Architects create aesthetically pleasing and safe buildings that stand as works of art. They turn environments into canvases, but not everyone can be one. Architect positions have significant requirements. If you dream of making skyscrapers, you might wonder if you have what it takes.
Thus, you might be wondering: do you need a degree to become an architect? Most state licensing boards require architects to have a professional architectural degree before granting a license. However, there are ways to get around the requirement.
Though, you may not want to take that path. Getting architect licenses without a degree requires meeting some strict jurisdictional requirements which can vary from state to state.
What Degree Do You Need to be an Architect?
Most states require prospective new architects to complete a formal education requirement before they can receive their license and begin their careers. Luckily, you can choose how much education you will get before taking the licensing exam, provided you complete a bachelor’s degree in architecture.
Despite this, most states require some architectural education. Thus, your bachelor’s is in another field, you will need to complete a graduate program. Either way, a Doctorate in architecture is almost always not required, though many reputable architects will get one.
|Bachelor of Architecture or Master of Architecture
|Internship, state licensure
|Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)*
|8% (for all architects, except landscape and naval)
|Median Salary (2018)*
|$79,380 (for architects, except landscape and naval)
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.)
Most B.Arch. programs last five years and cover topics such as structural and environment design, architectural theory, and construction methodology. Students also learn to use manual and computer-aided drafting tools and software. Some programs also offer internships and paid work experience.
Master of Architecture (M.Arch.)
NAAB-approved M.Arch. Programs accept any bachelor’s degree and last from 1 to 5 years. You do not need an undergraduate education in architecture, but you may need all 5 years to complete your degree. Courses cover design, engineering, and project management with paid fieldwork.
Doctor of Architecture and Ph.D. in Architecture (D.Arch.)
The University of Hawaii – Manoa has the only National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) accredited D.Arch. program. It is a 7-year program which accepts both bachelor’s or master’s degree in the field. Though, the coursework allows students to enter straight out of high school.
Note that a D.Arch is not a professional degree. You can use it to get consulting, research, or teaching positions, but it is otherwise not required by anyone.
Once you graduate from an accredited program, you must spend time in a state-approved architect internship. Your internship must train you in schematic design, construction documents, and other relevant areas as defined by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.
Obtaining an Architectural License
Once you complete your education requirements, you can apply to your state’s licensing board for your license. Licensing requirements differ between the states. So, you should ensure that you covered everything before you apply.
Is it Possible to Become an Architect without a Degree?
The above tract is the normal way someone becomes an architect. You can get your licenses through alternative means, but going without a degree can be a problem in many states. You must complete some steep jurisdictional requirements in addition to an internship.
- Understand your state’s licensing requirements – You can find these requirements on the NCARB’s or your state’s licensing board’s website. You want to know you can get a license without a degree before you take the next step.
- Complete your state’s employment requirement – Most states require up to 10 years of employment at a recognized architectural firm.
- Participate in the NCARB Internship Development Program (IDP) – The IDP establishes requirements for all states. They also want you to have a high school diploma or GED to participate in their system. During the program, you will select a supervisor and a mentor who will document your experience.
- Take the Architectural Registration Exam (ARE) – Every state requires you to pass this national, nine-part, licensing exam.
- Apply for your state license – You must complete all documents and pay all registration fees.
- Apply for an NCARB license – Finally, you must file an application with the NCARB with a “Broadly Experienced Architect qualification” waiver, and complete all requirements
Can you Become an Architect Online?
While you could obtain your license without a degree, but you will be much better off getting one. Luckily, you do not need to attend an architecture program in person. You can get your degree online. You can complete your education requirements through online courses and videocasts.
Some universities even offer their entire library of architecture lectures and resources online, free of charge. You may even find a few professors and architects offering lectures and tutorials on YouTube and Ted Talks.
The only caveat is that the online program must be NCARB-accredited. Only NCARB-accredited programs are recognized by state licensing boards.
However, not every architect program is offered online, nor will every state accept an online degree. If you live in a state that requires some in-class education, you can opt for a low-residency program.
Low-residency programs combine online study with hands-on, in-person instruction, and are growing in popularity. Most of them are accredited as well. They are the perfect solution if you are already work in the industry.
How Long does it take to become an Architect?
If you plan on taking the normal track of a BArch program and then an IDP, you can expect to take up to 8 years to complete all your requirements and become a licensed architect. It will take longer if you go for a graduate degree or choose a non-degreed approach.
What does an Architect Earn?
Most American architects take home anywhere between $44,600 and $118,230 a year. Your actual payment will be based on your reputation, experience, and location.
For instance, Georgia has the highest payouts per cost of living for architects with a mean annual salary of $97,900. The next highest annual architect salaries come from California ($95,070) and New York ($91,610), but with a higher cost of living expenses.
Most of the higher salaries come from big cities. If you do not might the higher living costs, you can easily make $120,380 in West Palm Beach, Florida, or $112,530 in Salinas, California. Outside the big towns, your salary prospects drop significantly.
What are the Job Prospects for Architects?
While we cannot predict future events, the Bureau of Labor Statistics believes the employment of architects to increase by at least 17 percent within 10 years. This growth is the fastest of all occupations with more architecture jobs coming online every year.
If you can get in this highly-competitive occupation, your long-term prospects become more certain. Most architects will work up their architectural firm to partner status. Many architects will even become the principal members of their firms.
Are Architects Happy?
While every occupation has its good and bad days, architects generally have average career happiness, falling in the bottom 41% of careers.
Many architects even report high divorce rates, suffer from depression, and with enough stress to develop cancer and heart disease. However, there is very little evidence that these symptoms are caused by the occupation.
When asked, most architects report that they are happy with their career choice. If you are not, then you may have to accept that architecture is not for you. If that is the case, you might want to seek another line of employment.