Architect: Milestone Map
The life of an architect begins as early as high school and continues with work and education experience up to the master’s level. Here is a sample educational and professional track for an aspiring architect:
Excelled in math and physics with a special interest in art and design.
Online Bachelor’s degree
Completed 5-year Bachelor of Architecture program at an accredited school.
Intern Development Program (IDP)
Completed comprehensive training program at an architectural firm through the NCARB
passed the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) to obtain state licensure
Served as an architectural designer, project architect, or project manager at an architectural or construction firm
Completed 1 to 5 additional years of training for a Master of Architecture degree
Architecture Degrees: The Online Experience
Online architecture degree programs are typically broken down into two components: theory and practice. Theory courses are centered on basic design principles, history of architecture, and an introduction to different types of technology and tools used in the field. The practice component typically includes a design studio where students walk through the design process and receive feedback from instructors and students on their projects.
Many online degree programs require students to participate in online webinars and conferences. These online meetings make it easier to interact with other students and instructors in real-time and helps to round out the learning experience. Online students may be required to log in to a dashboard or online blackboard throughout the week to review assignments, download lectures and other materials, participate in discussion threads in an online forum, and submit assignments or quizzes.
A week-long residence or weekly attendance at campus allows students to connect with faculty members in person and complete hands-on projects. Campus-based requirements vary by school but are a necessary component of architecture programs at all levels because they give students a chance to obtain practical, hands-on experience before seeking out an internship or job after graduation.
To obtain further skills in this field beyond the scope of an online program, students are encouraged enroll in the Intern Development Program (IDP) from the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). This program provides a comprehensive experience by covering pre-design, design project management, and practice management principles and processes, and giving students a chance to work through various experience settings.
Online Program Options for Architecture
Aspiring architects have the option to complete an accredited online degree program instead of traditional school. These programs provide students with a part-time or full-time job, family obligations, or other personal responsibilities the opportunity to complete their degree without compromising their daily schedule. Students can study on their own time and submit assignments through an online dashboard. However, hands-on training—a necessary part of any architectural degree program—must be completed on campus or in a similar setting since students may be required to use Computer Aided Design (CAD) software and other essential job tools not available in their homes.
- Continuing Education
The Bachelor of Architecture (BArch) is a five-year program that encompasses general university studies and architectural courses. The first two years typically cover foundational courses in architecture and the remainder of the program is centered on integrative studies with applications in the field. The final year typically includes a design studio project where the student works through the entire design and development process of a building and presents it to a faculty member or board for review. Courses may include the history of architecture, design of building structures, architectural technology, fundamentals of design communication, and contemporary issues in architecture.
Students can complete a Master of Arts (MA) in Architecture, a Master of Science (MS) in Architecture or a Master of Architecture (MArch) professional degree program in one to five years after obtaining a bachelor’s degree. These comprehensive programs prepare students for a successful career in architecture with advanced design studio practice centered around investigative processes in architectural designs and site planning, global urbanism, contemporary issues in architectural practice, and an independent design research project.
Many distance degree programs at this level include a residency component, a multi-day or multi-week intensive that gives students a chance to work one-on-one with instructors and design professionals on a collaborative project, network with classmates and instructors, and participate in smaller learning groups. Outside of fulfilling residency requirements, students may be required to log in to an online dashboard for weekly assignments, quizzes, and online tests or exams. Some programs include online webinars and lectures, online meeting participation, and discussion groups.
Those who wish to pursue research studies or teach can complete a Ph.D. in Architecture. The Doctor of Architecture program typically requires a pre-professional undergraduate degree in architecture and some schools offer programs delivered 100 percent online. Courses focus on training the individual to be a scholar in the field of architecture and develop theories of their own. The program may include more in-depth study of the history and theory of modern and contemporary architecture. The Ph.D. dissertation requires submitting a proposal, obtaining a sponsor, and then, after a successful defense of the dissertation proposal, pursuing a research topic independently.
Architectural degree graduates who wish to increase their skillset and knowledge in their field or complete specialized training can take continuing education courses at any time. These are non-credit enrichment programs that give students a chance to advance in their careers and fulfill membership requirements for The American Institute of Architects (AIA). Many of these courses can be completed online and may encompass topics such as: building science and performance, design services, project management, sustainable design, and architectural insights.
Common Online Courses: Architecture
Online courses in architecture typically cover theory, design principles, and theoretical frameworks for the practice of architecture. Examples of courses available in various online architectural degree programs include:
Fundamentals of structural behavior and overview of different types of materials and strengths used in various types of buildings. May include an analysis of simple structural systems. Advanced courses may cover the design and function of different types of frames, walls, cables, arches, domes, and shells.
In-depth understanding of building construction and materials and method used to create different types of buildings and spaces. May include introduction to technical documentation and building service systems.
Organizational and management best practices and theories for delivering design services as a licensed architect. May include an overview of the profession and study of an architect’s professional job responsibilities and skill set requirements for all phases of the design and development process.
An advanced course that introduces students to the investigative process and themes of inquiry in the field of architecture. May include an overview of common problems and solutions developed by architects over the course of history.
Overview of the principles of design related to the environment and site planning processes. May encompass different types of foundations for various climates and environments, surfaces, and construction techniques for various outdoor environments.
Choosing an Online Architecture Program
While there are many accredited online degree programs in architecture out there, students need to be discerning when choosing a program so that they can achieve their educational and personal goals. Even though the bulk of the training program can be completed online, almost all online architecture degree programs require students to complete design studio coursework in a classroom setting. Students need to have some flexibility in their schedule to accommodate for these types of projects at a school or other designated facility. Some things to keep in mind when choosing an online architecture program:
- Decide which degree type suits complements the student’s career goals, availability, and learning style.
- Review instructors’ credentials and background in the field of architecture.
- Make sure you meet GPA and other enrollment requirements.
- Confirm the school is accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB).
- Determine whether career placement services, internship opportunities, and on-campus services are available for online students.
- Learn about hardware and software requirements for online students, such as CAD programs, for example.
- Determine whether the online school accepts transfer courses from another educational institution.
Online Architecture Degree Program Accreditation
Students need to enroll in an online degree program that is accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). NAAB accreditation means the program meets the Student Performance Criteria, a set of established expectations of all architecture graduates in the United States. It is the only authorized accrediting organization in the United States for degree programs in architecture.
All NAAB-accredited programs have similar curriculums and prepare students to satisfy Student Performance Criteria to earn their degree and then obtain certification from the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). Students can rest assured that enrolling in an online program with this accreditation status will provide them with the same education as on-campus programs.
Path to Architecture: Education Timeline
There are multiple ways to becoming an architect, but a solid academic and professional portfolio are a must. The following outlines a sample path for an aspiring architect:
||Time to Complete
Obtain High School Diploma or GED
Enroll in the Intern Development Program (IDP) offered by NCARB
Earn bachelor’s degree in architecture (BArch)
Complete internship for work experience
At least 3 years
Obtain state licensure by passing Architect Registration Examination
Aspiring architects can set themselves up for success as early as graduation from high school by making professional contacts, attending networking events, and acquiring as much work experience through an internship as possible. Examples of prep work for this career path include:
Architecture: Career Paths & Concentrations
Licensed architects across all fields are responsible for developing construction plans based on a client’s needs, drafting renderings of a building or structure, and using specialized software and tools to create 3D designs and site plans. They may work independently or as a team to create a blueprint for construction teams. Senior-level positions may lead a team of architects, engineers, and other professionals involved in the design, development, and construction phases of a project. Some licensed architects and design professionals work for architectural firms while others work independently to offer design services to clients.
Demand for architects is expected to grow 7 percent through 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with a growing need for architects with advanced knowledge in ‘green building’ design, sustainable design, and eco-friendly design practices.
||National Median Annual Salary
||Minimum Education & Licensure
||Develops building and site plans for clients and consults with engineers and other architects to complete a project.
||Bachelor’s degree and state licensure.
||Assists licensed architects during the planning and development phase.
||Bachelor’s degree and state licensure.
||In charge of product design, planning, and consulting with construction experts.
||Bachelor’s degree and state licensure.
||Responsible for designing buildings and other structures using latest software and technology, and monitoring projects through construction phases.
||Bachelor’s degree and state licensure; master’s degree recommended
||Coordinates an architectural project and leads a team to the project’s completion. may work closely with clients and experts to ensure project is complete on time.
||Master’s degree and state licensure
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics – Architects (2014)
Licenses & Certifications for Architects
All architects must be licensed in order to practice in their state. Even though a formal architecture degree is not required in order to obtain a license, most architects do complete this step in order to fulfill entry-level position requirements and advance in their careers. Almost all employers require at least a bachelor’s degree and state licensure as a basic job requirement.
All state architectural registration boards require students to obtain a license before they can practice. They must complete at least three years of a paid internship before they can pass the Architect Registration Examination for licensure. The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) provides information on thestate registration licensing requirements.
This is an optional certification for those interested in earning licensure in their state and becoming more marketable to employers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately one-third of all licensed architects were NCARB-certified in 2014.
The American Planning Association is a professional institute that certifies professional planners. AICP certification can enhance the architect’s credibility in their field and may help them advance in their careers when pursuing project management and planning job opportunities.
Similar Online Art Programs
If the idea of architecture training sounds appealing but not an optimal fit for a lifelong career, there are similar online degree programs available for those with a creative and a technical side. Individuals interested in exploring design and art principles may consider these similar online art programs:
Online Landscape Architecture Degrees:
Those interested in designing only outdoor spaces to complement a building can complete this degree program that focuses heavily on designing structures such as parks, waterfronts, plazas, and similar areas.
Online Fashion Merchandising Degrees:
The dynamic and ever-evolving field of fashion and retail requires the skills of someone with a strong eye for design, fashion trends, and thorough understanding of consumer behavior and retail management. Individuals enrolled in this degree program study principles of retail store design, fashion marketing, color theory, and consumer behavior.
Online Art History Degrees:
Individuals with a passion for the history of art and design may excel in an art history degree program that encompasses a variety of courses related to aesthetic trends and developments around the world. Courses examine art history from different cultures and prepare students for a career in commercial art galleries, museums, or for an art publication.