If you’re looking for the best architecture schools, know that architecture is a career field that has always had its ups and downs, but thankfully, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the next few years are looking up. We’re expecting an eight percent growth in job outlook between now and 2028, which is faster than average, with around 133,900 jobs on the market right now.
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It should be noted that architecture doesn’t always come down to designing new houses and factories. That’s the best part of the job, but it’s not all the job entails. Quite often your duties as an architect are going to be focused on redesigning the interiors of existing buildings to be more energy-efficient, or updating old homes to bring them up to code. But, even in these instances, the job can be very rewarding to those who are creative, intelligent, and have an eye for details.
And of course, there’s the pay, with architects averaging $38,82 an hour and $80,750 a year. After completing your internship and building a name for yourself, you could even be looking at six or seven figures in annual income. You can get started with a bachelor’s degree, but with more graduates leaving school with architecture degrees lately, there will be some stiff competition for those top spots, and an advanced degree might just be what gives you an edge.
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology
|ETH Zurich Department of Architecture
|TU Delft Faculty of Architecture
|Ithaca, New York
|Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
|New York City, New York
The 10 Best Architecture Schools
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Where else is there to start this list but with MIT? The school’s name recognition alone will open up quite a few doors for you in your career, and that’s for good reason. The school has graduated 96 Nobel laureates, eight Fields Medalists, 26 winners of the Turing Award, 58 National Medal of Science winners, 50 MacArthur Fellows, 41 astronauts, the list goes on. The school is widely regarded as the very best institute of technology, and by more metrics than not, from awards won to its teacher-to-student ratio to the comparatively low tuition (in contrast with many similarly-ranked schools) it is the very best institute of technology. These three letters on your resume can make a world of difference in your career.
ETH Zurich Department of Architecture
If cost is a major concern, Switzerland’s ETH Zurich Department of Architecture may be your first-choice school. Swiss students do not have to contend with the inflated tuitions you see at many schools in North America and throughout other parts of Europe. You will see below that tuition for ETH Zurich starts at around six hundred dollars a year. That’s not a typo. And the Swiss education system is ranked first in the world by the World Economic Forum. The school’s acceptance rate is a little higher than some schools on this list, at 27%, with 35% of their students coming from outside of Switzerland, but note that they like to see actual work experience on your resume. Even if that’s nothing more than a summer job helping on a construction project, that might give you the boost you need over similarly-qualified candidates.
TU Delft Faculty of Architecture
TU Delft Faculty of Architecture is TU Delft’s largest faculty, boasting some 2,900 students, and features perhaps the world’s most famous chair collection. After all, architecture is not strictly a matter of housing and commercial building design. Many who study architecture go on to design everything from furniture to car interiors. The school is home to the famous BkBeats, a biennial festival organized the faculty’s student organization STYLOS.
MIT is widely regarded as the very best technical school to have on your resume, but when it comes to name recognition, Cornell is not far behind. Attending either of these schools is a major advantage in the job hunt. The school’s architectural alumni include Richmond Shreve, whose name you may recognize as the designer of the Empire State Building, and Grauman’s Chinese Theater architect Raymond M. Kennedy.
Cornell is listed here because it’s simply an excellent school that will open a lot of doors for you, and because of the 1 to 3 teacher to student ratio. However, it is not nearly the most affordable school on this list, and if you’re looking for a university with affordable tuition, you may want to look into scholarship programs before putting Cornell in the “maybe” category.
Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, or Columbia GSAPP, boast a faculty that is, at any given time, a who’s-who of notable contributors to the architectural arts and sciences. As of the time of this writing these include former MoMa Chief Curator of Architecture and Design Barry Bergdoll, WORKac Architects founder Amale Andraos, who currently serves as dean of the school, and MOS Architects founder Hilary Sample. Past deans include the innovative Bernard Tschumi, who designed the famous Blue Tower in New York City.
Columbia is one of the pricier options here. As with Cornell, it is worth the investment, but you may want to look into scholarship and grant programs.
Harvard University Graduate School of Design
Harvard is another one of those great one-word namedrops that can bump you up a list of applicants. The Harvard University Graduate School of Design, or GSD, will have you walking in the footsteps of giants. The program dates back to 1874, and boasts alumni including A Pattern Language co-author Christopher Alexander, EDSA founder Edward Durell Stone, Jr., Pritzker Prize Laureates Fumihiko Maki, Thom Mayne, Preston Scott Cohen and IM Pei, and Yoshio Taniguchi, perhaps best known for designing the 2004 revision of NYC’s Museum of Modern Art.
Politecnico di Milano
If you’d like to use your education in architecture as an opportunity to travel and find some inspiration, go ahead and bump Politecnico di Milano up to the number one spot. A young architect simply cannot ask for a better place to cut their teeth than in Milan. The school is also one of the most affordable on the list, at $3,200 a year for tuition. Travel costs and housing in Milan may bump the total expenses up a bit, but the final tally should still come in well under the tuition alone for typical North American university.
California Polytechnic State University
California Polytechnic State University, or Cal Poly, may be ranked tenth on this list overall, but it would be nearer the top if you’re ranking schools strictly on the connections you’ll make. California is the hotbed of the western technology industry, and if you graduate from Cal Poly, you’re certain to meet some fellows from the computer science departments who will, one day, need some help designing a new office building or gadget shop, or maybe just building their dream house when that silicon valley money starts rolling in. Cal Poly is simply a great place to make some friends in the industry.
The Bartlett School of Architecture
The Bartlett School of Architecture at The Bartlett School of The Built Environment, or simply, The Bartlett, offers a remarkably wide range of courses if you’re looking to develop a broader understanding of the built environment. The school has affiliate centers including an Urban Laboratory and UCL Robotics. The school is located in Bloomsbury, Central London, England, so if you’re considering attending The Bartlett and you live in the US, you’ll have to do some traveling, but with relatively small class sizes and almost two centuries of history, you’ll get precisely the education you’re seeking.
Rice University School of Architecture
Located in Houston, Texas, Rice University School of Architecture is an undergraduate/graduate school offering Bachelor of Architecture, Bachelor of the Arts, and Master of Architecture degrees. Overseen by American Academy fellow Dean John J. Casbarian, the school offers a number of rewards programs including the Mary Hayes Ewing Prize for Best Article in Southern History and the Ira and Patricia Gruber Award for Best Honors Thesis. If you’re looking for a university with a lot of impressive options to fill out your resume, Rice may be your first-choice.
The above-listed schools have been selected and ranked by a number of factors, with an emphasis on tuition and student-to-faculty ratio. While Politecnico di Milano, for instance, has one of the lowest tuitions on the list, the 1-to-40 teacher-to-student ratio is less than desirable. Note that these rankings, are our own, but they might not line up with your own first, second, and third choice rankings. Low tuition and a wide range of programs might be a strong draw, but you might choose to follow in the footsteps of a favorite architect, or there might be a particular professor you hope to study under, or perhaps the allure of putting “MIT” on your resume means that you’ll do whatever it takes to attend. Consider the math, but remember that selecting a university is a personal choice.
As with any field of knowledge, the study of academia itself is an ever-growing discipline. So if you would like us to review your school, or if you see your school listed here and have any corrections to be made or information to be added, please contact us.