Estrela Consulting Blog

Building Plans: The Path to Education and a Career in Architecture

Dr. Christopher W. Tremblay February 18, 2021


The word “architecture” dates back to 1560. It means “the art of building, tasteful application of scientific and traditional rules of good construction to the materials at hand.” If you want to pursue architecture as a major in college and eventually as a professional, then you should know about the variations in architecture degrees and the opportunities to practice this skill set.

There are 176 NAAB-accredited (NAAB = National Architectural Accrediting Board) and candidate programs at 139 institutions from which to choose.

Common Undergraduate Architecture Degrees

There are 5 common undergraduate architecture degrees:

Associate Degree

Bachelor of Architecture

B.S. Arch
Bachelor of Science in Architecture

B.A. Arch
Bachelor of Arts in Architecture

BFA Arch
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Architecture

Associate Degree in Architecture (2 Year program)

This is a two-year degree that is typically designed to transfer into a bachelor’s degree program at a four-year college or university.  An associate degree example is here.

Bachelor of Architecture (B. Arch - 5 Year program)

This is a five-year, professional undergraduate degree.

The Bachelor of Architecture is accredited by NAAB as a professional degree, allowing graduates to qualify for the Architect Registration Examination (ARE). NAAB-accredited B.Arch. programs must include at least 150 semester credit hours with at least 45 semester hours in general studies.

Bachelor of Science in Architecture (BS-Arch - 4 Year program)

This is a four-year, pre-professional degree.  A student with this degree must continue their education (M.Arch degree) for licensure. Typically, B.S. degree requires math or science, while a B.A. degree may not and typically focuses more on the humanities.  Usually the math/science requirements include Calculus 1 and Physics 1, but that may vary from program to program.

Bachelor of Arts in Architecture (BA-Arch - 4 Year Program)

This is a four-year, pre-professional degree. A student with this degree must continue their education (M.Arch degree) for licensure.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Architecture (BFA Arch - 4 Year Program)

This is a four-year, pre-professional degree. BFA programs are not accredited by NAAB and will require an M.Arch for licensure.

Other Variations of “Architecture”:

Architectural Design:  Example
Architectural Studies: Example
Environmental Design: Example

While the following two examples use the word “architecture,” they are not the same as the two variations listed above:

Landscape Architecture: Example
Interior Architecture: Example

Common Minors for Architecture Majors:

Art & Design
Urban Studies
Business Administration

Unique Minor for Architecture Majors:

Neuroscience for Architecture

Accredited Programs

To work as a licensed architect almost anywhere in the United States, you will have to earn a professional degree from a program that has received accreditation from the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) and complete other licensing work and exam requirements. Each state has its own unique licensing requirements. Architects who wish to relocate to a different state will want to review the new state’s licensing requirements.

Earning a degree from an accredited program and achieving licensure will offer you the most opportunities for career advancement.

Becoming an Architect

To become an architect, you have to earn a license following requirements outlined by your state’s licensing board. Licensure includes three components: education, experience, and examination.


Master of Architecture

Doctor of Philosophy in Architecture

Master of Architecture (M. Arch)

2 to 3 Year Program
This professional degree is for undergraduates who have a Bachelor of Science in Architecture or any undergraduate degree. Example. Some schools will offer a two-year track and a three-year track, depending on what type of bachelor’s degree you earned.

4+2 Pathway
For students pursuing a B.S. or B.A. in Architecture, then enrolling in a Master of Architecture program is a professional degree (B.S./B.A. are pre-professional degrees).  Only a five-year B. Arch degree can pursue licensing without the need for a master’s degree. The 4+2 pathway will result in two credentials within six years.

Doctor of Architecture (Ph.D.)

This terminal degree in the field of architecture is for individuals who are interested in teaching at the college level or doing research in the field.

Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL)

National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) offers a pathway for motivated students seeking to become architects: IPAL. By enrolling in an IPAL option, students in the process of earning a degree from a NAAB-accredited program can complete the Architectural Experience Program® (AXP®) and the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE)® concurrently. Nearly 30 NAAB-accredited programs at 22 schools across the country have established an IPAL option.


Architecture Student’s Journey
National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB)
Job Outlook
Architecture Licensure
Example of State Licensing for Architects:  Michigan
Most Admired Architecture Schools (Design Intelligence)
How much does an Architect make?
Architecture Summer Programs
21 Careers You Can Pursue with a Degree in Architecture

Request Your Free  College Planning Consultation

Tagged: unique majors, architecture

Subscribe to Our Blog



Recent Posts

Request Your Free  College Planning Consultation



Posts by Tag

see all