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Architecture Major Overview

Architecture lies at the crossroads between science and art. Ask any architect and they’ll tell you that a masterfully designed building is not only functional, but aesthetically pleasing as well. This field of study is a great fit for students with a keen eye for design, strong math and science skills, and an interest in serving the public. Read on to learn more about becoming an architecture major, including coursework to expect and opportunities after graduation. 

Also read: How to pick a major

What is an architecture major?

Architecture majors learn how to imagine entire buildings from scratch, using principles of math, science, and design to transform their visions into reality. To become a licensed professional architect, most students complete a five-year bachelor’s program en route to earning their B. Arch. degree. Alternatively, students can complete a four-year bachelor’s program then earn their Master of Architecture degree. Regardless of the route taken, students must choose an accredited program approved by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB).

Also read: Top jobs and careers for introverts

Coursework to expect 

Architecture is an interdisciplinary field that draws on a variety of subjects. As such, students can expect a wide range of coursework including computer science (3D modeling and linear programming), math (trigonometry, calculus, geometry, algebra), science (physics, engineering), and art (drawing, drafting, art history). Students also learn about architectural theory and history, studying different design styles such as baroque, contemporary, Art Deco, colonial, neoclassical, and more.

When they’re not in the classroom studying theory and history, students engage in hands-on studio design work. This environment gives students a chance to draft their own architectural plans and preview what it’s like to work as a professional architect. Instructors typically assign a project with specific parameters, then students design structures and build models that fit those requirements. 

Below are a few examples of courses you may encounter as an architecture major:

  • Computer-assisted drafting 
  • Construction technology 
  • Structural design 
  • History of architecture 
  • Architectural theory 
  • Environmental technologies 
  • Construction management 
  • Calculus and analytic geometry 
  • Concepts of physics 
  • Professional practice 

Related: College majors for the future

Opportunities after graduation

After obtaining their degree, students must complete a few more steps before becoming working architects. Candidates must complete real-world training through the Architectural Experience Program (AXP) and then pass the Architect Registration Examination (ARE). Even after passing the exam, architect hopefuls may need to complete additional requirements depending on where they live. Only then can they apply for a license to practice architecture in their jurisdiction. Although the road to becoming an architect can be long and challenging, many find the profession to be a lucrative and rewarding one. 

Jobs you can get with an architecture degree

While becoming an architect is the obvious career path for students in this field, it certainly isn’t the only one. The skills and knowledge gained by studying architecture translate to similar professions such as interior design, urban planning, construction management, and more. Below we’ve outlined a few potential career paths: 

1. Architect 

Many students who major in architecture seek professional licensure and go on to pursue work in their industry. Architects spend much of their time in offices, where they meet with clients, develop plans, and consult engineers and other architects. They also visit construction sites to review the progress of projects. 

2020 Median Pay: $82,320 per year
Projected Growth (2020-2030): 3% (Slower than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

2. Interior designer

This line of work involves designing indoor spaces to make them both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Interior designers have a great eye for style and know how to make colors, lighting, and materials work in conjunction. They are commonly self-employed, but may also work for design service companies, architectural firms, and furniture stores. 

2020 Median Pay: $57,060 per year
Projected Growth (2020-2030): 0% (Little or no change)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

3. Urban planner

Unlike architects, who often envision one structure at a time, urban planners consider the design of entire communities. By working with public officials, they develop strategies for land use that best fit the needs and goals of an area. For instance, they may plan new parks, shelter the homeless, or improve transportation systems. 

2020 Median Pay: $75,950 per year
Projected Growth (2020-2030): 7% (As fast as average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

4. Construction manager

Construction management is closely related to architecture, and also one of the fastest growing occupations in the U.S. This line of work involves planning, coordinating, budgeting, and supervising construction projects from start to finish. Managers spend much of their time in the field, where they monitor projects and make decisions about construction activities. 

2020 Median Pay: $97,180 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 11% (Faster than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

5. High school teacher

A degree in architecture is also a great launching pad for anyone looking to pursue a career in education. Teaching math and science at the high school level is entirely possible with a bachelor’s degree in architecture. Another option is to seek an advanced degree and become a college professor.

2020 Median Pay: $62,870 per year
Projected Growth (2020-2030): 8% (As fast as average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How do I know if this major is right for me?

If you’re considering a major in architecture, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Are you a creative problem-solver? 
  • Do you have strong math, science, and design skills?
  • Do you have a keen eye for detail and work well with others?
  • Are you passionate about performing work that serves your community? 

If you answered yes to most of these questions, then an architecture major could be right for you!

Also see: Top architecture scholarships