What is an Architecture Degree?

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.

Architecture degree programs are generally focused on five fundamental subject areas:

  • Design – the basic principles of architecture; working with the basic building elements of floor, wall, and roof; historical design studies
  • Representation – creative techniques (architectural gifs) to explain and represent design decisions, design process, and construction details
  • Humanities – architectural history, theory, culture, design, and urbanism
  • Building Technology – aspects of architectural form: structure, material, light, and sound; construction materials and methods
  • Professional Practice – management of the design process and construction of projects

Throughout their training, students work both independently and in groups on design projects. They typically begin by learning manual skills in drawing, modeling, and building before proceeding to equivalent digital coursework. Classes are a combination of studio work, tutorials, site visits to architecturally important buildings, and critique sessions in which students receive feedback from instructors and from one another.

Program Options

The National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) accredits degree programs in architecture.

Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture - Four Year Duration
Typical components include:

  • History of architecture
  • Fundamental design concepts
  • Properties of materials
  • Interior space and proportions
  • Structural systems
  • Environmental systems
  • Building technology
  • Project management
  • Computer-aided design and drafting (CADD)
  • Building information modeling (BIM)

Master’s Degree in Architecture - One to Three Year Duration
These graduate-level programs are generally open to applicants who have earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture and want to specialize in historic preservation, design theory, solar design, or another related field. Typical components include:

  • Theoretical, technological, historical, and cultural aspects of design
  • Ecologically sustainable building practices
  • Historic preservation and urban planning

Degrees Similar to Architecture

Architectural History
Architectural history majors study how architecture has evolved from the past to the present. They examine the technical and aesthetic, and social characteristics of buildings and consider how they have developed and changed over time. The course of study for this degree combines architecture, art history, technology, and socio-economics.

Architectural Science and Technology
In degree programs in architectural science and technology students learn to use technology to design new structures and update old ones. The typical curriculum covers applicable technologies, building conversation, solar design, and eco-friendly construction.

Environmental Design
This degree field is focused on the design of neighborhoods, towns, and communities. Its area of study is the integration of streets, parks, public infrastructure, and privately owned residential and commercial spaces. Students learn to develop environmentally responsible plans and designs for use of land and natural resources. Typical courses include landscape architecture and urban planning.

Interior Architecture
This degree field has some things in common with interior design, but it has a wider scope. While it may look at the aesthetic components of color and lighting, it also includes more functional, technical components, such as doors, windows, walls, and making an old building safe from environmental hazards. In short, interior architecture focuses on the actual architecture and construction of a building.

Landscape Architecture
A landscape architecture degree program, like a degree program in general architecture, teaches students both creative and technical skills. Landscape architects, though, apply these skills to plan outdoor spaces and landscapes, such as parks, gardens, playgrounds, residential areas, and college campuses. In short, both general architects and landscape architects design environments and use technologies like computer-aided design (CAD) software to carry out their work. Courses specific to landscape architecture include horticulture, hydrology, geology, environmental design, and landscape design.

Real Estate Development
Architecture is naturally connected to this major. Degree programs in real estate development provide students with the tools needed to build new buildings and rebuild or convert the usage of existing ones. Subjects of study in the field include real estate, historic preservation, finance, urban planning, and public policy.

Urban and Regional Planning
This field of study is closely aligned to architecture. In simple terms, urban planners design communities and determine where the buildings that architects design will go. They must also make these decisions while considering the placement of roads, highways, utilities, parks, and other urban projects.

Skills You’ll Learn

Spatial Reasoning and Visualization
This is the ability to think about and visualize objects in three dimensions. It is a skill that is fundamental to architecture, specifically, and to the overall field of design, generally.

Accepting Criticism
‘Critique sessions’ are a formal part of the architecture curriculum. Students, therefore, get accustomed to quite literally being sent back to the drawing board. They quickly figure out how to accept – and learn from – tough reviews of their work. The capacity to do so is valuable in every facet of life and career.

Problem-Solving / Research / Design Thinking
Problem-solving in the architecture field is often referred to as ‘design thinking.’ Early on in their education, architecture students are taught to consider a problem from multiple perspectives; to carefully research data and collect information before arriving at a solution.

Innovative ideas are meant to be showcased and shared. This is a skill that architecture students learn throughout their professional training. It is also a skill that is useful in multiple occupations.

Relationship Building
Early on in architecture school, students are required to work on projects with fellow students. Once they begin practising in the field, they become aware of the need to collaborate with contractors, subcontractors, engineers, and clients. The capacity to build relationships and work in teams is applicable to virtually every walk of life.

What Can You Do with an Architecture Degree?

The dictionary definition of architecture – the art or practice of designing and constructing buildings – is sometimes disputed. This is probably because of the varied applications of this degree in the field:

  • Landscape Architecture
  • Urban Planning
  • Restoration Architecture – dedicated to the restoration and conservation of historic/heritage structures
  • Architectural Research and Technology – focuses on how new methodologies and technologies can contribute to architecture
  • Lighting Architecture – is concerned with the impacts of different kinds of lighting on human health and experiences
  • Extreme Architecture – focuses on design and building for extreme weather conditions

Art and Design
Architecture is a form of design. Therefore, students who study it can consider other career paths related to art and design:

  • Art and Photography – art, photography, and architecture are all concerned with the relationships between spaces
  • Furniture Design – in a way, this is ‘architecture’ on a smaller scale
  • Industrial Design – this is another example of smaller-scale architecture, as it involves the design of objects, often for mass production
  • Graphic Design – like architecture, graphic design uses visual concepts to communicate, inspire, and captivate
  • Video Game Design – the ‘architecture’ of video games is in some ways a simulation of real-world architecture
  • Production Design – stage and film sets are representations of the real world

Other Possible Occupational Paths:

  • Architectural Education / Writing
  • Philanthropy – designing and building projects for philanthropic organizations
  • Conservation – architecture with a focus on conserving the surrounding environment
  • Politics – architects’ understanding of architectural design and a connection to the communities where their buildings are constructed can be a good fit in the political arena


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