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Architecture Education and Training

There are three steps to becoming an architect; earn a professional degree in architecture, gain experience through an internship, and pass the Architect Registration Exam (ARE) to obtain your license. The National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) has accredited 148 programs of architecture in the United States. However, unlike other career regulations, some State architectural boards set their own standards, and don’t require students to attend accredited programs to meet the educational requirements for licensure. It’s very important that hopeful architects check with their state board before applying to accredited architecture programs.

NAAB accredits programs that may lead to ones Doctor of Architecture, Master of Architecture or Bachelor of Architecture degree. Similar to other careers, it’s important that a student pursues an undergraduate education before applying to the architecture program. Students who take this route have the option of graduating from a pre-professional architecture degree or undergraduate degree in another discipline, leading to the completion of an accredited Master of Architecture program.

Prerequisite Courses

To become an architect, it takes more than an educational background. You need creativeness. Being able to draw is critical to an architects need to express his/her ideas and visions to the clients, contractors and other professionals involved in the same project. Education is also important. During a student’s high school and undergraduate years, they should be taking certain classes to help them prepare for a career in architecture. These classes include:

  • Physical Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Oral and Written Communications
  • Humanities
  • English
  • Drafting or CAD
  • Geography
  • History
  • Philosophy
  • Government
  • Industrial Arts
  • Speech or Debate Classes (help one prepare for explaining complex ideas orally)
  • Building or Construction
  • Foreign Language
  • Free-hand Drawing Classes

Architect Schools and Programs

Unlike other professions, there are no schools, colleges or universities specifically for architecture. Instead, architecture programs are accredited by NAAB. NAAB has accredited 148 architecture programs in the United States. When selecting a school to attend, there are a few things a student should keep in mind. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Is the architecture program accredited?
  • What is the highest degree I can earn?
  • What type of curriculum is offered?
  • Does the school have any scholarships available?
  • How far away from home is it?
  • How much do I want to pay for tuition?

All of these questions are good questions. Going to a school

that is far away from home can add expenses that an architect student doesn’t need. If your State doesn’t require you to take accredited classes, then why pay all that money? There are many different routes a potential architect can choose from, as long as they complete the three required steps:

1. Get an Accredited Education

2. Do an Internship

3. Pass the ARE

Architecture Program Courses

During a student’s time in college, he or she should be focusing on taking classes that are related directly to architecture. Typical program courses include:

  • Architectural History and Theory
  • Professional Practice
  • Construction Methods
  • Math
  • Physical Sciences
  • Building Design, with an emphasis on CADD
  • Structures
  • Technology
  • Liberal Arts
  • Design Studio (create 3D models of concepts)

Architect Internship

A student can spend 1-5 years earning an architecture degree, spending all of that money on tuition, books, fees, supplies, food, traveling, room and board, and examination costs and still not be able to obtain a license if they didn’t do an internship. Internships can be done almost anywhere, from small to large architecture firms to working side-by-side with engineers or contractors. Students can even take part in internships overseas. The goal is to gain experience, and as much of it as possible over the course of 3 or more years.

The IDP, or Intern Development Program is what many students go for when pursuing an internship program. The IDP offers a comprehensive training program that offers architect students the knowledge and skills required for their career, especially in the early stages. Most internship’s last 3-5 years. A bonus to using IDP is that students can begin their internship before graduation, giving them a head start on the rest of the class. This way, the internship can be completed immediately after graduation. NCARB, or the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards offers IDP to students. Additional resources can be found at The American Institute of Architects (AIA) website, or the NCARB website.

Some of the things an intern may assist with are:

  • Designing one part of the project
  • Help prepare architectural documents or drawings
  • Build models
  • Prepare construction drawings on CADD
  • Research building codes
  • Research materials
  • Write specifications for building materials, installation criteria, the quality of finishes and other details

To learn more about Internships, click here.

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