Best Online Architecture Degree Programs
There are several schools that offer architecture degree programs online, with little to no on-campus requirements. Explore top schools, program options, and what types of careers are available to architecture program graduates.
Top Schools with Online Architecture Degree Programs
There are several things to consider when selecting an online architecture degree program, including length, admissions requirements, cost and residency requirements. Listed below are several of the top schools that offer online architecture programs.
1. University of Arizona
|Location||Tuition & Fees||% Receiving Financial Aid|
The University of Arizona is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and offers the same tuition rate to in-state and out-of-state students. UA's College of Architecture has two online programs: a Master of Real Estate Development (MRED) and a Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Built Environments. The MRED program has a cost of $850 per unit, consists of 30 total units, and includes three graduate certificates within the curriculum. The bachelor's program allows students to select a concentration in real estate development or sustainable buildings, consists of 123 units and has a cost per unit of $525.
2. Lawrence Technological University
|Location||Tuition & Fees||% Receiving Financial Aid|
Lawrence Technological University offers a Master of Architecture online to students with any bachelor's degree. Students with a bachelor's degree in architecture are required to complete 36 credit hours, and students with a degree in another field are required to complete up to 90 credit hours. Both programs are completed online except for one summer semester, during which students will attend 4 extended on-campus weekend sessions. The program takes as few as 15 months to complete and has a tuition cost per credit of $1,200.
3. Chatham University
|Location||Tuition & Fees||% Receiving Financial Aid|
Students with a bachelor's degree in interior architecture or interior design can earn a Master of Science in Interior Architecture completely online at Chatham University. The program consists of 30 credit hours and allows students to use 9 credit hours toward electives of their choosing, including courses from other schools that are members of the Pittsburgh Council of Higher Education (PCHE). The program is available full-time and part-time and can be completed in as little as one year. All students have a tuition cost of $987 per credit hour.
4. Southern Illinois University-Carbondale
|Location||Tuition & Fees||% Receiving Financial Aid|
Southern Illinois University has an Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL) program that can be completed without any campus visits. Students should be working for an architectural firm that is willing to collaborate with the school for practice requirements completion. The program consists of 51 credit hours and has a tuition per credit fee of $470.
5. Boston Architectural College
|Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)||% Receiving Financial Aid|
Boston Architectural College offers various architecture and related programs online, which allows students to complete their courses online while gaining experience at their place of employment. The online Master of Architecture (MArch) program is accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board, takes 2 to 2.5 years to complete, and consists of 36 credits and 3,000 practice hours. The Master of Science in Interior Architecture (MSIA) program consists of 30 credit hours and takes 3 semesters to complete. The MArch program includes week-long on-campus sessions each semester and a per-credit tuition rate as low as $850, and the MSIA program includes two weekend sessions over the course of the program and costs $15,298 per semester for a full-time course load.
All statistical data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics
Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.
Online Architecture Program Information
There are several types of architecture programs that can be completed completely or primarily online.
- Certificate Programs: Certificate programs typically consist of 10 to 20 credit hours, taking two semesters or less of full-time course work. These programs are often offered at the graduate level, with focus areas such as architecture, construction management, interior architecture and urban design.
- Bachelor's Degree Programs: These programs can be offered to students without architecture experience or previous college credits. Students are generally required to complete 120 to 130 credit hours over the course of four years. Some of the degrees that are offered at the undergraduate level via online or hybrid programs are: Bachelor of Architecture, Bachelor of Science in Architecture, and Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Built Environments. Depending on their program, students may also be able to choose a concentration area within their program such as:
- Sustainable Buildings
- Sustainable Real Estate Development
- Sustainable Landscapes
- Architectural History
- Architectural Design
- Landscape Architecture
- Master's Degree Programs: Most online/hybrid architecture programs are open to students who have earned a bachelor's degree in architecture, but some programs are open to students without previous architecture experience. Students with an architecture degree are typically required to complete 30 to 50 credit hours, while students with a non-architecture degree might be required to complete 50 to 90 credit hours. These programs can take as few as two years and lead to various degrees, including Master of Architecture, Master of Science in Interior Architecture, Master of Science in Architecture. Some programs also offer program concentration options to students, which may include:
- Interior Architecture/Design
- Design Theory
- Architectural History
- Urban Studies
- Building Structures/Performance
- Systems Optimization
Some online architecture programs consist of on-campus sessions, whether once-per-program or once-per-semester, while other programs offer all requirements via distance learning. Students will typically complete an introductory course or tutorial at the beginning of their program, which provides an overview of the online learning platform. The class portal may contain all course content or be supplemented with separate online lab resources. Students will use their portal for various tasks such as accessing lectures, assignments, exams and communication. Courses may include fully-asynchronous components, which allow students to log in and complete work at their convenience, and some courses will also include some synchronous (schedule) components, such as exams and live video lectures.
The specific curriculum within online architecture programs varies, but many programs include several of the following courses:
- Architecture and the Environment - This class explores the relationship between the natural and built environments. Students learn about past and current problems in ecology that are a result of construction and expansion. Other topics covered may include ethics, ecological awareness, biological factors and political implications.
- Professional Practice - Students learn about ethics, regulations and standard procedures for licensed architects. They may study state-specific laws, contracts, architecture history, codes of conduct and governmental regulations.
- Design Theory - This course explores the history and evolution of design, and may cover periods such as classical Greece and twentieth-century Europe. Some of the topics covered might include industrial design, the industrial age, interior design and urban planning.
- Research Methods - Within this course, students will further develop their research knowledge and skills by learning how to effectively collect and analyze data. Students may use various sources for research assignments such as professional, education and governmental resources.
- Advanced Design Practice - This course contains one or more design projects, through which students apply their understanding and skills of architectural design. Students typically create and professionally display design ideas as assigned.
How to Choose an Online Architecture Program
When choosing an online architecture degree program, there are a few factors that you should consider. We'll cover some of the most important below.
When reviewing your school choices, you should look for institution accreditation as well as program accreditation. Institutions are accredited by various organizations; architecture programs can only be accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). You will need to attend an accredited school to qualify for financial aid, and some states may require you to graduate from a NAAB accredited program for licensure.
Depending on your background, you may need a bachelor's, master's, or even a certificate program in architecture. Not all schools offer all programs, so it's essential that you confirm your school offers a program that fits your background and career objectives. Also, some specialties and concentrations are only offered at a few schools around the country.
The flexibility of programs varies greatly. Some programs are offered as both part-time and full-time options, while others are available as one or the other. Additionally, programs often include asynchronous coursework but some programs require students to complete synchronous (scheduled) components. Ask your school choices about the flexibility of their programs to ensure they meet your needs.
While many programs are offered completely online, some do require students to attend residency sessions. These might involve one week each semester, a few weekends throughout the program, or a similar variation. Check with your schools to see what, if any, residency requirements are involved, and decide if those requirements will work with your schedule.
Online architecture programs can vary in cost, totaling anywhere from $20,000 to more than $100,000. Most programs itemize tuition and other fees while some programs offer a flat-rate fee. Your cost will vary based on your program (graduate versus undergraduate tuition), credits needed, and the school itself. Although cost is important to compare, keep in mind that financial aid is available if you attend an accredited school.
How to Become an Architect
There are a few key steps in becoming an architect or landscape architect, which include education, experience and licensure.
Step 1: Complete a Qualifying Architecture Program
Architects can qualify for licensure by earning a bachelor's degree in architecture and/or a master's degree in architecture. Many states require the degree to be from a school that is accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). Because each state's licensing requirements vary, students should review their state's requirements (available at the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, or NCARB) to see specific degree requirements.
Step 2: Gain Experience
After completing a qualifying degree program, architecture candidates must complete around 3 years of applicable work. In most cases, this is done through a paid internship. Many aspiring architects choose a program run by the NCARB called the Architectural Experience Program (AXP). Some programs enable students to work as interns while completing their program, shaving some time off of the required post-graduation internship requirements.
Step 3: Obtain Licensure
After completing the required internship, candidates need to take and pass the Architect Registration Examination. Since each state's requirements vary, students should review their requirements for any additional qualifications.
Step 4: Maintain Licensure
In most states, architects must earn qualifying continuing education credits to maintain their license. These credits are often earned through conferences, workshops, courses and other resources.
Licensure for Architects
Both architects and landscape architects are required to have licensure. To qualify for licensure, candidates generally need to complete an architecture degree and a certain number of years as an intern. The specific requirements for architects vary by state, but architects will need to pass the Architect Registration Exam and landscape architects are required to pass the Landscape Architect Registration Exam. Many states also require architects to earn continuing education credits during their license validity period to maintain or renew their licenses.
What Can You Do with an Online Architecture Degree?
There are a few different careers that graduates can pursue depending on their interests, work history, and specific program. Several positions that apply to architecture graduates are discussed below along with their salaries and estimated job growths, provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Architects design and plan various structures including offices, houses and retail stores. Their duties often include visiting worksites to review job status, preparing drawings by hand or computer, preparing contracts and estimating construction costs. Architects spend the majority of their working hours in office settings, creating drawings and meeting with clients or collaborators. They also visit worksites occasionally to inspect the status of projects. In 2018 they had a median annual salary of $79,380, with the highest-earning architects working in government. The architect field is expected to grow 8% from 2018 to 2028, which is more than average, due to the increasing demand for architects with expertise in sustainable design. Architects are required to have completed a few years of internship and obtained licensure in all states.
Landscape architects plan and design outdoor areas such as parks, university outdoor areas and even private homes. They meet with various other professionals, such as engineers, as well as clients. Landscape architects prepare the specifications and cost estimates for sites, choose materials for landscaping and oversee projects to ensure that specifications and standards are met. They work to emphasize the natural appeal of spaces using various materials and resources. Although landscape architects visit sites to make plans and oversee projects, they spend the majority of their time indoors, meeting with clients and creating designs. All states require landscape architects to obtain licensure. They are expected to see a 4% job growth and had a median annual salary of $68,230 in 2018.
Construction managers oversee, coordinate and plan construction projects, and prepare estimates and budgets. Their duties can include communicating with clients about work progress and costs, choosing subcontractors, explaining contracts and responding to work emergencies. Many employers seek construction managers who have at least a bachelor's degree in fields such as construction management, engineering, or architecture, as well as applicable work experience. Construction managers aren't required to have any special licensure but may choose to obtain the Certified Construction Manager (CCM) certification to demonstrate their expertise. Most of their time is spent working outside at construction sites, but they do work in their office when appropriate. In 2018 they had a median annual salary of $93,370, and they are expected to have a job growth of 10% between 2018 and 2028.
Interior designers improve indoor areas for better safety, functionality and visual appeal. They consider and manipulate characteristics such as décor, lighting, furniture and flooring. Their duties can include consulting with clients to assess their needs, bidding for projects, creating time and cost estimates and sketching floor plans and layouts. Interior designers primarily work in offices, but also travel to design sites to consult with clients and oversee projects. Most employers require candidates to have a bachelor's degree in interior architecture or interior design. Some states require interior designers to be licensed, while others do not. Interior designers may choose to earn supplemental certification to show their expertise in certain types of interior design. This field is expected to grow 4% from 2018 to 2028 and had a median annual salary of $53,370 in 2018.
Industrial designers create ideas and specifications for various products that combine form and function. Their duties often include consulting with clients, conducting research, sketching drafts and using software to create virtual designs. Industrial designers can spend a large portion of their time working at tables alone or with colleagues, working at their desks, and traveling to various sites as needed for product creation. In 2018, industrial designers had a median annual salary of $66,590, and they are expected to see a 3% job growth from 2018 to 2028.
Career Advancement for Architecture Graduates
Architects can advance to higher positions or choose to change tracks and pursue roles such as administration and education.
After several years of work experience, architects may qualify to work as architectural managers. Their duties can include budgeting, research and development of projects, schedule coordination and staffing. In 2018, the median annual salary for all architectural and engineering managers was $140,760, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and the field is expected to grow 3% from 2018 to 2028.
Postsecondary Architecture Teachers
Architects who have earned a master's degree in architecture can qualify to teach architecture classes at many community colleges. According to the BLS, postsecondary architecture teachers had a median salary of $86,980 in 2018 and are expected to see a job growth of 8% from 2018 to 2028. Depending on their specific role and duties, these teachers are responsible for varying tasks such as developing lesson plans, grading assignments and advising students.