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Top 10 Colleges for Architecture

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

View of a student drawing on a table.

Top 10 Colleges for Architecture

Architecture, as a program or degree, represents both a creative pursuit and an intellectual endeavor. At its core, architecture is more than just designing buildings; it encompasses shaping spaces that reflect cultural values, human aspirations, and societal needs. Architects from top colleges for architecture are not only builders but also storytellers, weaving narratives through their designs that contribute to the fabric of society.

Whether it’s creating sustainable structures, reimagining urban landscapes, or preserving historical landmarks, architecture plays a pivotal role in shaping the way we live, work, and interact with our surroundings. As such, pursuing a degree in architecture offers students a unique opportunity to explore the intersection of art, science, and social responsibility.

Choosing the right school for an architecture degree is paramount for an optimal college experience. The best schools not only offer rigorous academic training but also provide access to resources, opportunities for hands-on experience, and mentorship from esteemed faculty members.

Moreover, attending a reputable institution can open doors to a network of professionals and alumni, enhancing career prospects and facilitating connections within the industry. By selecting a school with a strong architecture program, students can immerse themselves in an environment conducive to growth, creativity, and innovation, laying the foundation for a successful and fulfilling career in architecture.

In this blog, AdmissionSight listed the top colleges for architecture that upcoming college students can look into if they dream of becoming an architect.

Top 10 Colleges for Architecture

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology ( MIT) – Department of Architecture

  • Location: 77 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA
  • Estimated Tuition: $35,000 – $40,000
  • Acceptance Rate: 4%
  • Degrees Offered: 
    • Bachelor of Science in Architecture (BSA)
    • Bachelor of Science in Art and Design (BSAD)
    • Master of Architecture (MArch)
    • Master of Science in Architecture Studies (SMArchS)
    • Master of Science in Building Technology (SMBT)
    • Master of Science in Art, Culture, and Technology (SMACT)
    • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Consistently ranking high in the QS rankings, MIT stands as a globally acclaimed university dedicated to expanding knowledge and cultivating future leaders in various disciplines, including architecture.

With a mission to equip students to serve society effectively, MIT’s architecture department offers a comprehensive education in the built environment. Emphasizing both knowledge and creativity, the program aims to empower students to excel in the field. Annually, approximately 250 students enroll in the master’s program, benefiting from MIT’s rich academic resources and commitment to excellence.

View of MIT building

The program’s emphasis on creativity, sustainability, and technological innovation prepares students to address the evolving needs of the built environment. With a focus on both theoretical understanding and practical application, MIT cultivates critical thinking and problem-solving skills essential for success in the field. Whether pursuing careers in architectural practice, academia, research, or beyond, MIT graduates are well-equipped to shape the future of architecture and design.

2. Harvard University – Harvard Graduate School of Design

  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Estimated Tuition: $50,000 – $60,000
  • Acceptance Rate: 3%
  • Degrees Offered:
    • Master of Architecture I (MArch I)
    • Master of Architecture II (MArch II)
    • Bachelor of Architecture

Harvard University’s prominent position as one of the top architecture schools in the United States, currently ranked high in the QS rankings, comes as no surprise. With a mission to nurture leaders capable of effecting positive change globally through excellence in teaching, learning, and research, Harvard’s architecture programs are designed to prepare students for the challenges of the future.

Recent developments showcase Harvard’s commitment to both innovation and historical understanding within the field. In a noteworthy breakthrough, Harvard researchers have uncovered the enduring secrets behind Roman architecture, shedding light on its longevity over centuries. This dedication to studying and learning from the past underscores Harvard University’s multifaceted approach to architectural education and research.

At Harvard College, Architecture Studies constitutes a specialized track within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, specifically within the History of Art and Architecture concentration. This program is jointly overseen by the History of Art and Architecture department and the Graduate School of Design (GSD), serving as a vital bridge between the two institutions.

Beyond providing undergraduates with access to the GSD’s resources and opportunities, this track underscores the interdisciplinary enrichment that architecture and design thinking bring to liberal arts education. By fostering collaboration between the GSD and Harvard College, students are empowered to explore the intersection of architectural theory and practice within the broader context of arts and sciences.

3. Carnegie Mellon University – School of Architecture

  • Location: 5000 Forbes Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15213
  • Estimated Tuition: $50,000 – $58,000
  • Acceptance Rate: 34%
  • Courses Offered:
    • Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch)
    • Bachelor of Arts in Architecture (B.A.)
    • Master of Advanced Architectural Design (MAAD)
    • Master of Architecture (M.Arch)
    • Architecture–Engineering–Construction Management (MSAECM | PHD-AECM)
    • PhD in Architecture (PhD-ARCH)
    • Doctor of Design (DDES)

Achieving architectural excellence necessitates a dual focus on mastering foundational principles and cultivating individualized expertise. At CMU’s School of Architecture, students have the opportunity to specialize in subdisciplines such as sustainable or computational design, tailoring their education to their unique interests and career goals.

Carnegie Mellon University website homepage logo visible on display screen

Furthermore, students can seamlessly integrate their architectural studies with other distinguished programs offered at CMU, spanning humanities, sciences, business, or robotics. While all graduates emerge with a comprehensive understanding of architecture, each student’s educational journey is distinct, reflecting their diverse areas of focus and interdisciplinary pursuits.

4. Cornell University – College of Architecture, Art, and Planning

  • Location: Sibley Dome, Ithaca, NY
  • Estimated Tuition: $40,000 – $45,000
  • Courses Offered: 
    • Bachelor of Architecture
    • Master of Architecture
    • Master of Science, Advanced Architectural Design
    • Master of Science, Advanced Urban Design
    • History of Architecture and Urban Development (Ph.D)
  • Acceptance Rate: 11%

AAP’s Department of Architecture presents undergraduates with a five-year professional program leading to a Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) degree. Recognized consistently as one of the nation’s premier programs, this B.Arch. program holds accreditation from NAAB and carries the designation as a STEM program, offering international graduates the opportunity to extend their F-1 visas for up to three years, facilitating work within the United States.

The curriculum of the B.Arch. program strikes a balance between the rigor of professional education and the vast resources available within a distinguished university setting. Faculty members within the department have meticulously crafted a structured and immersive curriculum, focusing on design alongside theory, history, technology, representation, and structures.

From the outset, students hone fundamental conceptual skills, mastering the art of architectural communication through various mediums, including models and drawings, both analog and digital. The initial three years emphasize a core curriculum aimed at establishing a robust foundation for architectural education, while the final four semesters encourage interdisciplinary exploration, fostering intellectual depth and speculative inquiry. Concentrations in Architecture, Culture, and Society; Architectural Science and Technology; History of Architecture; Architectural Analysis; and Visual Representation in Architecture offer students avenues for specialized study tailored to their interests and aspirations.

5.  The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) – UCLA Architecture and Urban Design

  • Location: Perloff Hall, Los Angeles, CA
  • Estimated Tuition: $35,000 – $40,000
  • Degrees Offered:
    • Bachelor of Arts in Architectural Studies
    • MS in Architecture and Urban Design
    • Master of Arts in Architecture (MA)
    • Doctor of Philosophy in Architecture (PhD)
  • Acceptance Rate: 10%

The Bachelor of Arts in Architectural Studies curriculum lays the groundwork by exploring the foundational principles of architecture, including form, space, tectonics, and program, and their intersections with political, social, and cultural dynamics. Emphasizing two key objectives, the program aims to foster an understanding of architecture and urban design as humanistic disciplines rooted in cultural and social studies, as well as to prepare interested students for advanced studies in the field.

Structured around three core areas—critical studies, technology, and design—the undergraduate major equips students with essential skills and knowledge. The critical studies component establishes a strong foundation in critical thinking, delving into historical and contemporary disciplinary contexts.

UCLA at night

This critical mindset informs the technology sequence, where students analyze emerging technologies, material assemblies, and architectural representation techniques. In the design studio, critical thinking is applied to tackle enduring disciplinary questions, explore the societal role of architecture, and address specific audiences, geographical contexts, and programmatic requirements.

6. Rice University – School of Architecture (also known as Rice Architecture)

  • Location: Main Street, Houston, TX
  • Estimated Tuition: $35,000 – $45,000
  • Degrees Offered:
    • Bachelor of Architecture
    • Master of Architecture (M.Arch.)
  • Acceptance Rate: 6%

Rice Architecture’s highly regarded undergraduate program features a unique structure, culminating in two consecutive degrees. The initial four years lead to a bachelor of arts in architecture, followed by an additional two years resulting in a bachelor of architecture professional degree. Notably, one of these years includes participation in the renowned Rice Architecture Preceptorship program. During Preceptorship, B.Arch. students gain valuable mentored experience through year-long placements in prominent architecture firms worldwide.

The Rice Architecture B.A. program is distinctively rooted in liberal arts education, offering a comprehensive curriculum that encompasses all aspects of architecture. Through a core curriculum encompassing history/theory, technology, and design courses, students receive a well-rounded education. Flexible elective options allow students to explore diverse disciplines across the university, ensuring they graduate with a broad skill set suited for leadership roles in various fields.

Additionally, fifth-year students engage directly with professional practice during the advanced studio in the fall semester of their final year. This innovative program integrates esteemed consultants into the studios, highlighting the interconnected nature of design with disciplines ranging from finance to fabrication.

Furthermore, Rice Architecture emphasizes the global nature of architectural practice, recognizing its significance not only in Houston, but also in the European context of the Rice Architecture Paris program and in courses incorporating international travel experiences.

7. The University Of California, Berkeley – College of Environmental Design

  • Location: Bauer Wurster Hall #1820, Berkeley, CA
  • Estimated Tuition: $25,000 – $35,000
  • Degrees Offered:
    • Bachelor of Arts in Architecture
    • Master of Architecture (MArch)
    • Master of Advanced Architectural Design (MAAD)
    • Master of Science (M.S.) in Architecture
    • Ph.D. in Architecture
  • Acceptance Rate: 12%

The undergraduate program in architecture at Berkeley culminates in the bachelor of arts (B.A.) degree, offering a comprehensive curriculum that blends required courses in environmental design and architecture with flexible opportunities for tailored individual programs.

Core courses provide students with a broad introduction to the field of architecture, while specialized studies in areas such as architectural design and representation, architectural technologies and building performance, architectural history, and society and culture allow for focused preparation in specific aspects of the discipline.

UC Berkeley

Beyond imparting a robust and diverse education, the undergraduate program equips students with the foundational skills necessary for entry-level employment in architecture, lays the groundwork for further graduate studies in the field, or facilitates the pursuit of advanced studies in related environmental design disciplines.

8. Georgia Institute of Technology – School of Architecture

  • Location: North Avenue, Atlanta, GA
  • Estimated Tuition: $35,000 – $40,000
  • Degrees Offered: 
    • Bachelor of Science in Architecture
    • Master of Architecture (M.Arch)
  • Acceptance Rate: 17%

The Bachelor of Science in Architecture program at Georgia Tech spans four years, offering a pre-professional degree that immerses students in the realm of design while fostering creativity and problem-solving skills. This program serves as a foundational step, introducing students to the field, material culture, and innovative approaches to identifying and resolving challenges.

It sets the stage for advanced graduate-level studies, leading to professional licensure as an architect, and opens doors to diverse career paths and entrepreneurial ventures in design, planning, construction, and business innovation.

The curriculum integrates essential components of a Georgia Tech education, including mathematics, sciences, computation, humanities, and social sciences. Through studio-based coursework, students delve into architectural history, theory, building systems, media & modeling, and design, providing a comprehensive foundation. Extensive elective options enable students to pursue minors in various fields or focus on specific areas of specialization within architecture, enhancing their skill set and broadening their career prospects.

9. University of Pennsylvania – Stuart Weitzman School of Design

  • Location: S. 36th St, Philadelphia, PA
  • Estimated Tuition: $20,000 – $25,000
  • Degrees Offered: 
    • Bachelor of Arts in Architecture
    • Master of Architecture
    • Master of Science in Architecture
    • Master of Science in Design: Advanced Architectural Design
    • PhD in Architecture
  • Acceptance Rate: 5%

The undergraduate architecture program within the College of Arts & Sciences at our institution provides a range of opportunities for students to engage with architecture at different levels. These opportunities span from introductory Freshman Seminars and a Minor in Architecture to a comprehensive Major in Architecture, which offers two concentrations: Design and Intensive Design.

Very old building in University of Pennsylvania

Upon completion of the program, students are awarded a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree from the School of Arts & Sciences, majoring in Architecture. While this degree alone may not fulfill the educational requirements for architectural licensure in various states across the United States, the courses mandated for the Major in Architecture often surpass the prerequisites for admission to the majority of Master of Architecture professional degree programs accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB).

10. Yale University – Yale School of Architecture

  • Location: New Haven, CT
  • Estimated Tuition: $50,000 – $60,000
  • Degrees Offered: 
    • Bachelor of Arts in Architecture
    • Master of Architecture I
  • Acceptance Rate: 14%

The School exclusively offers an undergraduate major in architecture to students enrolled in Yale College. Prospective students interested in pursuing this major must apply directly to Yale College.

Architecture serves as both a creative and intellectual endeavor, influencing the built environment and reflecting cultural values and human aspirations. It provides a unique perspective through which to interpret the world. The undergraduate standard major integrates architectural studies into a comprehensive liberal arts education, leveraging the diverse academic and professional resources available at the Yale School of Architecture. While it results in a bachelor of arts degree with a major in Architecture, a nonprofessional degree, it does not meet the requirements for architectural licensure.

What should you consider in choosing a college for architecture?

When choosing a college for architecture, several factors should be carefully considered to ensure the best fit for your academic and professional goals:

1. Accreditation

It’s essential to verify that the architecture program you’re considering is accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). Accreditation ensures that the program meets established standards of quality and rigor, equipping students with the necessary skills and knowledge for licensure and professional practice.

Additionally, accreditation enhances the reputation of the degree, increasing its value in the job market and facilitating seamless transitions to graduate studies or professional roles.

2. Faculty expertise and mentorship

Investigate the faculty members within the architecture department and their areas of expertise. Look for educators who are not only accomplished professionals but also dedicated mentors committed to supporting student growth and development.

Faculty involvement in research, practice, and community engagement can provide valuable opportunities for hands-on learning, networking, and collaborative projects, enriching the overall educational experience.

3. Curriculum and specialization options

Evaluate the architecture program’s curriculum and the range of specialization options available. A well-rounded curriculum should encompass core courses in design, theory, history, technology, and professional practice, providing a comprehensive foundation in architectural education. 

Additionally, look for opportunities to specialize in areas of interest, such as sustainable design, urban planning, digital fabrication, or historic preservation. Specialization options allow students to tailor their education to align with their career aspirations and explore niche areas within the field.

4. Facilities and resources

Consider the facilities and resources available to architecture students, including design studios, workshops, computer labs, and fabrication facilities. Access to state-of-the-art technology, software, and equipment is essential for hands-on learning and experimentation.

lady in green sweater looking outside with laptop and mug

Moreover, examine the library holdings, architectural archives, and digital databases accessible to students for research and inspiration. Adequate resources provide a stimulating learning environment and support creative exploration and innovation.

5. Industry connections and internship opportunities

Explore the college’s connections with the architecture industry, including partnerships with architectural firms, professional organizations, and alumni networks. Institutions with strong industry ties often offer internship programs, co-op opportunities, or collaborative projects that enable students to gain real-world experience, build professional relationships, and expand their networks.

Engaging with the industry through internships or externships can provide invaluable insights into the practice of architecture, inform career decisions, and enhance employability upon graduation.

6. Alumni success and career support

Research the career outcomes of alumni from the architecture program and assess the level of career support provided by the college. Alumni success stories, testimonials, and professional achievements can offer insights into the program’s effectiveness in preparing students for successful careers in architecture.

Additionally, inquire about career services, job placement assistance, and professional development opportunities offered by the college’s career center or architecture department. Robust career support services can help students navigate internship searches, job applications, portfolio development, licensure exams, and ongoing professional development, facilitating a smooth transition from academia to the workforce.

What can you do with a degree in Architecture?

A degree in architecture opens up a diverse range of career opportunities beyond traditional architectural practice. Here are ten potential career paths for individuals with a degree in architecture:

  1. Architectural design: The most common career path for architecture graduates is to work as licensed architects in architectural firms or as independent practitioners. Architects design and plan buildings and structures, considering functionality, aesthetics, sustainability, and safety regulations. They collaborate with clients, engineers, contractors, and other professionals to bring projects from conception to completion.
  2. Urban planning and design: Urban planners utilize their architectural background to design and develop communities, neighborhoods, and urban spaces. They analyze land use, zoning regulations, transportation systems, and environmental factors to create sustainable and livable urban environments. Urban planners often work for government agencies, consulting firms, or nonprofit organizations.
  3. Interior design: Architects with a keen eye for interior spaces may pursue careers in interior design. Interior designers plan and design interior layouts, finishes, furnishings, and lighting to create functional and aesthetically pleasing environments. They work closely with clients to understand their needs, preferences, and budgetary constraints, transforming spaces into inviting and functional interiors.
  4. Landscape architecture: Landscape architects design outdoor spaces, parks, gardens, and landscapes to enhance their beauty, functionality, and ecological sustainability. They integrate natural elements, such as plants, water features, and terrain, with built structures to create harmonious and sustainable environments. Landscape architects may work for landscape architecture firms, environmental planning agencies, or government organizations.
  5. Historic preservation: Architects interested in heritage conservation and historic preservation may pursue careers in restoring and preserving historic buildings, landmarks, and cultural heritage sites. Historic preservationists assess the significance of historic structures, develop conservation plans, and oversee restoration projects to ensure the preservation of architectural heritage for future generations.
  6. Construction management: Architects with strong project management skills may transition into construction management roles, overseeing the planning, coordination, and execution of construction projects. Construction managers collaborate with architects, engineers, contractors, and subcontractors to ensure projects are completed on time, within budget, and according to specifications.
  7. Sustainable design and green building: With growing awareness of environmental sustainability, architects specializing in sustainable design focus on creating buildings and structures that minimize environmental impact, conserve resources, and promote energy efficiency. Sustainable architects integrate passive design strategies, renewable energy systems, and environmentally friendly materials to create green buildings that reduce carbon footprint and promote environmental stewardship.
  8. Building technology and research: Architects with a passion for innovation and technology may pursue careers in building technology research and development. They explore new materials, construction techniques, and building systems to improve building performance, durability, and energy efficiency. Building technology researchers collaborate with academia, industry, and government agencies to advance the state-of-the-art in architectural design and construction.
  9. Real estate development: Architects with a strong understanding of design, construction, and urban planning may transition into careers in real estate development. Real estate developers identify opportunities, acquire land, and oversee the development of residential, commercial, and mixed-use projects. They collaborate with architects, engineers, financiers, and local stakeholders to bring development projects to fruition, adding value to communities and contributing to economic growth.
  10. Academia and education: Architects passionate about teaching, research, and mentorship may pursue careers in academia and education. They may become professors, lecturers, or researchers at universities, colleges, or architectural schools, imparting their knowledge and expertise to the next generation of architects. Additionally, they may contribute to architectural research, publish scholarly articles, and participate in academic conferences to advance the field of architecture.

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