2016 (1 week)

Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska-Lincoln – Lincoln, NE
June 5 – June 11, 2016 (1 week)

University of Oklahoma – Norman, OK

Oklahoma State University – Stillwater, OK
June 13 – 18, 2016 (1 week)

School of the Art Institute of Chicago – Chicago, IL
June 13 – 24, June 27 – July 8, 2016 (2 weeks)

Southern Illinois University – Carbondale, IL

Taliesin – Summer Immersion Program – Spring Green, WI
May 31 – July 29, 2016 (8 weeks)

Washington University in St. Louis –  St. Louis, MO
July 10 – July 23, 2016 (2 weeks)

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee – Milwaukee, WI
July 31 – August 6, 2016 (1 week)

Weisman Art Museum – Minneapolis, MN
August 1 – 5, 2016 (1 week)



University of Arkansas – Fayetteville, AR
June 13 – 17; June 20 – 24; June 27 – July 1, 2016 (1 week)

University of Houston – Houston, TX
June 13 – July 15, 2016 (5 weeks)

Prairie View A&M University – Prairie View, TX

Rice University – Houston, TX

Texas A&M University – College Station, TX
July 3 – 9, 2016 (1 week)

University of Texas at Austin – Austin, TX
June 13 – July 15, 2016 (5 weeks)

University of Texas at San Antonio – San Antonio, TX architecture-interior-design/
June 6 – 17, 2016 (2 weeks)



Architectural Foundation of San Francisco – San Francisco, CA

Architecture + Design Museum – Los Angeles, CA

Arcosanti – Mayer, AZ

Arizona State University – Phoenix, AZ
June 27 – July 1, 2016 (1 week)

University of Arizona – Tucson, AZ
June 6 – 10 (6th-8th); June 13 – 17  (9th-12th);

June 20 – 24 (6th-8th); June 27 – July 1 (9th-12th) (1 week)

University of California, Berkeley – Berkeley, CA
July 5 –  August 12, 2016 (6 weeks) – College   Graduates
July 5 – 29, 2016 (4 weeks) – High School
June 5 – August 5, 2016 (5 weeks) –   College

University of Los Angeles – Los Angeles, CA
July 5 – July 19, 2016 (4 weeks)

California College of the Arts – San Francisco,  CA
June 27 – July 22, 2016 (4 weeks)

Making Architecture
June 5-29, 2016

Illuminating Interiors
August 12 – 13 and 19 – 20th, 2016

August 1-5 and 8-12, 2016

California Polytechnic State University, SLO – San Luis Obispo, CA
June 19 – July 15, 2016 (4 weeks)

University of Idaho – Moscow, ID
June 19 – 25, 2016 (1 week)

La Jolla Historical Society Young Architects Summer Camp – La Jolla, CA

Los Angeles Institute of Architecture and Design

Newschool of Architecture and Design – San Diego, CA
June 22 – July 2, 2015 (2 weeks); July 6 – 17, 2015 (2 weeks)

University of Oregon – Eugene, OR
July 11 – August 5, 2016 (4 weeks)

University of Oregon – Portland, OR

Portland State University – Portland, OR
July 18 – August 12, 2016 (4 weeks)

Project H Design / Camp H for Girls – Berkeley, CA
April 7 – May 26, 2016 (Thursdays)

Project Pipeline NOMA Chapters – Various Cities 

Southern California Institute of Architecture – Los Angeles, CA
July 11 – August 5, 2016 (4 weeks) (college students and graduates)
June 20 – July 16, 2016 (4 weeks) (high school students)

University of Southern California – Los Angeles, CA
June 19 – July 16, 2016 (4 weeks); June 19 – July 3, 2016 (2 weeks)

Taliesin Preservation – Spring Green, WI
June 6 – 10, June 13 – 17, June 20 – 24, June 27 – July 1, 2016 (1 week)

University of Washington – Seattle, WA
June 20 – August 19, 2016 (9 weeks) 



Architectural Association – London, ENGLAND
July 4 – 22, 2016 (3 weeks)

CIAO! Center for Introduction to Architecture Overseas – Pontano, ITALY July 2-23, 2016 (3 weeks)

International Summer School – Tamil Nadu, INDIA

The Tasis Summer Program – France
June 25 – July 16, 2016 (4 weeks)

Design Quest / Design Day / Skill Up Workshops (RIBA) – London, England
February to April 2016


Choosing Your Path

So, you want to study architecture? Here’s what you should consider when choosing a program. With few exceptions, this path starts with earning a professional degree. At one extreme, a high school student may enter a professional program; at the other extreme, a 4-year college graduate may make a mid-career decision to become an architect, and can enroll in a three-year professional graduate program.

It is never too late to study architecture. However, it is important that students be aware of the differences among degree paths and enroll in a program that is appropriate for their interests and long-term career plans.

What is a “Professional” Degree?

Schools of architecture are not accredited—only specific professional degree programs are accredited. There are 141 universities offering ‘professional’ architecture degree programs in the United States and Canada. These degrees are either the Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) degree, the Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) degree, or Doctor of Architecture (D.Arch.) degree. Having a professional degree is important for meeting the educational qualifications necessary for architectural licensure. For up-to-date requirements on these requirements, contact the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and the Committee of Canadian Architectural Councils (CCAC).

However, accreditation does not mean that all schools are the same. Every program has has distinctive features and approaches to architectural education, and students can find programs that match their intellectual and career interests. Program features influence the kinds of courses students may take as well as the kinds of career opportunities available. The good part of considering these and other variables is that choosing a career in architecture is not just choosing a single track; many career options are available because schools of architecture celebrate and encourage diversity.

Paths to the Professional Degree

There are three typical paths to obtaining the professional degree in architecture:


Take a look at our infographic showing an architecture student’s journey.


1. The professional Bachelor of Architecture degree is often the most direct way of obtaining the professional degree required for licensure. This route normally takes a minimum of five years of study.

Although a five-year program provides the quickest route to satisfy the academic requirements for licensure, speed is not necessarily the best option for everyone. Many Bachelor of Architecture programs begin with a concentration of architecture courses in a fairly prescribed manner. The range of electives may be narrower and exposure to other fields limited. As a result, those who wish to transfer out of the program may have difficulty transferring certain credits.

Many Bachelor of Architecture programs, however, have devised curricular structures that allow flexibility for students. They break the curriculum into segments that provide logical entry and exit points from the various phases of the five-year program. In most schools, the student’s work is carefully reviewed before advancement to the next phase. Such points provide a relatively easy means of transfer into an architecture program; transfer to another institution, particularly between degrees; or transfer to another academic discipline.

Most professional degree programs also accept transfer students at the designated break points, but transfer credit is usually evaluated on an individual course-by-course and case-by-case basis. While the structure of some programs makes it relatively easy for a professional school to accept transfer students from both junior colleges and other colleges, it is recommended in most instances that a student considering an architecture degree start directly either at the professional school or at a school with a pre-professional program.

2. The Pre-professional degree plus professional Master’s degree (commonly referred to as the “4+2″ route) normally requires six years to complete, and offers more flexibility than a single five-year degree path. At the end of four years, the student has a pre-professional undergraduate degree in architecture. From that point, the student may decide to complete the Master of Architecture degree, spend a year or two fulfilling experience requirements, or change disciplines and pursue study in another field.

Pre-professional programs are not professionally accredited and vary with respect to title, emphasis, electives, requirements, and specific architecture offerings. They are, however, preparatory for advanced architectural or other environmental design fields.

3. The non-architecture degree plus professional master’s degree (commonly referred to as the “4+3” route) path is the third route. This route normally requires seven-and-a-half years of study (a four-year undergraduate degree plus a three-and-a-half-year Master of Architecture degree) and is usually taken by those who have embarked on a career other than architecture and later decide to study architecture. The immersion into architecture is quick and very intense. Be sure to talk to your school about their specific admission requirements into their graduate program.

What to Look for When Selecting a School

Because architecture programs vary so significantly, students should look carefully at their options. Some factors to consider when selecting a school include:

  • accreditation status of the program
  • program type and length of study (see What to Know: Degree Paths)
  • institutional context
  • large university, small private college, religious affiliation, public, etc.
  • program philosophy, emphasis, and curriculum
  • tuition costs and fees
  • financial issues
  • work-study opportunities
  • living costs
  • teaching assistantships
  • scholarships, loans, grants
  • internship opportunities or requirements
  • off–campus and study abroad opportunities
  • community service opportunities
  • other special curriculum opportunities such as double majors or interdisciplinary connections
  • facilities and resources, related to studio space, library, and digital support
  • long term career options

You should match all of these considerations with your personal circumstances and goals.