For as long as we have been building structures for ourselves, we humans have been shaping art into our everyday lives. Architecture, by its very definition, is the art and design of building. If you are ready to bring your vision to life in the form of incredible structures and beautiful buildings, combining function and style to contribute something of real value to the community around you, then consider a career in architecture.
A keen artistic sense, coupled with a strong stomach for physics and math, is essential if you want to earn an online architecture degree. Architects and their associates design commercial buildings, homes, bridges, and related structures. To learn to do this they study drafting, architectural history, urban planning, and design theory. Besides earning a degree you'll have to complete several years of a design internship with an architecture firm before you can pursue licensing as a registered architect.
THE CAREER PATH
Our history has been landmarked by art and architecture—from the ancient buildings of Greece to the statue of liberty. Some of the most famous churches are known for their brilliant architecture, and it’s how we recognize some of the most famous cities. Architecture blends the arts of aesthetic design with knowledge of engineering and functionality that isn’t necessary for practically any other art form.
Because art and architecture is a broad field that spans the entire course of human history all around the globe, many professionals choose to focus their education and career on one particular era or type of architecture. Some professionals choose to emphasize the historical, artistic aspects of architecture through individual research and historic preservation work, while others choose to emphasize the applied technical skills and design aspects of the field. There are plenty of different paths to be explored, and the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) describes some of the most common types of careers for individuals on the trajectory of art and architecture:
- Architectural Drafters – These professionals use their vision and knowledge to draw architectural and structural features of buildings for construction projects. These workers may specialize in a type of building, such as residential, commercial, or environmentally sustainable or they may specialize in certain materials used, such as steel or wood. Drafters typically work with Computer-Aided Design (CAD) programs, and may even be referred to as “CAD Operators.” This is one of the most accessible careers for aspiring professionals in arts and architecture. The most important background for drafters is specialized training which is often offered through technical programs or associate’s degrees, although special certifications and bachelor’s degrees can help professionals to be competitive when applying for positions. Architectural drafters make more than $52,000 on average. Job growth for positions in architectural drafting is expected to be on par with the national average, around 8%.
- Architects – These professionals put their skills to use planning and creating the designs of homes, office buildings, schools, and practically every other building that you’ve ever stepped into. It is common for architects to specialize in a particular type of structure, space, or material. Becoming an architect requires obtaining a license from the state in which one works, which starts with a bachelor’s degree and a paid internship. Many undergraduate programs will offer internships or the networks to connect their students with potential internships. Professional architects are making more than $78,000 each year on average, making this a rewarding career to exercise your vision. Commercial designers—those who work on corporate structures as opposed to private homes—earn the best money.
- Architectural Managers – After many years of work experience, professionals may choose to take their career to the next level by becoming architectural managers that oversee and coordinate the work of architectural projects and companies. They typically play more of a supervisory role, rather than the hands-on role of drafters and architects. Most architectural managers qualify for positions with a bachelor’s degree and a considerable amount of work in the field of architecture. All that hard work pays off since the average pay for architectural managers is more than $137,000 per year. A career that’s worth aspiring to, for those who are invested in architecture for the long haul.
WHO IS THE IDEAL CANDIDATE?
Art and architecture professionals must have a unique blend of artistic vision and technical skills that bring together the worlds of design and functionality. Architecture isn’t a platform that’s meant for every artist, nor is it meant for those who are especially geared for engineering and hands-on construction. But for individuals with a healthy balance of those traits, it may make the perfect career. Successful professionals are typically creative visionaries, but also analytical critical-thinkers with a special affinity for math. Not to mention, they must be very detail-oriented, since they are building the structures that we stand in and on every day. If you are ready to put your creativity to work with the powers of math and science to create functional structures in our growing society, then this career path could be just your style.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR?
There is a path for every person who is interested in the field of art and architecture. Drafting positions, for example, usually call for the proper technical training through an associate’s or bachelor’s program. Certifications for drafters are also available through the American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) to help validate the knowledge of professionals.
Architecture positions, on the other hand, require a bachelor’s degree from a program recognized by the National Architecture Accrediting Board (NAAB) and state licensure. In some states, you can become an architect by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in another major, then interning at an architecture firm to meet state practice requirements. Check with your state office of professional licensing to determine the exact degree and practice requirements if your goal is to become a registered or chief architect. Architectural managers must typically work as architectures for a significant period of time before moving up in their career and may find it helpful to look into a master’s degree.
Keep in mind, however, accredited online architecture degree programs are few and far between. Several architecture schools are experimenting with hybrid study, meaning they offer selected online courses but they do not yet offer a 100% online architecture degree program. When seeking an architecture degree online, check the school’s accreditation carefully. The National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) accredits only three specific type of degrees: the bachelor of architecture, the master of architecture and the doctor of architecture. A bachelor of science BS) in architecture or architectural technology is sometimes offered online, but be careful if you choose this type of degree as the NAAB does not accredit this plan of study. Without a NAAB-approved degree, you may not be able to take the exam to become a registered architect (RA) in your state.
Once you receive an accredited degree, you can pursue an internship. The internship will include intense training in drafting, design and the interpretation of local building codes. After completing an internship and the degree requirements posed by your state, you can take the Architect Registration Examination (ARE). Once you pass this test and meet all education and practice requirements, you can call yourself a licensed architect.
If an online architecture degree will not match your goals and state requirements, you can earn a closely related online degree—such as community planning, sustainable design or green building—at the master’s level. Specialized online architecture certificates are also available. Jumpstart your career by specializing in an allied area, like historical restoration or green architecture. These online credentials will allow you to work alongside registered architects as a part of a project design team.
GetEducated's rankings reveal that the average cost of an online bachelor's degree in architecture costs between $30,000 and $50,000. Click on any program below to view accreditation, tuition, and admission information.