Best Architecture colleges in the U.S. 2023

Written by Matt Cates

Best Architecture colleges in the U.S. for 2023

UC Berkeley is world-renowned for its rigorous academic standards and commitment to diversity. Berkeley’s esteemed Department of Architecture is home to several exciting degree options, including bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD programs. There are also concurrent programs for graduate students, such as the popular Concurrent Master of Architecture/Master of Landscape Architecture. Courses are taught by “world-class, award-winning faculty” who bring their deep knowledge and experiences to the classrooms.

They say everything’s bigger in Texas, and the University of Texas at Austin is no exception. Holding the #2 spot on our list of the best architecture schools, UT Austin’s School of Architecture boasts a long, historic legacy in the field and features a massive array of academic program options. Among them are undergrad minors and majors in architecture and interior design, plus graduate programs in architectural history, community and regional planning, historic preservation, landscape architecture, sustainable design, and many more! 

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Seattle, Washington is home to an eclectic mix of visually stunning structures, such as the Space Needle, the Central Library, MoPop, and the “greenest commercial building in the world” Bullitt Center. It’s no wonder UW-Seattle has such an impressive architecture program under its College of Built Environments. Among them are a BA.Arch, an Architecture and Construction Management Departments dual degree, plus M.Arch, MS Arch, and M.Arch + MLA programs. Truly something for everyone!

Cornell University
Ithaca, NY

An Ivy League institution in Ithaca, NY, Cornell was established in 1865 and has a current endowment of $9.8 billion. Its College of Architecture, Art, and Planning is all about making a lasting impact by “balancing rigorous research and scholarship, responsibility for our natural and built environments, and reimagining the world at every scale to build a just and sustainable future for all.” The school empowers students to achieve those lofty goals through a number of impressive architecture programs, including a B.Arch, M.Arch, two post-professional MS options, an MS in Computer Graphics or Matter Design Computation, and a PhD. 

USC is a competitive, private university situated on 229 acres near downtown Los Angeles. The bustling School of Architecture boasts a dynamic legacy tracing back 100 years, and it continues to promote “cutting-edge research, design, and fabrication while emphasizing the importance of a strong commitment to social and ecological justice.” With an unprecedented number of academic offerings for undergrads and grad students, a roster of accomplished faculty, multiple research opportunities, labs, and groups, plus a unique Architectural Guild, it’s no wonder USC is tough to get into—but worth it!  

Charlottesville’s University of Virginia is home to the powerhouse School of Architecture featuring cutting-edge studio spaces, the Milton FabLab, and a host of research centers and institutes—all on one gorgeous campus! Academic program-wise, UV is “shaping the next generation” through four undergrad degrees, five master’s options, two PhDs, and a range of dual degrees, certificates, and multi-disciplinary initiatives. 

Under NC State’s College of Design, its innovative School of Architecture continues a proud tradition of offering multiple paths to earning a professional degree. From the traditional B.Arch to a Bachelor of Environmental Design, an M.Arch, Master of Advanced Architectural Studies, and several concentration and certificate options, NC State is a dream come true for students seeking variety. The high-tech Building Energy Technology Laboratory and Building Systems Integration program are icing on the cake! 

Founded in 1856, University of Maryland is one of the biggest universities in the Washington D.C. metro area. Its School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation is on the forefront of innovative, community-focused education, with a goal of “tackling the big challenges of our times.” UMD’s architecture-related programs include the following:

  • M.Arch
  • BS.Arch
  • BA.Arch
  • Interdisciplinary dual degrees
  • Four exciting minor options
  • A Certificate in Urban Design
  • Degree paths in Urban Studies and Planning, Historic Preservation, and Real Estate Development
Image by @snowgnome650

Among the top technical schools in the nation, Atlanta’s Georgia Tech has over a century of experience teaching architecture. Degree programs range from a BS.Arch to an M.Arch, MS.Arch, MS in Urban Design, a PhD, and a dual M.Arch and Master of City & Regional Planning. 

The school is heavily invested in research within “areas of architecture, culture, and behavior, design technology, history, theory, culture, and urbanism,” with plenty of lab spaces for students to hone their knowledge and skills. 

Image by Blueag9

Texas A&M (aka TAMU) is home to the largest student body in the US, making this one bustling campus! With an eye-popping $18 billion system-wide endowment, it also has plenty of funding for top-notch facilities and faculty. The prestigious School of Architecture offers five undergrad majors and ten graduate majors spanning three departments, as well as dual degrees and certificates. Students can benefit from the numerous research spaces, including the Automated Fabrication & Design Lab and Schob Nature Preserve. 

What is Architecture?

Around the world, people live, work, and play inside structures of all shapes and sizes. From India’s Taj Mahal to Dubai's 163-floor Burj Khalifa or New York’s fabled Chrysler Building, these structures all have one thing in common—architects designed them!

A unique blend of applied math and creative design, architecture is the process of visualizing and carefully planning new structures which can then be brought to life through civil engineering and construction. It’s one of the world’s oldest, most critical professions, with origins tracing back to 10,000 BC! 

Today, modern architects utilize a range of high-tech tools to assist in their work, including computer-aided design software, virtual reality, AI, and flying drones. But the goal of their profession remains the same—to create functional, visually-interesting places we can safely use for a wide range of purposes. 

If that sounds exciting to you, then let’s explore some of the best architecture schools where you can start building the foundation of your future career! 

Architecture Degree Overview

Any architecture degree will help prepare students for a future career in the wide world of architecture, but there are many other fields it can pave the way for you to enter, too! 

Architectural studies impart several multidisciplinary skills and competencies related to a number of fields, including art and design, civil engineering, teaching, and even government work. Thus, students will be exposed to a range of topics with applications that extend beyond the field of architecture alone. In other words, keep an open mind because this degree type can open doors to plenty of job opportunities! 

Types of Architecture Classes

The best architecture schools follow their own traditions, which is why every architecture program features its own unique curriculum. However, there are certain basic classes that most share in common. Below are a few of the standard classes for undergraduate and graduate students. 

Undergraduate level

  • Architectural design history
  • Architecture studio
  • Building design and technology
  • Computer-aided design and drafting (CADD)
  • Construction methods
  • Environmental issues
  • Graphic design
  • Mathematics
  • Physical sciences
  • Professional practices
  • Structural systems
  • Visual representation

Note, bachelor’s students may also complete internships while still in school. 

Graduate level 

  • Architectural engineering
  • Design studio experience
  • Design theory

Graduate programs may include an internship while in school. They often specialize in a particular area, such as urban architecture, architectural technology, real estate development, sustainable architecture, or historic preservation. Core and elective classes will depend on the area of specialization. 

Architecture Degree Specializations

As mentioned, architecture students can often select areas of specialization (though not every program features every specialization option). When trying to decide which school to apply to, it’s a good idea to know which (if any) specialization you want, so you can see if they offer it or not. 

Some popular architecture specializations include:

  • Architectural design
  • Architectural engineering
  • Architectural technology
  • Commercial
  • Green building design
  • Industrial architecture
  • Interior architecture
  • Landscape architecture
  • Residential
  • Urban design

Skills Learned in an Architecture Major

The skills you pick up from completing an architecture degree will depend on the program, area of specialization, and level (bachelor’s, master’s, etc.). Common skills learned include:

  • Aesthetic theory
  • Analog and digital drawing and modeling
  • Architectural design skills and application 
  • Architectural detailing
  • Contract administration
  • Familiarity with building and construction processes and methods
  • Familiarity with construction materials and durability 
  • How to tackle design projects
  • How to use CADD, Revit, and building information modeling programs
  • How to use software such as Photoshop and InDesign
  • Knowledge of project financial considerations 
  • Knowledge of structures, plumbing, mechanical systems, and electrical systems
  • Legal and ethical topics
  • Research methods

Soft skills, such as: 

  • Analytical thinking 
  • Communication skills
  • Customer service
  • Deductive reasoning
  • Presentation
  • Problem-solving

Employers need job applicants with the necessary hard and soft skills to qualify them for positions. Graduate programs also consider an applicant’s skills to ensure they are well-prepared to succeed in a rigorous master’s or PhD program. 

How Long Does it Take to Get an Architecture Degree?

How long it takes to finish an architecture degree depends on many variables. Among them are:

  • Which degree type are you going for?
  • How much (if any) college you’ve already completed?
  • Whether or not you’ll attend full- or part-time?

Other factors that can impact the length of time it takes include whether you sign up for an online or accelerated program. Architecture majors are conducive to both in-person and online learning, so if your schedule doesn’t allow for full on-campus attendance, a flexible online or hybrid program could be better. An online program can save time in some cases, and at a minimum it’ll save you from a commute back and forth! 

Next Steps To Getting An Architecture Degree

For High School Students:

If you’re in high school, you can set yourself up for success as an architecture major in college by doing the following...

If you have enough time left in high school, you can lay the groundwork for a college major in architecture by loading up on science, physics, and math. In particular, math classes like geometry, algebra, and calculus are helpful. 

You’ll also want to take art (drawing, painting), computer-aided design and drafting (if available), and business. Architects need strong soft skills, too, so sign up for extracurricular activities that help you with communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and project management.

Architecture is a blend of art, science, engineering, and math—but arguably the most fun of those subjects is art! Art clubs can provide an outlet to explore your creativity while honing your practical skills. They can keep you motivated as you learn by doing. In addition, garnering feedback and learning to accept constructive criticism will be invaluable later on.

All too often, students lack access at school to coursework needed to be successful in a college environment. Luckily there’s an enormous amount of free and relatively inexpensive online self-study material available for you to get ahead in your education.

For High School Graduates:

It’s important for high school juniors and seniors to research and make a list of the colleges they’re interested in and to start applying before the application deadlines. Some students begin the research process prior to their senior year, so they’re ready to apply during senior fall term. 

Of course, not everyone wants to go straight to college after high school. Some people want to travel a bit first or work for a while before going back to school. Still, it’s wise to plan ahead and follow a timeline that fits your work and educational goals. It is also a good idea to decide as soon as possible what area you want to specialize in, so you can tailor your degree electives accordingly.

Once you’ve finished high school or earned a GED, and you’ve been accepted into an architecture college program, you’re on your way to getting that bachelor’s degree!

National Architectural Accrediting Board-accredited Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch) degrees take about 5 years, but graduates can then apply to an internship and start working towards professional licensure. On the other hand, students who want to work in other careers or who plan on doing a master’s might do a 4-year bachelor of science (BS.Arch) or a 4-year bachelor of arts (BA.Arch) instead of the B.Arch.

Many architecture programs allow students to do an internship as part of their educational experience. If you’re doing a B.Arch, you’re going to have to do a ~3-year internship after you graduate anyway, if you plan to get licensed. So, why not try to knock some of that out while still in school?

For Bachelor’s Degree Holders:

Your options after finishing your bachelor’s depend on which type of bachelor’s you did (B.Arch or BS.Arch/BA.Arch), and whether or not you are pursuing a career as a licensed architect.

After finishing college and an internship, it’s time to take the Architect Registration Examination (ARE). ARE 5.0 consists of six “divisions”:

  1. Practice Management
  2. Project Management
  3. Programming & Analysis
  4. Project Planning & Design
  5. Project Development & Documentation
  6. Construction & Evaluation

All states require would-be professional architects to obtain a state license prior to working (other than as an intern). In addition to having a degree from a National Architectural Accrediting Board-accredited B.Arch (or a Master of Architecture, if you did a BS or BA degree versus a B.Arch), completing a postgraduate internship, and passing the ARE, you’ll need to pass a thorough background check to get a state license. 

Certain convictions can bar an applicant from getting licensed, but again, every state is different. Some take a “discretionary approach” and weigh all the factors surrounding the conviction. Others don’t, and a particular conviction can disqualify you regardless of the circumstances.

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards features details on individual state requirements.

There are a large number of optional certifications from non-academic organizations like Green Advantage or the National Association of Home Builders that can help bolster your credentials. Check out O*Net Online for a full listing. Requirements and fees vary.

Want to beef up your academic credentials in an area of specialization? Consider doing a certificate program at a college! A college certificate is not the same as a third-party certification. Certifications are done by studying material and then passing an exam. College certificates are basically miniature degrees that require ~12-18 credits’ worth of classes. This is a great way to learn, expand upon, or refresh skills without doing an entire second degree.

There are many circumstances in which you might want to go for a master’s or PhD degree. 

Students who completed a BS.Arch or BA.Arch instead of a 5-year B.Arch degree will likely need to do a Master of Architecture if they want to qualify for a professional license to work. 

And no matter what your undergrad degree type, a graduate degree from one of the best architecture schools can significantly boost your professional credentials and help qualify you for higher levels of responsibility and pay!

Admissions Requirements for Architecture Degree Programs

Admissions requirements vary depending on whether you’re applying to a bachelor’s or graduate program, but let’s do a quick review of the most common ones!  

  • Transcripts - from high school, plus any colleges/universities attended
  • Minimum GPA - differs from school to school, and just meeting the minimum doesn’t mean you’ll get in if it is a competitive year with lots of applicants 
  • Minimum grades in specific classes - regardless of your overall GPA, a program may require you to have a minimum grade in certain foundational courses
  • Class rank - some schools want to see how well you fared against your peers
  • Personal statement - the school will list what they want to see on this
  • Statement of purpose - many programs, especially at the graduate level, request a statement of purpose explaining in your own words why you want to study architecture at their school. An essay prompt may or may not be provided. 
  • Letters of recommendation - usually from people familiar with your work or academic background related to architecture or to study habits in general. Can be from previous teachers, supervisors, school advisors, or coworkers
  • Resume (or CV) - graduate programs often want to see a resume (or CV) outlining your work history and accomplishments 
  • GRE - Many graduate programs require a GRE score, but this can be waived in some cases
  • Bachelor’s degree - obviously, grad students need to have first completed a bachelor’s, preferably in architecture! Applicants who don’t have the necessary undergrad prerequisite credits will need to sign up for those classes but may be granted conditional acceptance until those are done

Bachelor's Degree in Architecture

All bachelor’s programs consist of general ed classes, core major classes, and electives you’ll have to complete. Some schools offer a minor or area of specialization or emphasis, though these won’t necessarily increase the amount of time it takes to graduate. 

Undergraduate architecture students may have the option to do either a 5-year Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch), a 4-year bachelor of science (BS.Arch), or a 4-year bachelor of arts (BA.Arch). There are also graduate programs such as the M.Arch, M.Arch/MLA, and PhD. 

Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch)

Most of the institutions on our list of the best architecture schools offer a Bachelor of Architecture, which is different from a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts degree. A Bachelor of Architecture, also known as B.Arch, are the most popular and practical for students who want to become licensed architects. 

These programs are accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board and lead to a professional degree. They require 150 semester credit hours (or quarter system equivalent), consisting of 45 semester hours of general studies. 

A B.Arch degree takes roughly five years to finish if attending full-time (or up to twice as long if going part-time, depending on course load. If planning to go part-time, it’s important to ask the school what the maximum time limit is to complete degree requirements). 

Note, most states do require architects to complete a NAAB-accredited B.Arch program to get licensed. For details on state licensure, check out the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.

B.Arch Internships via AXP

Another pre-licensure step for B.Arch graduates is to work as a paid intern for ~3 years to gain practical experience (note, any applicable intern experience completed while in school can count towards the post-graduate internship time). Grads can find qualifying internship opportunities through the Architectural Experience Program (AXP). 

Pre-Licensure ARE Testing 

Once all internship requirements are met, B.Arch graduates can then sit for the multi-part Architect Registration Examination (ARE). The ARE version 5.0 consists of six “divisions”:

  • Practice Management
  • Project Management
  • Programming & Analysis
  • Project Planning & Design
  • Project Development & Documentation
  • Construction & Evaluation

The entire exam is very challenging, and the pass rates for each division range from 47% - 63% (as of 2021). 


Bachelor of Science (BS.Arch) or a Bachelor of Arts (BA.Arch) in Architecture

Not everyone who studies architecture plans on working as an architect right away, if ever. BS.Arch and BA.Arch degrees are good options in such cases. 

These are considered pre-professional degrees and usually take as long as other bachelor’s programs—four years, if attending full-time. However, these degrees do not qualify students for professional license testing (through the Architect Registration Examination).

This means that BS.Arch and BA.Arch students who later want to become architects may need to complete a Master of Architecture (M.Arch) since they did not do a 5-year B.Arch. 

Master's Degree in Architecture

Master of Architecture (M.Arch)

A master’s program can take 1-3 years for a full-time student, depending on their undergrad coursework. For example, students who don’t meet the grad program prerequisites will need to take those classes, as well, thus adding to the length of time it’ll take to finish. 

Some programs combine a traditional M.Arch with another area of study to make a dual or combined degree. An example of this is the popular Master of Architecture/Master of Landscape Architecture (M.Arch/MLA). A dual degree can take longer, but will save time compared to doing two master’s degrees! Having a dual master’s isn’t necessary for everyone, but it can help qualify you for more positions.

Doctoral Degree in Architecture

PhD in Architecture 

PhD programs in Architecture can be a little harder to find, but they’re out there. A doctorate degree may focus more on a specific area of concentration, along with a minor (or two). PhDs can be very research-intensive, and can take four to seven years, depending on our previous academics. A large chunk of this degree centers on a lengthy dissertation which must be defended in writing and usually via a presentation before a committee, as well.

What Can I Do with a Degree in Architecture?

Many if not most architecture students intend to pursue a career as a licensed architect. But not everyone does! In fact, the knowledge and skills you’ll learn at the best architecture schools can readily apply to several exciting, well-paid career fields. Below are just a few of them:

  • Architectural drafter
  • Architectural historian
  • Archivist
  • CAD designer
  • College professor
  • Framer
  • Graphic designer
  • Industrial designer
  • Interior designer
  • Landscape architect
  • Lighting consultant
  • Project coordinator
  • Restoration manager
  • Structural designer
  • Urban planner

Architecture Salary and Career Information

Architecture-related employment is projected to grow ~3% in the coming decade, which is close to the average growth rate for all occupations. Some careers will be impacted by the evolution of building information modeling and other technologies, which boost productivity and thus may slightly limit the number of workers needed in the future. That said, there are many variables that affect long-term job growth projections, so take it with a grain of salt. 

Architects have a national average annual wage of $92,704, with top earners bringing in up to $150,000 (and more, in some cases)! Variables that impact salary include geographic location, the company worked for, academic and job experience, and the number of years employed. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those in government-related industries earn a higher median wage ($99,330) compared to those in construction ($82,800), for example. 

Architecture Career and Salary Overview

Architecture-related employment is projected to grow ~3% in the coming decade, which is close to the average growth rate for all occupations. Some careers will be impacted by the evolution of building information modeling and other technologies, which boost productivity and thus may slightly limit the number of workers needed in the future. That said, there are many variables that affect long-term job growth projections, so take it with a grain of salt. 

Architects have a national average annual wage of $92,704, with top earners bringing in up to $150,000 (and more, in some cases)! Variables that impact salary include geographic location, the company worked for, academic and job experience, and the number of years employed. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those in government-related industries earn a higher median wage ($99,330) compared to those in construction ($82,800), for example. 

Architecture Career Paths



Job Growth





Architects plan and design the structures we live in, work in, and otherwise inhabit, in accordance with their employer’s specifications and budget. 

Architectural drafter



Architectural drafters create highly detailed technical plans that can be used as a visual foundation for others to work from.

CAD designer



CAD designers use software to “translate” ideas into 2D and 3D draft designs used by architects, manufacturers, and engineers. 

Interior designer



Interior designers review indoor space blueprints or finished spaces and propose furnishings, decor, and lighting that is functional and aesthetically pleasing. 

Landscape architect



Landscape architects design suitable outside spaces for commercial and residential use by large groups of people. 

Source: Indeed


Architecture FAQ

  • Is an architecture degree worth it?
    • If you want to be an architect, yes, a 5-year Bachelor of Architecture degree is worth it, but it’s only one part of the process. Grads also need to complete an internship and pass the Architect Registration Examination.
  • Which degree is best for architecture?
    • If you want to work as a licensed architect, the best degree is a 5-year Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch) followed by an internship.
  • Is architecture a bachelor of science or bachelor or arts?
    • Students can earn either a BS or BA in Architecture. However, it’s actually ideal for future architects to enroll in a 5-year Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch) program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board.
  • Is a degree in architecture hard?
    • Yes, it can be! Architecture requires precisely planning out how buildings and other structures will be constructed, so much of the coursework is rigorous, detail oriented, and demanding.
  • How many years will it take to become an architect?
    • A Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch) degree takes five years to complete, if attending full-time, followed by an internship of up to three years. So you’re looking at least to eight years of education before you become a fully licensed architect.
  • Do architects make good money?
    • Architects are well-paid and fall in the higher end of the salary spectrum compared to other occupations. The average income for an architect is $92,704, while top earners in the field can bring home $150,000 or more.
  • Does architecture require a lot of math?
    • Architects require a fundamental understanding of many types of math (such as algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus), but they don’t necessarily have to be experts at any of them thanks to calculators and software.

List of all Architecture colleges in the U.S.

School Average Tuition Student Teacher Ratio Enrolled Students
University of California-Berkeley Logo University of California-Berkeley Berkeley, CA
23 : 1 42,327
The University of Texas at Austin Logo The University of Texas at Austin Austin, TX
19 : 1 50,476
University of Washington-Seattle Campus Logo University of Washington-Seattle Campus Seattle, WA
23 : 1 48,149
Cornell University Logo Cornell University Ithaca, NY
13 : 1 23,620
University of Southern California Logo University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA
22 : 1 46,287