Architectural Design Majors: Salary and Career Facts

Learn about the career options available to architectural design majors. See the curriculum of a typical degree program, and get information on average annual salaries in this profession. Schools offering Building Information Modeling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is An Architectural Design Major?

An architectural design major pursues primary studies in the field of architectural design while completing their undergraduate degree. Courses they may take include the history of architecture, architectural theory, building design and construction methods. They also learn how to use computer-aided design (CAD) software. After graduation, many go on to pursue graduate work in architecture, engineering, law or business.

Graduates who want to immediately enter the workforce can get a job as an architectural drafter or designer. Architectural design majors who go on to become architectural drafters utilize their knowledge of CAD software to assist architects as they prepare blueprints and finalize existing building plans. Drafters are often called on to use CAD software to draw in specific architectural features. Alternatively, architectural design program graduates can get jobs as interior designers. Their expertise in building design can be beneficial in a variety of specialization areas within this career area. For instance, universal designers renovate buildings to improve accessibility, such as adding handicap ramps, which requires expertise in architectural design. Similarly, sustainable designers employ innovative design and construction strategies to reduce a building's environmental footprint. After developing a plan, interior designers plan the budget and assist in the oversight of project implementation.

Career Architectural Drafter Interior Designer
Degree Required Associate's Degree Bachelor's Degree
Key Responsibilities Use CAD software; draw structural features for agricultural plans; add details to blueprints; follow instructions from architects Design building layouts; plan building renovations; calculate project budgets
Licensure or Certification Voluntary professional certification available Voluntary professional certification available
Job Growth (2014-2024) -3%* 4%*
Mean Salary (2015) $53,470* (for architectural and civil drafters) $55,510*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Types of Architectural Design Degrees are Available?

The Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts or Bachelor of Science in Architectural Design is a 4-year degree covering the art, history, theory and techniques of interior and exterior building practices. Advanced computer animation and drawing courses may be part of the curriculum. These degrees are typically offered through architecture, design or art schools. It is important to note that an architectural design degree differs from a Bachelor of Architecture (BArch), in that the BArch is accepted as a professional degree by the National Architecture Accrediting Board leading to licensure as an architect, while the architectural design degree is considered a non-professional degree.

A Bachelor of Science in Engineering with an architectural design major is offered through university departments or schools of engineering. This degree program generally includes math, science and engineering courses along with studio drawing, art and design philosophy courses. A few 4-year programs in architectural design technology are offered through departments of computer science, but architectural design technology is primarily a 2-year program offered mainly by community colleges. This degree program emphasizes drafting and computer-aided architectural drawing.

What Career Could I Have?

One career option for graduates of architectural design programs is a position as an architectural drafter, sometimes called an architectural designer. Architectural drafters are hired by architecture firms to assist architects by using CAD software to prepare schematics and sketch out plans for buildings. They also review blueprints to make sure that they are in compliance with land use regulations and building codes. Some architectural drafters specialize in either residential or commercial building.

Another option is a position as an interior designer. Success in this profession requires expertise in building architecture, especially when working to renovate a building to improve accessibility or sustainability. In addition, interior designers make functional and artistic choices about furniture, flooring, and room color scheme. When planning a project, interior designers are also responsible for estimating costs and preparing an overall budget.

How Much Could I Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual wage for architectural and civil drafters was $53,470 in 2015. The average wage for those working specifically in the architectural and engineering services industry was $52,670. For interior designers, the average annual wage was $55,510 in 2015. However, those who worked in architectural and engineering services made considerably more: an average annual wage of $62,170.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Instead of majoring in architectural design, you could choose a different major that leads to a different job in the architecture industry. For instance, if you earn a professional bachelor's degree in architecture, you can become a licensed architect. They are qualified to plan and design many types of buildings, including residential and commercial structures. Alternatively, you could study to become a construction manager. In fact, some schools even offer dual bachelor's degree programs in architectural design and construction management to prepare graduates for this career. Construction managers plan and coordinate construction projects, including building construction. They also plan the budget and make sure that it is adhered to over the course of the project, and that all other contractual obligations are met as well. The minimum educational requirement is usually a bachelor's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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