If you are thinking of becoming an architect, you may be pleasantly surprised to know that there are a lot of educational options for you. You could earn anything from a certificate and be in school for a year or less, to a bachelor’s or master’s degree which will require four to six years of schooling. What you should do depends entirely on what type of job you would like to have after graduation.
The quickest way to break into the architecture profession is to earn an associate’s degree in architecture or a specific subset of architecture, such as drafting or technology. A degree of this type will provide you with valuable technical skills so that you can look forward to a future in a number of different areas. You could work in architectural technology or architectural design, or transfer your degree after graduation to another program in order to earn a bachelor’s degree. Your courses will usually combine classroom instruction with studio time where you can practice making your designs come to life. You will study such topics as building materials, building codes, digital graphics, construction methods, estimating cost, design, history, and presentation techniques. Associate’s degrees typically take two years to complete, although the exact time frame will depend on how many classes you take per semester. In addition to vocational classes, most A.A.S. (associate’s of applied science) programs also include courses in general education topics, such as history, math, and English.
Bachelor’s degrees take four years to complete and follow a similar structure to associate’s degree programs. They have both vocational classes and general studies classes that provide students with a foundation for later learning. You might get a general degree in architecture or earn a specialty degree in an area such as sustainability, facility management, or construction management. After graduation, you may enter the professional world or go on to receive a graduate degree or supplementary certificate. In order to get into such a program, you may need to submit a portfolio of your past designs and sketches for review so that an admissions panel can judge your creativity and talent. Classes might include studying the history of architecture, design, building technology, digital design, structural systems, environmental systems, and finance. These programs sometimes also include the opportunity to participate in an internship or do field study, where you visit construction sites, attend conferences, and maybe even travel abroad.
Certificates in architecture are available to students at multiple levels of education and vary in the length of time it takes to complete them. You might earn a certificate in an area such as landscape architecture without any prior education or background, and then find an entry-level position in the industry once you receive your diploma. Or, you might pursue a professional certificate in a specific area such as enterprise architecture once you already have another type of degree. In general, certificate programs are comprised of very concentrated curricula that train you in one aspect of architecture in a short period of time, and as a result forgo any general studies classes in non-vocational, purely academic subjects.