How to Study Architecture Online

Videocasts and Online Classes Teach Architecture Facts & Skills

Young white male in front of a computer screen
Yes, You Can Study Architecture Online, But.... Photo by Kim Kulish / Corbis News / Getty Images (cropped)

Say you want to better yourself. You have a curious mind, and you wonder about the stuff that surrounds you—the buildings, the bridges, the patterns of roadways. How do you learn how to do all that? Are there videos to watch that would be like watching and listening to classroom lectures? Can you learn architecture online?

The answer is YES, you can learn architecture online!

Computers really have changed the way we study and interact with others.

Online courses and videocasts are a wonderful way to explore new ideas, pick up a skill, or enrich your understanding of a subject area. Some universities offer entire courses with lectures and resources, free of charge. Professors and architects also broadcast free lectures and tutorials on websites like Ted Talks and YouTube.

Log on from your home computer and you can see a demonstration of CAD software, hear prominent architects discuss sustainable development, or watch the construction of a geodesic dome. Participate in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) and you can interact with other distance learners on discussion forums. Free courses on the Web exist in various forms—some are actual classes and some are informal talks. The  opportunities for learning architecture online are increasing every day.

Can I be an architect by studying online?

Sorry, but not entirely. You can learn about architecture online, and you can even earn credits toward a degree—but rarely (if ever) will an accredited program at an accredited school offer a completely online course of study that will lead you to become a registered architect.

Low-residency programs (see below) are the next best things.

Online study is fun and educational, and you might be able to earn an advanced degree in architectural history, but to prepare for a career in architecture, you'll need to participate in hands-on studio courses and workshops. Students who plan to become licensed architects work closely, in person, with their instructors.

Although some types of college programs are available online, there is no reputable, accredited college or university that will grant a bachelors or masters degree in architecture solely on the basis of online study.

As the Guide to Online Schools points out, "to provide the best possible educational outcomes and career opportunities," any online course you pay for should be from an architecture program that is accredited. Choose not only an accredited school, but also choose a program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). In order to legally practice in all 50 states, professional architects must become registered and licensed through the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards or NCARB. Since 1919 NCARB has set the standards for certification and become part of the accreditation process for university architecture programs.

NCARB distinguishes between professional and non-professional degrees. A Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch), Master of Architecture (M.Arch), or Doctor of Architecture (D.Arch) degree from a NAAB accredited program is a professional degree and cannot be fully accomplished by online study. Bachelor of Arts or Science Degrees in Architecture or Fine Arts are generally non-professional or pre-professional degrees and may be earned entirely online—but you can't become a registered architect with these degrees.

You can study online to become an architectural historian, earn continuing education certification, or even earn advanced degrees in architectural studies or sustainability, but you cannot become a registered architect with online study alone.

The reason for this is simple—would you want to go to work or live in a tall building that was designed by someone who didn't understand or have practice in how a building stands up—or falls down?

Good news, however, The trend toward low-residency programs is increasing. Accredited universities like The Boston Architectural College with accredited architecture programs offer online degrees that combine online learning with some hands-on experience on campus. Students who already are working and have an undergraduate background in architecture or design can study for the professional M.Arch degree both online and with short on-campus residencies.

This type of program is called low-residency, meaning you can earn a degree mostly by studying online. Low-residency programs have become a very popular add-on to professional online instruction. The Online Master of Architecture program at Boston Architectural College is part of NCARB's growing Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL) program.

Most people use online classes and lectures to supplement education instead of attain professional degrees—to become familiar with difficult concepts, to expand knowledge, and for continuing education credits for practicing professionals. Online study can help you build your skills, keep your competitive edge, and simply experience the joy of learning new things.

Where To Find Free Classes and Lectures:

  • Open Education Database
    Search for courses and degrees in a variety of subject areas, including structural engineering, sustainability, and interior design. For learners of all levels.
  • YouTube.com
    Use the search box on the home page and you'll find a variety of free videos about architecture. Examples include What Is Architecture? by MAYA Design and CAD Tutorials by Revit architecture.

Remember that anybody can upload content to the Web. This is what makes online learning filled with warnings and stipulations. The Internet has very few filters to validate information, so you may want to look for presentations that have already been evaluated—for example, TED Talks are vetted more than YouTube videos.

Source: Difference Between NAAB-Accredited and Non-Accredited Programs, National Council of Architectural Registration Boards [accessed January 17, 2017]

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Craven, Jackie. "How to Study Architecture Online." ThoughtCo, Jul. 18, 2017, thoughtco.com/can-i-study-architecture-online-178352. Craven, Jackie. (2017, July 18). How to Study Architecture Online. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/can-i-study-architecture-online-178352 Craven, Jackie. "How to Study Architecture Online." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/can-i-study-architecture-online-178352 (accessed December 16, 2017).