10 Best Architecture Schools Everyone Should Know

Architecture is a fascinating field, offering opportunities for creativity, research, project and people management. If you are a results-oriented person, it also provides some of the most tangible, long-lasting proof of accomplishment in any field. The first stage in entering this rewarding profession is completion of a college-level professional architecture program. To help you land your first job with a good firm and begin a long, successful career in this respected field, we have put together a guide to some of the best architecture schools in the United States.

School selection is an important decision. Architecture firms have considerable experience in hiring entry-level employees from a variety of schools and they know the schools that provide the best preparation for real life in the office.

Architecture Schools FAQ

1. What Does an Architecture School Teach? 

2. What Do You Need to Get Into the Best Architecture Schools?

3. What Does an Architecture Education Cost?

4. How Long Does It Take to Get an Architecture Degree?

5. How Much Will Your Educational Investment Be Worth?

How We Reviewed

We reviewed architecture schools based on the following parameters: curriculum, pros & cons and tuition. We researched a variety of factors that could affect your school experience and preparedness for your future career in selecting the best architecture schools. These factors included class sizes, course offerings, facilities, fees and work-study and study-abroad opportunities, among others.

Overall Price Range of Tuition

We focused this evaluation on the best undergraduate schools of architecture although several also have excellent graduate programs. The schools we reviewed had annual tuition ranging from $14,170 (for in-state students) to $55,320. While higher priced programs may provide clear advantages for some students, this may not be the case for others.

To choose the right school for you, you need to weigh the importance of various factors. Do you learn better with a smaller class size and individual attention, or would you do better with the flexibility of online classes? Do you have a special focus within the field of architecture, such as environmental technology, urban design or school design, and does the college you are considering offer enough support in this area?

As with most products and services you buy, price is only one consideration among many that are important.

Schools We Reviewed

  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • Rice University
  • Cornell University
  • University of Southern California
  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of California - Berkley
  • The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Arts and Science
  • Tulane University
  • University of Virginia
  • Virginia Tech
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Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University in St. Louis as the best architecture schools

Photo credit by: wustl.edu

Curriculum

The College of Architecture is part of this private university's Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts. It offers two four-year undergraduate programs–a Bachelor of Science in Architecture and a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture. Subjects include liberal arts, sustainability, public practice, and new technologies. The Bachelor of Science program provides a more intensive, studio-based study of architecture. Washington also offers a variety of Master's degrees in architecture and related studies.

Pros

  • Flexible curriculum with the opportunity to take classes throughout the School of Design
  • Spacious facilities — dedicated wood and metal shops, 3D printers, laser cutters, a digital fabrication lab
  • 96% of alumni are employed in desired professions, or enrolled in graduate programs, within three months of graduation

  Cons

  • Undergraduate degree is not a professional degree; students interested in working professionally must complete M. Arch. degree
  • Breadth of offerings may initially be confusing to students with minimal knowledge of the profession
  • Relatively expensive; however, 100 percent of accepted students have their financial need fully covered 

Tuitions

Tuition only: $52,400
Total costs (tuition, estimated room and board, and fees): $69,850

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Rice University

Rice University as the best architecture schools

Photo credit by: rice.edu

Curriculum

Well recognized within the profession as one of the best architecture schools, Rice offers a program consisting of two consecutive degrees: a four-year non-professional Bachelor of Arts in Architecture followed by a two-year professional B. Arch degree. This unique program places students in architectural offices around the world between their fourth and fifth years of study to gain nine to twelve month's worth of mentored experience as paid employees. This is known as the Rice Architecture Preceptorship program.

Pros

  • Exceptional student-teacher ratio of 5 to 1 
  • Preceptorship program offers real-world experience and contacts
  • Rice Paris semester offers international experience

  Cons

  • Six-year minimum to attain professional degree
  • Fewer course specialization options than many undergraduate programs

Tuitions

Tuition only: $46,600
Total costs:  $61,350

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Cornell University

Cornell University as the best architecture schools

Photo credit by: cornell.edu

Curriculum

Part of the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, Cornell's Architecture program leads to a five-year professional bachelor of architecture (B. Arch.) degree. The curriculum is highly structured and intensive, emphasizing design, theory, history, technology, representation, and structures. Degree concentrations are offered in Architecture, Culture, and Society, Architectural Science and Technology, History of Architecture, Architectural Analysis, and Visual Representation in Architecture.

Pros

  • Five years for a professional degree   
  • Focused to deliver maximum professional preparation
  • Degree specializations offered
  • Semester in Rome offers international experience

  Cons

  • Not suitable for those students who are still exploring their path
  • 10-1 student to teacher ratio
  • No structured internship experience
  • Relatively expensive

Tuitions

Tuition only: $54,818
Total costs:   $72,950

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University of Southern California

University of Southern California as the best architecture schools

Photo credit by: usc.edu

Curriculum

The USC School of Architecture, another of America's best architecture schools, has a variety of undergraduate and graduate architecture programs. USC offers a five-year professional B. Arch. or Bachelor of Architecture degree, a four-year Bachelor of Science degree in Architectural Studies and a four-year Bachelor of Science in GeoDesign. The latter program emphasizes spatial design as a vehicle for solving world problems. In addition to professional and post-professional Master's degrees in Architecture, USC offers six advanced degrees in related subjects.

Pros

  • Flexibility in specialization
  • Oriented toward global responsibility
  • Up-to-date facilities for computer modeling, large-format printing, laser cutting, 3D printing, model making, welding and photography
  • 6-1 student to teacher ratio

  Cons

  • More focus on theory and citizenship, less on practical application, than some other programs
  • Highly urban location could be undesirable for some students

Tuitions

Tuition only: $55,320
Total costs:   $74,825

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University of Notre Dame

University of Notre Dame as the best architecture schools

Photo credit by: nd.edu

Curriculum

Notre Dame offers an undergraduate five-year professional program leading to a Bachelor of Architecture degree. One year is spent in Rome, gaining insight into urban and international design. The School of Architecture emphasizes the study of traditional planning and design as a tool to solve modern problems. Beginning in their fourth year, students participate in one of three concentrations: Architectural Practice and Enterprise, Furniture Design, or Preservation and Restoration.

Pros

  • Professional degree can be completed in five years    
  • Year in Rome provides international experience
  • A variety of related software training is available

  Cons

  • Computers are not emphasized until the fourth year
  • Specialization is limited

Tuitions

Tuition only: $53,390
Total costs:   $71,800

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University of California - Berkley

University of California - Berkley as the best architecture schools

Photo credit by: berkeley.com

Curriculum

At the undergraduate level, Berkeley's College of Environmental Design offers a four-year non-professional Bachelor of Arts degree in Architecture which can lead into a two-year professional Master of Architecture program. The undergraduate program has a liberal arts orientation. In their final year, students can choose between a design research track and a studio-intensive, architecture-focused track.

Pros

  • Flexibility is good for students considering career options    
  • Final year encourages exploration of alternate career paths
  • Low tuition cost for California residents

  Cons

  • Higher student to teacher ratio than some other programs
  • Completing professional degree requires six to seven years

Tuitions

Tuition only: California state residents — $14,170; Non-residents — $42,184
Total costs:  California state residents — $35,775; Non-residents — $63,780

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The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Arts and Science

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Arts and Science as the best architecture schools

Photo credit by: coper.edu

Curriculum

Cooper Union's Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture offers a five-year professional degree. This Bachelor of Architecture program is liberal-arts based with a greater professional focus in the final two years. It stresses the importance of architecture as an ethically responsible discipline concerned with design and construction in diverse social and ecological conditions.

Pros

  • Located in the center of New York City
  • Access to some of the world's most renowned architects locally for talks, etc. 
  • Low tuition cost

  Cons

  • Location in the middle of New York City 
  • No work-study support
  • No study-abroad program

Tuitions

Tuition only: $44,550; with half-tuition scholarship granted to ALL students — $22,275
Total costs:  $67,400; with half-tuition scholarship granted to ALL students — $45,138

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Tulane University

Tulane University as the best architecture schools

Photo credit by: tulane.edu

Curriculum

Tulane has offered a degree in architecture for over 110 years and today is ranked among the best architecture schools in the country. The School of Architecture offers both a four-year non-professional Bachelor of Science degree and a five-year professional Bachelor of Architecture degree. Located in New Orleans, the School uses its own post-catastrophe urban environment as a laboratory and workspace, involving students in ongoing efforts to re-imagine and rebuild the historic city.

Pros

  • Choice of undergraduate and graduate paths
  • Located in the rich environment of New Orleans
  • Work on real-world problems
  • Study in Rome program available

  Cons

  • Urban environment that may not suit some students
  • Relatively high tuition cost
  • No work-study support

Tuitions

Tuition and Fees: $54,820
Total costs:  $72,900

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University of Virginia

University of Virginia as the best architecture schools

Photo credit by: virginia.edu

Curriculum

UVA's School of Architecture in Virginia has a four-year pre-professional Bachelor's degree and professional Master of Architecture degree tracks that require from one to three years to complete. The programs revolve around studio experience but also take a real-world step outside. Direct engagement with the sites and communities being studied and designed for is an important part of the curricula. Students travel locally, nationally and internationally to study and perform fieldwork.

Pros

  • Opportunities for travel, including ongoing study-abroad programs in Venice, Vicenza, Barcelona, China, and Ghana
  • Up-to-date facilities for analog and digital fabrication and advanced digital design and analysis
  • Emphasis on research

  Cons

  • Segmented degree path
  • Remote from urban centers that house most global architecture firms
  • Significantly higher costs for non-residents

Tuitions

Tuition only: Virginia state residents — $14,682; Non-residents — $45,724
Total costs: Virginia state residents — $33,500; Non-residents — $66,000

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Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech as the best architecture schools

Photo credit by: vtc.vt.edu

Curriculum

Virginia Tech's School of Architecture and Design offers two  initial professional degrees — a five-year Bachelor of Architecture degree and a two to three-year Master of Architecture degree. The School also offers two Master of Science in Architecture degrees — one with a concentration in Building Science and one in Urban Design. Located away from urban centers, the school incorporates many opportunities for travel, professional residencies and internships into its programs.

Pros

  • Study abroad and urban Professional Residency programs 
  • Professional internship program with academic credit
  • Professional degree in as little as five years
  • Low in-state tuition

  Cons

  • Remote location
  • Less well known nationally/internationally than others of the best architecture schools

Tuitions

Tuition and fees: Virginia state resident — $15,120; Non-resident — $33,408
Total costs:  Virginia state resident — $24,050; Non-resident — $41,342

The Verdict on Best Architecture Schools

Which architecture school should you go? We don't believe there is one best architecture school. There are definitely top architecture schools and the ones we have reviewed here are part of that elite group. However, the best one for any individual depends greatly on what features are most important to you.

It may be that you would prefer smaller classes, or have an interest in living and studying abroad for a year. You may feel that the most important thing a school can do for you is help with internships. Do you prefer a more traditional or more progressive approach to the field? Does studying in the middle of a vibrant urban center or far from stressful crowds appeal to you more? These are all factors to consider when narrowing down which architecture schools are the best options for you.

One way to learn more about the reputation of schools and their potential effect on your employability is to ask the kind of people who will be hiring you. Most architects will be happy to share their experiences with their own schools and the graduates of other schools who they have worked with. Make a short list, using ours as a starting point, and do your research. We wish you the best of luck in your new career.

 

 

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