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Department of Consumer Affairs California Architects Board
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Architectural Degrees and Colleges

There are several types of degrees and degree programs (the accredited programs are sometimes referred to as "professional degrees").

Most Common Educational Paths

Most students interested in architecture obtain a professional degree from a program that is accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). Students may also attend a two-year college or earn bachelor’s degrees in other subjects, supplemented by additional studying and/or work experience.

Accredited vs. Non-Accredited Programs

The National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) is the only accrediting body for professional architectural programs in the US. Only specific professional degree programs within specific schools are accredited, not the schools themselves. Some architectural schools offer both NAAB-accredited and non-accredited degree programs.

A degree from a NAAB-accredited program has two advantages:

  1. It gives you immediate eligibility to take the ARE (national exam) and
  2. It facilitates future reciprocal licensure with other states and/or NCARB certification.

Transferring Credits

Other credits may be counted toward your educational requirement:

  1. Community College Credits

    The Board grants credit for degrees earned at a community college. The Board also accepts community college units transferred to and accepted by a higher institution. If you have a degree from both a community college and a four-year college or university, the Board only counts the degree that gives the most credit, not both (typically the four-year college).

    Community Colleges with Architecture Programs

  2. Technical School Credits

    You may also receive credit for a degree/certificate of completion from a technical school in a field related to architecture.

  3. Foreign School Credits

    Foreign education is subject to formal evaluation. You will need to contact an approved educational evaluation service to review your certified original transcripts and diplomas. The purpose of this evaluation is to be able to equate your education to a comparable US degree.

  4. Canadian Programs/Degrees

    Architectural degrees from programs accredited by the Canadian Architectural Certification Board (CACB) are considered equivalent to NAAB-accredited degrees.

Types of Architectural Degrees

  1. Pre-professional architecture degree

    This term refers to architecturally-focused four-year degrees that are not professional degree programs. These degrees have such titles as BS in Architecture, BS in Architectural Studies, BA in Architecture, Bachelor of Environmental Design, Bachelor of Architectural Studies, etc.; the amount of architecture work in the program varies and will determine the length of time required to complete further professional architecture studies.

    The following degrees are recognized by the Board as "related to architecture":

    • Architectural Design
    • Architectural Engineering
    • Architectural Studies
    • Architectural Technology
    • Building Science
    • City and Regional Planning
    • Civil Engineering
    • Construction Engineering
    • Construction Management
    • Electrical Engineering
    • Environmental Design
    • Interior Architecture
    • Landscape Architecture
    • Mechanical Engineering
    • Structural Engineering
    • Urban and Regional Design
  2. Professional architecture degree

    A professional architecture degree is one from a program that may or may not be accredited by NAAB. Degrees from accredited programs are required by most jurisdictions for licensure as an architect - but as previously noted, not required in California. These degrees can be the Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) degree, the Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) degree or the Doctor of Architecture (D.Arch.) degree.

    The Bachelor of Architecture normally requires at least five years to complete. The Master of Architecture takes between one and five years to complete, depending on previous education. When the master’s degree follows a four-year, pre-professional architecture degree, it represents the "two" in the term "four-plus-two" program, and is the final portion of the professional phase of the study program.

    California Schools with NAAB-Accredited Programs