What is an Architectural Engineering Degree?

Architectural engineering is about the links between design and construction. Degree programs in the field focus on teaching future architectural engineers about the planning, building, and operation of the engineering components of structures. These include electrical systems, lighting, heating and ventilation, air conditioning, plumbing, and fire protection.

The typical architectural engineering curriculum covers topics such as:

  • Engineering fundamentals
  • Architectural history, theory, and contemporary practice
  • Architectural drawing and design
  • Building construction materials and techniques
  • Steel and reinforced concrete design
  • Lighting and acoustics
  • Environmental, technological, and regulatory systems
  • Fire safety
  • Computer programming
  • Surveying
  • Math
  • Economic, environmental, social, and cultural issues

Program Options

Bachelor’s Degree in Architectural Engineering – Four Year Duration
A Bachelor’s in Architectural Engineering from a school accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) is generally the minimum degree required to work in the field. Coursework includes foundational classes in physics, algebra, calculus, analytic geometry, and differential equations. Most programs also incorporate a work experience term, usually lasting about four months.

These are some sample first-year courses:

  • Introduction to Fundamental Engineering Methods – design projects to understand the design process and construction drawings and specifications
  • History of the Built Environment – the history of building technology
  • Mechanics – the mechanics of simple structures, force systems, basic structural analysis, plane trusses, bean diagrams, stress-strain-temperature relationships
  • Linear Algebra – linear systems of equations, matrices, and determinants
  • Chemistry for Engineers
  • Introduction to Computer Programming
  • Introduction to Architectural Graphic – basic hand- and computer sketching- techniques
  • Electric Circuits and Instrumentation

Sample upper-year courses may include:

  • Structure and Properties of Materials – structure, behavior, and uses of engineering materials
  • Architectural Engineering Studio – a comprehensive design project and case study
  • Building Structural Systems – a review of different building systems and materials

Master’s Degree in Architectural Engineering – Two Year Duration
Architectural engineering degree requirements at the master’s level may be structured differently from program to program. Some schools require that students complete a thesis or research project, while others offer a coursework-only master’s. Possible specializations include building systems, construction management, or structures.

Here are some sample architectural engineering master’s classes:

  • Engineering Mechanics – introduction to modeling the stresses and deformations that can occur
  • Fluid Mechanics – the fundamental science of fluid flow relevant to engineering
  • Critical Communication for Engineers – analyzing problems and presenting solutions
  • Systems Modeling and Design – a design project encompassing components from hydrology, hydraulic engineering, and geotechnical engineering
  • Engineering Mathematics – mathematical methods required in engineering
  • Engineering Materials – construction materials and their applications
  • Earth Processes for Engineering – engineering aspects of climate, water, and soils
  • Structural Theory and Design – the basic methods of structural analysis and the design of simple structures which are built of reinforced concrete, steel, timber and masonry

Doctoral Degree in Architectural Engineering – Two to Three Year Duration
The Doctoral Degree in Architectural Engineering is targeted at individuals who wish to conduct advanced research in the field and/or teach the subject at the college or university level. Each student’s specific curriculum is largely determined by their chosen area of research and dissertation topic. Possible areas of focus include:

  • Building systems engineering
  • Construction engineering and management
  • Design, modeling, and analysis of building energy systems
  • Renewable energy technologies
  • Sustainable materials for building
  • Engineering for developing communities

Degrees Similar to Architectural Engineering

A degree in architecture will appeal to individuals who have an interest in and appreciation for both the sciences and the arts. This is because architecture is itself the art and science of designing and engineering structures and buildings. It is a field with a foundation in creativity, technology, and social and cultural trends.

Architectural Engineering Technology
These technology programs teach the engineering skills required to assist architectural engineers in their work. Common classes are computers for engineering technology, architectural design and construction methodologies, structural systems, strength of materials, and technical drawing.

Other subfields of engineering technology are civil engineering technology, construction engineering technology, aerospace engineering technology, and automotive engineering technology.

Civil Engineering
This degree field is focused on the processes of design and planning of civil infrastructure like roads, tunnels, bridges, dams, railroads, and airports. In their work, civil engineers are concerned with such things as how much weight a structure can support and the environmental issues presented by construction.

The emphasis of civil engineering degree programs is math, statistics, engineering systems and mechanics, building codes, and statistical analysis.

Drafting Technology
This degree field teaches students to use computer programs to create drawings that are used in construction or manufacturing.

Mechanical Engineering
Students of mechanical engineering learn about the science behind machines. They study statics and dynamics, thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, stress analysis, mechanical design, and technical drawing.

Urban Planning
Degree programs in urban planning teach the processes involved in designing communities, towns, and cities. Students learn how to make decisions about the need for and placement of infrastructure like roads, highways, tunnels, bridges, airports, railroads, dams, utilities, parks, and other urban projects.

Coursework includes environmental planning, which considers environmental, social, political, and economic factors.

Skills You’ll Learn

  • Attention to detail
  • Blueprint reading/understanding
  • Communication
  • Computer literacy – architectural computer-aided design (CAD), building information modeling (BIM)
  • Data analysis
  • Investigative and research skills
  • Logical thinking, analytical, and problem-solving skills
  • Math and science skills
  • Team-building
  • Organization
  • Project management
  • Report writing

What Can You Do with an Architectural Engineering Degree?

Architectural engineering grads most commonly work for:

  • Architectural firms
  • Engineering firms
  • Construction companies
  • Shipbuilding companies
  • Government agencies

Their most common titles are:

  • Architectural Engineer
  • Architectural Engineer Manager
  • Mechanical and Plumbing Systems Engineer
  • Structural Systems Engineer
  • Fire Protection Systems Engineer
  • Electrical and Lighting Systems Engineer
  • Naval Architectural Engineer – Offshore
  • Naval Architectural Engineer – Ocean/Marine


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