Below are the traditional professional degrees accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB).
BACHELOR OF ARCHITECTURE (B. ARCH.)
The bachelor of architecture is an undergraduate five-year degree selected by students coming directly from high school. It is the oldest professional degree offered at the university level in the United States.
At most schools, enrolled students begin intensive architectural studies in the first semester and continue for the duration of the program. If you are highly confident in your choice of architecture as your academic major, pursuing a B.Arch. may be the ideal choice. If, however, you think you may not ultimately choose architecture, the five-year program is not forgiving, meaning that changing majors is difficult.
Recently, a handful of institutions began offering a five-year master of architecture. How are these degrees different than the traditional bachelor of architecture? Contact each institution and ask.
PRE-PROFESSIONAL BACHELOR OF SCIENCE (B.S.) AND MASTER OF ARCHITECTURE (M. ARCH.)
Sometimes known as a 4 + 2, this path to the accredited degree involves first obtaining a pre-professional architecture bachelor of science (B.S.) degree followed by the professional master of architecture (M.Arch.). Pre-professional degrees are four-year degrees that prepare candidates for pursuing a professional degree. The amount of architectural work in the program varies from school to school and determines the length of time required to complete further professional architectural studies, the M. Arch.
Another viable option for this particular route is to begin your studies at a community college. Often, the first two years of a B.S. degree are predominately general education courses that can be taken at a community college. However, it is important to be in touch with the institution at which you plan to continue studies about what courses to take and when to apply. Depending on the institution, it may be worth transferring early rather than receiving an associate’s degree from the community college.
Note that if you graduate with the pre-professional degree, you may not be eligible to become licensed in most states. Therefore, if you desire to be a licensed architect, you should continue your studies in the professional M.Arch. degree program. There are a few states in which you can pursue licensure with a pre-professional undergraduate degree, but you would not be able to obtain the NCARB Certificate necessary for reciprocal licensure.
The professional M.Arch. is a graduate-level degree that typically lasts two years and offers a comprehensive professional education. The combination of the B.S. degree with the M.Arch. offers flexibility, as you may take any number of years off to gain experience between the two degrees. Plus, you may choose to attend a different institution for your graduate studies.
UNDERGRADUATE DEGREES (B.A./B.S.) IN FIELDS OTHER THAN ARCHITECTURE AND MASTER OF ARCHITECTURE (M. ARCH.)
A master of architecture program is available for candidates with an undergraduate degree in a field other than architecture. It offers a comprehensive professional education. Depending on the institution, this accredited M.Arch. will take between three and four years of study to complete. Some institutions require that calculus, physics, and freehand drawing be taken before admission. Depending on your particular educational background, you may need to fulfill these prerequisites.
Some of these programs have the student begin work in the summer before the first semester, while others require full-time study during a later summer semester. Be sure to explore the curricular differences among the programs you are considering.
DOCTOR OF ARCHITECTURE (D. ARCH.)
As a professional degree, the doctor of architecture (D.Arch.) is currently available only at the University of Hawaii. The program is seven years in length and is unique in that it allows the graduate to fulfill the education requirement for taking the licensing exam, whereas the post-professional doctoral degrees do not. As the D.Arch. is an accredited degree, you are encouraged to contact the University of Hawaii if you are interested in this route.