Top 5 Colleges to Major in Architecture

Learn Some More About the Top Schools to Pursue a Career as an Architect

Taking on a career in Architecture is certainly a commitment, but well worth it if you enjoy the type of work you’re doing. Just like with most jobs! Architects are artists who work very meticulously, with a creative touch and a strong attention to detail. If you like to create new things and also perform well in subjects such as geometry and physics, it may be useful for you to consider picking up a major in architecture! 

What does an Architecture Major Entail? 

As an architecture major, you will get to learn the history of the discipline as well as more information about the theories involved. You will also get extensive studio experience that involves creating and planning original architecture drafts. There are generally two different types of programs to choose from:

  • A five-year National Architectural Accrediting Board-accredited Bachelor of Architecture degree that equips graduates to enter the workforce 
  • A four-year bachelor’s degree in architecture or architectural studies. Students will still have to earn an NAAB-accredited Master of Architecture degree to obtain their license and work as an architect.

When students take on the five year program, they can expect to get a solid foundation in design, theory, and technology. Students will most likely be required to take some courses in a design studio, where they can get some hands-on experience representing creative ideas through drawings and structure models. The four year program will still give you most of the skills and knowledge as the five year program, but it will not go as nearly in depth. 

Choosing the Right School for Architecture

Check out the top 5 schools with the best architecture programs in the country!

Cornell University

Cornell University is home to one of the oldest and most respected architecture programs in the United States. Cornell's College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, also known as the AAP, has a goal of creating critical yet creative design that will hold a long lasting impact. Design is seen as a process of “Creative experimentation and iterative analysis, that ensures non-judgemental, holistic, and open-ended inquiry enabled by independent yet critical thinking.” Cornell offers both a four and five year program. 

An important feature of the program at Cornell is that there is a relatively small size that fosters a sense of intellectual community which is also essential to the teaching and research efforts.  Access to incredible resources such as the Milstein Hall is also a plus!

Graduate Programs of Study offered:

 Undergraduate Programs of Study offered:

The curriculum offered by the school covers a variety of fields, all relating back to the discipline including architectural design, history of architecture and urban development, architectural theory, technology, and representation, and landscape architecture.

Rice University

Rice University has one of the the small professional degree programs for architecture in the country, as well as being situated within a top tier research university. This will enable each student to receive adequate individual attention with a deep breadth of study. Thanks to the unique Preceptorship program as well as the talented alumni, Rice Architecture has a remarkable reputation among top offices across the world. Graduates of Rice University are recognized to be “smart, articulate, talented, and well-prepared” according to the school’s website. The university expects each and every student to engage the world of the classroom, including the world of architecture and the world at large as a whole. 

Graduates of the university will be ready to work with others, while also being prepared to take on various leadership roles. Graduates had found jobs all over the entire globe, mostly in architecture but also with magazines, museums, consulting firms, product and web designers, universities, planners, and even law firms.

Recent companies that have employed graduates from Rice University:

  • Apple Inc.
  • Architecture Research Office
  • Architecture Plus Information
  • Bjarke Ingels Group: BIG
  • CAZA Architects
  • Continuum Architects + Planners
  • Gensler
  • HOK
  • WeWork

Pratt Institute 

Pratt Institute has it all! Core seminar lessons at the School of Architecture are tested directly in the design studio during the five year program. Pratt Institute prides themselves on maintaining a balance on student wellness along with academic success.

Learning outcomes from the website of the School of Architecture at the Pratt Institute:

  • Professional Knowledge: Each student will demonstrate the ability to transform an idea to an architectural proposition. This will be done by incorporating all skills developed from core to more of an advanced design. (Design Excellence)
  • Social & Cultural Thinking: Students at Pratt will also learn that architecture is a meaningful cultural contribution dedicated to the concept of the imagination and the necessity for material embodiment within a larger social/ethical context. (Critical Thinking/Cultural and Social Knowledge)
  • Technology: Students will demonstrate the critical use of digital technology, fabrication, and environmentally responsible design in relationship to contemporary design and practice. (Technology: Computation and Digital Fabrication)
  • Urbanism: Students will demonstrate the ability to integrate sustainable practices, material research, and interdisciplinary approaches to find sustainable design solutions. (Ecological Design)
  • Critical Thinking: Students will demonstrate creative and intellectual independence to various methods of applied architectural research. (Research)
  • Professional Knowledge: Pratt will instill aesthetic judgment, knowledge, collaborative skill, and technical expertise that is able to  blend theory with creative applications to prepare students to become leaders one day in the profession. (Professionalism)

Rhode Island School of Design

The architecture program at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has an advantage to some of the other schools mentioned already. RISD’s architecture program is integrated into a top college that is known for immense depth in the areas of fine arts and design offerings. A strong visual and humanities based education is offered to architecture students at RISD, with a community of creative collaborators who are passionate about areas in animation, graphic design, printmaking, and sculpture as examples. 

Learning outcomes of architecture students at RISD listed on the school’s website:

  • Utilize critical thinking to build abstract relationships and understand the impact of ideas.
  • Use and experiment with the representational techniques of the discipline.
  • Investigate architectural form using spatial principles and material properties.
  • Comprehend technical aspects of building practices, systems and materials and apply this knowledge to architectural solutions.
  • Synthesize a range of complex variables into an integrated design solution.
  • Understand principles for the practice of architecture, including advocacy, ethical actions and project management.
  • Develop a creative process and frame theoretical questions through making.
  • Donduct advanced research, including gathering and assessing information and establishing research methods.

Southern California Institute of Architecture

The Southern California Institute of Architecture, or SCI-Arc, is a world-renowned center of innovation! SCI-Arc is one of the nation’s few independent architecture schools, offering undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate programs that focus on both the discipline and practice of architecture. The school is located in a former freight depot in the Arts District of Los Angeles, which is classified by the vibrant atmosphere of its studios that provides students with a unique and inspiring environment in which to study architecture and design.

The curriculum at SCI-Arc is based on the “studio environment,” which is technically modeled after the atelier model of architectural education practiced for many years at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, along with the Architectural Association in London. In this model, students are identified according to their progression through the studio curriculum, and students will also take lecture courses and seminar courses in concert with the specified learning goals at each stage. The studios are all open, because one room is nowhere near enough space. The studios are part of the spatial landscape of the school, which teach architects to engage, speculate, and innovate, to take the lead in changing the landscape along with the limits of architecture.

Summer Programs

Interested in a couple events that might gauge your interest in the field of architecture? SRI-Arc will have you covered!

Check out these summer programs offered by SRI-Arc:

  • Making+Meaning: A four-week portfolio building summer studio program that introduces students to architectural experimentation and transformative design techniques in SCI-Arc’s unique and lively studio environment.
  • Design Immersion Days: Design Immersion Days (DID) is an immersive four-week summer program that introduces high school students to design and architecture.

Start Today!

Now that you’ve taken a look at some of the top architecture programs in the country, which seem most impressive? Any you plan on applying to?

Matt Lyons
Matt is a professional writer based in Pittsburgh, PA.
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