You need at least a bachelor's degree to become an architect, but not every undergraduate architecture degree qualifies you for the profession. Architects need a license in addition to a degree, and in most states, only those with an accredited degree can take licensing exams. An accredited bachelor's degree in architecture takes five years of full-time study.
Professional and Pre-Professional Degrees
Only programs in architecture with accreditation by the the National Architectural Accrediting Board, or NAAB, are considered professional degree programs, meaning they qualify graduates for licensing in all states. Degrees that lack NAAB accreditation are considered pre-professional, which mean graduates must usually complete additional study before taking licensing exams. Most architects complete a professional degree in architecture at the bachelor's degree level, but graduate professional degrees are also available.
Bachelor of Architecture
The Bachelor of Architecture, or B.Arch., is the only degree awarded by programs accredited by the NAAB. This degree requires a minimum of 150 credit hours on the semester system, or an equivalent amount of study on the quarter system, according to the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, or NCARB. The required classes typically include the history of architecture, math, physical science, structures, computer-aided design and drafting and methods of construction. An accredited architect education programs also include hands-on studio experience in creating designs and models. The necessary class credits, including studio project work, normally take five years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Other Architecture Degree Options
Some architecture universities and colleges offer other bachelor's degrees in architecture that don't meet the requirements of the NAAB. Titles vary, but some such degrees are the Bachelor of Science in architectural studies, the Bachelor of Environmental Design and the Bachelor of Arts in architecture. Although these degrees normally take only four years, they are no shortcut to a career as an architect. Because they are considered pre-professional degrees, graduates must usually complete additional training to qualify for licensing. For example, the State University of New York at Buffalo offers a pre-professional Bachelor of Science in architecture degree whose purpose is to prepare students for graduate study or for other jobs related to architecture.
Qualifying as Licensed Professional Architect
It normally takes three or more years after graduation before you can qualify as a licensed professional architect. All states require architects to become licensed before they can offer services directly to the public or take legal responsibility for a project. State laws vary, but licensing generally requires an accredited professional degree plus the completion of the internship period required by the state board. The usual period is a minimum of three years, which graduates usually spend working under supervision in architectural firms. Finally, interns must take and pass the seven-part Architect Registration Examination to receive an architectural license.