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Even if you know that you want to be an architect, you might not know how to start your college selection. With so many schools of architecture out there, how do you decide which institution is right for you? Some of the common factors you will find at the top undergraduate architecture degree programs in the nation include accreditation, a strong reputation and the potential to gain plenty of design experience.
One of the most important factors you need to consider when selecting a Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) degree is whether the school and program are accredited. Accreditation means that the college or degree program meets quality standards set by an outside organization.
Regardless of what major you choose, any school you attend should have earned institutional accreditation by one of the six regional accrediting bodies recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. This means that the college as a whole has met rigorous standards.
As an architecture major, however, you also need to make sure that your degree program has what’s called institutional or programmatic accreditation. This means that the architecture degree program itself meets standards set by an accrediting body that focuses specifically on the field of architecture.
What makes accreditation of architecture degree programs so important? In 34 states, having earned a degree from a program that has been accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) is a requirement for licensure, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. If you went to college with an unaccredited degree program, you won’t be able to get your architecture license. Fortunately, the NAAB currently accredits more than 120 schools of architecture, according to the BLS, so you still have plenty of colleges to consider.
Finding out a school’s accreditation standing is important, but you also want to pay further attention to what others – particularly, potential employers – think about the B.Arch. program. Fortunately, there are plenty of college rankings lists you can consult to find out how much respect a school of architecture has.
Pay attention to specialized rankings of architecture programs by authorities such as Greenway Group. You should also look at general school rankings by publications like The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report.
Hands-on Experience Opportunities
Any B.Arch. degree program should include a focus on hands-on work in the design studio, according to the BLS. However, some programs – particularly, top-rated ones – may make experience more of a priority than others.
Before you enroll, take a look at the curriculum to get an idea of how much of your coursework takes place in the design studio. Find out if you can take advantage of internship opportunities, which can serve the dual purpose of helping you attain valuable work experience and counting toward the professional training requirements you will later need to meet in order to attain your license.
No one school of architecture is the perfect choice for every student. Think about what other considerations matter to you. If you want personal attention during your studies, then you should make it a priority to choose a school that offers small class sizes. If you’re all about the school’s prestige, then you might choose to attend an Ivy League university – even though you don’t have to choose one of these colleges to have a quality education. If you’re a cost-conscious student, you can find great architecture programs that won’t break the bank. The wealth of B.Arch. programs out there means that you can – and should – think carefully before committing to a school.