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Kate Brennan

February 08, 2021

The Top 10 Bachelor of Architecture Programs in 2021

The road to a career as a licensed architect begins with getting a degree, and most state licensing boards require you to get a degree from a school accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). Determining the school where you mold the kind of professional you’ll become can be daunting. Luckily, DesignIntelligence ranks the top schools every year, and we’ve broken down the top 10 from 2019-2020 to help you map out your future. One of the most important qualifiers, as we mentioned, is that you ensure your school is NAAB accredited. Rest assured that all of these institutions check that box. We’ve outlined their B.Arch programs to ensure you know what lies ahead to get a professional degree, and can get one step closer to becoming an architect.

  1. Cornell University, College of Architecture, Art, and Planning
    Location: Ithaca, NY
    Curriculum: Your first three years will follow a core curriculum to help you build a foundation in the history, technology, theory, and practice of architecture. Your final two years will be much more rigorous and focus on a specialized course of study.
    What makes it great: Students spend one semester of their third year in Rome and also have the opportunity to study at the Architecture, Art and Planning’s New York City Program.
  2. Rhode Island School of Design, Department of Architecture
    Location: Providence, RI
    Curriculum: This is a five-year program, starting with a foundational year, a summer internship program after the third, and culminating in an intensive investigation and analysis into building systems in their fifth and final year.
    What makes it great: You are part of a huge, creative community, surrounded by other passionate students in the fine arts and design.
  3. Rice University, School of Architecture
    Location: Houston, TX
    Curriculum: To achieve the B.Arch degree, students complete four years of undergraduate study and then an accompanying two years, including one of the renowned preceptorships they offer as a component of the program.
    What makes it great: Rice Architecture Paris is a coveted semester-long program for students to immerse themselves in French architecture with instruction from international experts.
  4. Cooper Union, The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture
    Location: New York, NY
    Curriculum: The first four years build from foundational overview to the history of architecture, to studio and design and professional knowledge. The fifth year focuses on the individual thesis project.
    What makes it great: Your classrooms are in a National Historic Landmark, The Foundation Building, so while many programs require their students to venture off campus to admire some of the nation’s best architecture, you can study in it every day.
  5. Syracuse University, School of Architecture​​​​​​​
    Location: Syracuse, NY
    Curriculum: The five-year program is broken down by year. The first year introduces students to new ways of seeing and responding to the built environment, and the second year moves into more developed representational techniques and design theory. In the third year, students are introduced to larger more complex design assignments with the fourth year incorporating advanced studio. It’s worth noting that in both the third and fourth years, students can expand their education in off-campus programs. The fifth and last year students work with faculty on specialized design research projects.
    What makes it great: Having been around for 150 years and making this top 10 list multiple times, the stability and consistency of this program is one of the best in the country. High quality resources in their buildings and labs make the design studio-focused school a preeminent place.
  6. Virginia Tech, School of Architecture and Design​​​​​​​
    Location: Blacksburg, VA
    Curriculum: Year 1 is the Foundation Program. Years 2 and 3 are Core Professional Programs that focus on fundamental building design principles. Year 4 and 5 are Advanced Professional Studies, where students can study abroad in their fourth year and are required to complete a thesis in their fifth.
    What makes it great: There are several options for how to spend your fourth year off-campus - Study Abroad Programs with traveling and residency paths, Internships, Studio Programs, and the opportunity to study at the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center with international staff and students.
  7. Pratt Institute, School of Architecture​​​​​​​
    Location: New York, NY
    Curriculum: The five-year program offers a thorough foundation in architecture integrating critical thinking, design, technology, building, representation, sustainability, and social responsibility with the intent to make graduates the leading professional practitioners.
    What makes it great: With campuses in Brooklyn and Manhattan, students have some of the best architecture and lecturers at their fingertips in the heart of New York City.
  8. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, College of Architecture and Environmental Design​​​​​​​
    Location: San Luis Obispo, CA
    Curriculum: This is a lab-oriented program with a good balance of design and technology. In your fourth year, you have the opportunity to study off-campus. During your final year, each student focuses on a year-long project where you will showcase your research and design through a final exhibit at the culmination of the year and program.
    What makes it great: The program is centered around the intersection of art and science and this has been their approach for 45 years. There is a big emphasis on learning by doing with many hands-on and project-based learning opportunities. They also have a co-op program starting in your second year, as well as the aforementioned off-campus learning opportunity in your fourth year.
  9. University of Texas, Austin, School of Architecture​​​​​​​
    Location: Austin, TX
    Curriculum: A five-year professional degree, the Bachelor of Architecture features a rigorous design-oriented curriculum with a solid foundation in technology and the history of architecture.
    What makes it great: More study abroad opportunities here, with programs ranging from nine-day intensive trips in Mexico to semester-long stays in Europe.
  10. Southern California Institute of Architecture​​​​​​​
    Location: Los Angeles, CA
    Curriculum: A five-year program, the curriculum is centered around the design studio, where students learn a multitude of relevant skills to utilize in their careers.
    What makes it great: Founded in 1972, SCI-Arc remains one of the few independent architecture schools in the world. If you’re looking for a non-traditional approach to the field, this school is for you.

Check out and download the full rankings to see if there are other schools you could add to your short list.  

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