An architect or engineer has been defined as “one whose special business it is to design buildings, fix the thickness of their walls, the supports necessary for the maintenance of them in their proper position, and do all other necessary things in the line of his profession for the guidance of builders in the erection of buildings. Architecture is the art of building according to certain determined rules.”[i] The practice of architecture encompassed all phases of construction, including the drafting of plans, engineering and construction. When statutory regulations of the practice of architecture were first promulgated in 1901, they were designed protect the public from unqualified practitioners of the professions. Thus all states require that architects must possess professional degrees for obtaining license to practice architecture.
There are two professional degrees in architecture for obtaining licensure as a practicing architect in the United States, namely the Bachelor of Architecture (B Arch) and the Master of Architecture (M Arch) degree.
Most of the B Arch degrees are accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) and are usually five years in length. A non-professional Bachelor of Arts in architecture, usually four years in length is also available, which is not accredited by the NAAB.
A Master of Architecture (M Arch) degree can be obtained from an NAAB-accredited programme following a non-professional undergraduate degree in architecture. A four-year undergraduate non-professional programme in architecture followed by a two-year master’s is generally called the “four + two” scheme. Students who choose this plan must apply for acceptance to a postgraduate architecture programme towards the end of their first degree. It is to be noted that acceptance into the undergraduate portion of a “four+two” programme does not automatically guarantee admission into postgraduate study. M Arch graduates are eligible for the three-year internship after which they can obtain a professional license to practice architecture.
The curriculum for B Arch and M Arch combines specialized courses with general education courses required by the university. However, the first two years of the programme is usually limited to introductory topics, after which the students devote a great deal of time and study to design.
Students are also required to take courses in behavioral science, structural and mechanical engineering, economics, graphic art in various media combined with computer graphics and computer-aided design. Students also take mathematics and physics as foundation course for the study of engineering statics and vector forces. Students also can opt for a background course in the history of human building, architectural technology, and contract documents.
Applicants for undergraduate professional architecture programme are expected to have: (1) a solid background in the physical sciences including mathematics, (2) the ability to fully conceptualize projects, (3) a strong proficiency in oral and written communication, (4) wide interests in the humanities and (5) the ability to sketch and draw with ease.
Tuition costs for B Arch and M Arch vary greatly from one school to another. Average costs range from $12,500 per year to more than $33,200 per year. Undergraduate programmes are comparatively less expensive than postgraduate programmes.
[i] Wallich v. Salkin, 219 Cal. App. 2d 157, 162 (Cal. App. 2d Dist. 1963)