Architecture Education 2021 - Best Architecture Schools

How important is architecture education?
It’s commonly known what employers look for when they pick someone new for their company. 

The most determining factors are generally job experience, skills and requirements, competency, and of course educational background.

Well, the situation is no different for architects. 

Architecture Education Illustration

The first step towards becoming a professional architect is to undergo a lengthy educational process. But… What type of education is actually required for an architect? Is a mere Bachelor’s degree enough, or do architecture students need to aim higher?

Many more questions remain: What college should I opt for? How long will it take me to finish my studies? What am I supposed to do after I graduate? Well, look no further. Stick around and dive into what we have to say about architecture education. 

Architects - what do they actually do?

Architecture Education Drawing

Architects are trained professionals who are hired to plan and design structures, buildings and houses. Owing to the extensive process of building something from the ground up, architects tend to be involved in the entire procedure, from drafting design plans to overseeing construction development until it is completed.

This type of profession is best suited for those who are skilled at both math and science, as well as experienced drawers. Architects need to be innovative and they must possess a vision that will allow them to create wonders from mere paper.

Since an architect can be appointed to design anything imaginable, from bridges to large warehouses and factories, he or she must be fully acquainted with the profession’s demands. They work on indoor and outdoor spaces, and they usually handle multiple projects at once.

Due to today’s fast current of developing civilizations, architects are always sought-after. However, they also need to constantly keep up with advanced technology that can aid them in their work, such as computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) and building information modeling (BIM). 

History of Architecture Education

Interestingly enough, architecture wasn’t seen as a real profession back in the day. In fact, before the 1800s, masons, carpenters, and even artisans were considered to be architects. But over time, educated citizens of the higher class took over this vocation through informal training.

Even though Thomas Jefferson proposed the idea of architectural schools for the first time in 1814, the first one being at the University of Virginia, they weren’t established in the US until 1868. Following the rapid growth of interest for this field, numerous schools for architects were soon established. The first schools of architecture in the US were the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1868), the University of Illinois (1867), Cornell (1871), Columbia University (1881), and Tuskegee (1881).

Some of the most prominent oldest schools and universities of architecture are:

The Illinois School of Architecture

Architecture Education School of Architecture

Photo Credit: Ellieselzer / CC BY-SA 4.0

The Department of Architecture was included in the University of Illinois in 1867, when it was added to the Polytechnic Department. This university was actually one of the first in the US to propose architecture as a separate curriculum.

Today, the University Of Illinois School Of Architecture is part of the College of Fine & Applied Arts.

The Cambridge School of Architecture

Architecture Education - The Cambridge School of Architecture

Photo Credit: David Butler

The University of Cambridge is renowned for being one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the country.

The Department of Architecture belongs to the Faculty of Architecture and History of Art.

It was Charles Waldstein who proposed to teach architecture in the 1850s, but due to external circumstances, architecture classes didn’t start until 1912.

Therefore, the department is more than 100 years old.

MIT Architecture Department

Architecture Education - MIT

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a private university that was established in 1861 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

It wasn’t until 1868 that the Department of Architecture was added to the curriculum.

MIT is well-known all over the globe for being the educational center for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Architectural Association School of Architecture

Architectural Association School of Architecture - Architecture Education

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The Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, also known as the AA, was opened in 1890.

It is acclaimed for being a well-established institution, as well as the oldest school of architecture in the United Kingdom.

As one of the most reputable colleges in the area, AA annually attracts students from all over the world.

The process of architecture education

In order to become a full-fledged architect, each student must devote himself to studying and working hard for a minimum of six years.

Architecture education most commonly refers to the educational process of receiving a Bachelor’s degree, a Master’s degree and finally a Ph.D. 

Bachelor of Architecture

Bachelor of Architecture - Architecture Education

Getting a Bachelor’s degree is the first step of pursuing any career.

While its typical duration is around 4 years, a Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture usually takes about 5 years.

Standard Bachelor courses tend to be architectural theory, architectural history, building design and construction methodology.

In addition to these basic courses, students are also familiarized with computer-aided design and drafting (CADD), while slowly perfecting their drawing skills.

Some other courses include mathematics, physical sciences, liberal arts, graphic design, etc.

Master of Architecture

Master of Architecture - Master of Architecture

Students traditionally further their studies by getting their Master’s degree, which can last from one to five years.

This of course depends on the individual’s previous education and training.

A typical Master’s degree consists of architectural history, architectural engineering, design studio experience, design theory and other subjects in greater detail, as students decide what kind of architect they want to be.

Unlike Bachelor programs, Master’s degree programs may include paid and professional training and internships.

PHD in Architecture

A Ph.D. in Architecture is considered a professional program, rather than a professional degree.

It can last up to seven years and it’s usually a mix of undergraduate and postgraduate studies.

This advanced program allows students to conduct research connected to a specific area of study that interests them.

Architectural Internship

Architectural Internship - Architecture Education

Once you’ve finished your postgraduate studies, your next step should be to apply for an internship in an architecture firm.

That way, you will gain valuable on-the-job experience that is necessary for further professional development.

Architectural internships are usually paid as well. 

Architectural License

Architectural License - Architecture Education

After a student of architecture has completed an internship, he or she is permitted to take the Architect Registration Examination (ARE).

Passing this test is the final step towards becoming a professional licensed architect. After that, you are good to go!

Architecture Courses and Majors

Architecture Courses and Majors

Here are some of the most common architecture courses, whether we are talking about a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree course. 

Architectural Design

This type of degree usually comes after undergraduate engineering or technology programs.

Some courses that are normally included in this degree are urban planning, engineering, art, computing, etc.

Some other additional classes may comprise architectural foundations, architectural and civil engineering, building technology and engineering mechanics. 

History and Theory of Architecture

Studying the history of architecture means learning about its origins and how it evolved over time, its styles, characteristics and influences.

Typical courses also focus on famous architects, historians and theorists. 

Building Methods and Materials

Students who enroll in this course learn the basic properties and uses of construction materials, interior construction, roofing, floor area ratios, finish materials, etc.

Additionally, students are acquainted with common methods and systems used in construction. 

Architectural Engineering

The goal of this major is to teach students all aspects of engineering, including design, manufacturing, installation, commissioning…

 Students also learn all about mechanics, structural analysis, structural design and more. 

City, Community, and Regional Planning

This kind of major prepares students to master urban architecture and city planning, through the process of studying the surroundings, environment, land use and infrastructure.

This type of architect is commonly known as an urban planner. 

Landscape Architecture

One of the most popular courses among architects, landscape architecture involves designing and creating landscapes.

Common subjects of this major are horticulture, landscape design, history and theory, project and site planning, and more. 

Best universities for Architects - Top Architecture Schools 

Delft University of Technology – the Netherlands

Photo Credit: Michiel1972 / CC BY-SA 3.0

As the oldest and largest technical university in the Netherlands, Delft University has over 8 faculties and offers 16 bachelor programs.

The one we’re interested in is called Bachelor of Architecture, Urbanism and Building Sciences. Students begin learning design on their first day, along with engineering and theory.

ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology)

Architecture Education - ETH

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Opened in 1855, this university of science and technology is located in the center of Europe.

The Department of Architecture (D-ARCH) is considered to be one of the most prestigious faculties of architecture there is.

Students from all over Europe come to this university to receive the best architecture education. 

The Bartlett School of Architecture

Architecture Education - Barlett School of Architecture

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As a branch of the University College London, the Bartlett School of Architecture is a pioneering institution any student of architecture could dream of attending.

Famous for producing esteemed architects, the school offers various architectural programs, from engineering and design, to theory and computing.

Harvard University Graduate School of Design

Harvard’s Department of Architecture belongs to the Ivy League, which means it is second to none when it comes to its reputation and advanced courses.

It offers various programs such as landscape architecture, urban planning and design, design studies, design engineering and many more.

University of California, Berkeley

Photo Credit: Gku / CC BY-SA 3.0

The Department of Architecture offers a combined undergraduate program of environmental design and architecture.

The core courses prepare the students for internships, specializations and studio work.

Technology-based Architecture Courses

If you are an architecture student interested in modern branches of architecture education connected to technology, digital fabrication, parametric architecture or similar courses, then take a look at these progressive schools and programs. 

The Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia

The Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) is located in Barcelona, and it is attended by a large number of international students.

This research center accentuates the fast-pace development of architecture technology. It offers different departments, such as the Advanced Architecture Groupthe Fab Lab Barcelonathe Urban Sciences Lab and the Valldaura Labs

ETH Zurich - DFAB program

Photo Credit: Roman Keller

Master of Advanced Studies ETH in Architecture and Digital Fabrication is a one-year program of the ETH Zurich University.

This master program focuses on digital design and fabrication in architecture, with special attention devoted to robotics, 3D printing and computational design. Students are able to think creatively while utilizing some of the world’s most advanced technology in this field.

The UPC School of Professional & Executive Development

The UPC School in Barcelona offers over 200 postgraduate and specialization courses, and Parametric Design in Architecture is one of them.

This program is an excellent choice, its main focus on technology efficiency, computational tools and digital manufacturing technology.

State-of-the-art workshops and digital laboratories are open to students during their studies, where they learn how to explore the intricacies of parametric design.

Design by Data

This architectural school can be found in Paris, and it’s prominent for its Advanced master in Computational Design, Digital Manufacturing and Building Technology course.

This 16-month-long program introduces students to the basics of parametric architecture, 3D printing, robotics, digital manufacturing and much more, with the help of cutting-edge technology and qualified staff.

ICD ITECH - University of Stuttgart

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This international research-oriented master program is held at the University of Stuttgart in Germany, and it is called Integrative Technologies and Architectural Design Research (ITECH).

It’s held at the Institute for Computational Design and Construction, and its goal is to introduce students to computational design and fabrication processes.

Architectural Association School of Architecture

Photo Credit: Jeremysm

The already mentioned school AA is the center of numerous architectural programs, such as EMTECH, DRL and Design & Make.

The graduate program Emergent Technologies and Design (EMTECH) offers comprehensive knowledge on architectural design science.

The Design Research Laboratory (DRL) is a part of the Architecture and Urbanism program, focusing on computation and manufacturing.

And finally the Design & Make program deals with design and fabrication of architectural construction. 

What’s next? 

Finding a good architecture school and graduating is great, but what do you do after that? Then, the real life happens and that's when you need to start looking for a job or an internship. Make sure to check out our guide on architectural internships.

One thing which is a bit weird in architecture industry is that a lot of offices will require you to know the latest software packages like Revit, Archicad, Rhino and Grasshopper, but only a handful of schools will actually give you the proper education on software.

Most of the times, you'll have to learn it on your own searching through the endless pit of Google and YouTube and looking for precise to the point tutorials. Here at How to Rhino, we've are focused on providing you with that exact education. We teach architects how to use Rhino and Grasshopper for architecture. If you'd like to know more about this, make sure to check out Rhino for Architects Course.


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About the Author

Dušan Cvetković is a professional architect from Serbia with international experience in the industry. Collaborated with numerous clients all around the world in the field of architecture design, 3D modeling and software education. He's been teaching Rhinoceros3D to thousands of architects through How to Rhino community and various social media channels.