If I study architecture, what is the college curriculum like?

Solving Problems in the Studio

Interior view of the Frank Lloyd Wright Studio in Oak Park, Illinois
Interior view of the Frank Lloyd Wright Studio in Oak Park, Illinois. Photo by Santi Visalli/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Question: If I study architecture, what is the college curriculum like?

Answer: As an architecture student, you will study a broad range of subjects, including writing, design, graphics, computer applications, art history, mathematics, physics, structural systems, and building and materials construction.

To get an idea of the specific classes you will take, spend some time browsing through the course listings, a sampling of which are usually listed online for many schools of architecture.

Make sure that the courses of study have been accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB).

Dr. Lee W. Waldrep reminds us, however, that there are many routes to take to become an accredited architect. Which degree program you choose will determine what courses you take. "At most schools," he says, "enrolled students begin intensive architectural studies in the first semester and continue for the duration of the program. If you are highly confident in your choice of architecture as your academic major, pursuing a B.Arch. may be the ideal choice. If, however, you think you may not ultimately choose architecture, the five-year program is not forgiving, meaning that changing majors is difficult."

Design Studio:

At the heart of every architecture course of study is the Design Studio. It is not unique to architecture, but it is an important workshop to understand the process of planning, designing, and building things.

Industries such as automobile manufacturing may call this building approach Research and Development as teams work together to create a new product. In architecture, the free expression of ideas, both design and engineering, is what drives collaboration in this important and practical course.

Even famous architects like Frank Lloyd Wright have done professional architectural work from their design studios.

Learning by doing in a studio workshop is a prime reason why online architecture courses are limited. Dr. Waldrep explains the importance of this coursework in an architecture curriculum:

"Once you are in the studio sequence of a degree program, you will be taking design studio each semester, usually four to six credits. Design studio may meet between eight and twelve hours contact hours with the designated faculty and countless hours outside of class. Projects may begin in the abstract and deal with basic skill development, but they quickly progress in scale and complexity. Faculty members provide the program or space requirements of a given building project. From there, students individually develop solutions to the problem and present the results to faculty and classmates....Just as important as the product is the process. You will learn not only from the studio faculty but also your fellow students."—2006, Becoming an Architect by Lee W. Waldrep, p. 121

Waldrep's book Becoming an Architect: A Guide to Careers in Design can mentor any aspiring architect through the complicated process of becoming an architect or even becoming a professional home designer.

Learn More:

  • Video: Types of Architecture Programs
  • The Design Studio Method: Creative Problem Solving with UX Sketching by Brian K Sullivan, 2015
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Source: Becoming an Architect by Lee W. Waldrep, Wiley, 2006, pp. 94, 121