In this ranking, we examine the best value colleges for an architecture degree online in 2016.
Although it seems highly specialized, architecture is actually one of the most versatile and multidisciplinary majors you could choose. It combines a reliance on numbers and rigid calculations with an appreciation for aesthetic and creative design. Furthermore, the utilitarian nature of the subject means that career opportunities are vast, from commercial construction to parks and recreation to environmental sustainability. And although you won’t find many full degree options available at the undergraduate level (it takes at least five years from start to finish to get all the training you need) there are several options for graduate students.
That being said, there isn’t exactly a plethora of online architecture degrees, so the choices are limited for distance learners.* The schools included below are the best of the bunch for an architecture degree online, offering a wide range of tuition rates and academic features.
8. Lawrence Technological University
Online Master of Architecture
For the past 80 years, Lawrence Technological University has been building a name for itself as a leader in vocational education. But instead of the traditional blue-collar programs, LTU is reinventing career-driven training for the modern era with degrees in IT, Industrial Engineering, and Educational Technology, among others. Lawrence Tech’s select list of forward-thinking programs includes an accredited architecture online degree for graduate students. Designed specifically for working professionals with a background in design and construction, this program sports an NAAB-approved curriculum that takes just 15 months to complete. And with the exception of a “Critical Practice Studio” summer class that requires face-to-face visits, you can earn an LTU Master of Architecture degree entirely online.
7. Chatham University
Online Master of Science in Interior Architecture (MSIA)
Chatham University puts a spin on the basic architecture online degree by adding a focus in interior design. And that’s just the beginning of what makes Chatham so unique! Design theory and sustainability are integral aspects of the curriculum, and challenging coursework encourages students to think critically, actively engage in research, and practice mindfulness in their professional work. This approach is one of the reasons the American Society of Interior Designers recently praised Chatham as a “leader in sustainability.” The 100% online, 30-credit program is available to both part-time and full-time students. What’s more, Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) credits could put you ahead of schedule right out of the gate.
6. Academy of Art University
Online Master of Architecture (M. Arch) Degree
Creative, art-based subjects are often difficult to teach in an online format. And it makes sense: how can you effectively use distance education to discuss topics that rely so heavily on clear visuals and interactive projects? The Academy of Art University may have found a solution. Live web conferences, online guest speakers and reviewers, and collaborative projects lend a dynamic feel to the virtual classrooms of this affordable architecture online degree. Programs are available to both bachelor’s and master’s students; the latter has already earned NAAB accreditation and the former currently holds candidacy status. The course list is also intentionally versatile, giving you a broad set of skills to support a career in architecture, urban design, or even teaching.
5. Philadelphia University
Online M.S. in Sustainable Design
For a degree that doesn’t just emphasize environmental friendliness but actually organizes an entire curriculum around it, take a close look at Philadelphia U. Inspired by the “award-winning” on-campus design program, this online M.S. in Sustainable Design provides an eco-conscious blend of coursework in Green Materials, Landscape Ecology, and Sustainable Systems. Although the program is available completely online, many students opt for the hybrid option, which allows them to switch between on-campus and distance courses as it suits their schedule. And if you’re not convinced that this is one of the best architecture online degrees, the university will let you take your first class for free!
4. Southern Illinois University-Carbondale
Online Master of Architecture
In addition to being one of the more affordable online architecture degrees, the Master of Architecture at SIU Carbondale is also one of the most comprehensive and in-depth of the options on this list. Students must complete 42 credits of classwork and cannot apply past work experiences toward this number. Working together in cohort-style modules, SIU architecture students take a combination of online and on-campus courses each semester. You’ll take a full studio course each term, while a combination of face-to-face activities (weekends only, no more than once a month) and asynchronous electives round out your experience. Perhaps most importantly, this NAAB-accredited architecture degree online qualifies graduates for NCARB certification.
3. Kansas State University
Online Community Development Master’s Degree
What is a program in “Community Development” doing on a list of online architecture degrees? To students at Kansas State University, the answer is obvious. Shifting the focus away from personal and commercial design, KSU’s master’s degree provides training for careers in regional planning, community housing, and outdoor design/parks and recreation. Because the degree is a part of the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance, it is uniquely accessible by students from universities all across the region. The flexibility of the program also lets you choose whether to cap your studies with a full thesis (six required credits) or less intimidating Master’s Report (two required credits).
2. University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Online Master’s Program in Architecture – Interior Design
Although this program is online and available internationally, don’t be fooled by its seemingly universal accessibility. The graduate degree in architecture and interior design is about as rigorous as they come. You’ll need to have a bachelor’s degree from a CIDA-approved program just to be considered for admission, and you’ll have to maintain at least a 3.0 GPA if you want to stay. This commitment to top-notch academics has paid off for the University of Nebraska Lincoln, too. A recent survey of more than 200 design and architecture firms ranked this M.S. in Interior Design as one of the absolute best architecture degrees online.
1. University of Florida
Online Master’s Degree in Sustainable Design
Rounding out this architecture online degree ranking is the University of Florida, which houses a reputable program in Sustainable Design. The three-semester curriculum combines a unique set of topics that will position you to be a “leader in the Sustainability Revolution.” Although you won’t enjoy the full convenience of 100% online courses, the degree is self-described as “low residency.” With limited on-campus requirements and a diverse structure – which melds lessons in construction and urban planning with lectures on historic preservation and landscape design – this UF program aims to provide a little something for everyone. And given the range of tuition prices on this list, it also ranks as one of the top affordable online architecture degrees available.
This concludes our ranking of the top 10 values for an architecture degree online.
*Our ranking methodology assigns a score to each college relative to all other schools that offer a particular degree program – a method that works best when the original selection is of a decent size and we can stretch the scores from 0-100 across a wider range of schools. When the original selection is very small, the scoring system tries to adjust accordingly. This can sometimes cause perfectly decent schools to earn low point totals, misleading readers on the quality of the degree programs. In these circumstances we may omit total scores entirely, inviting you instead to focus on the colleges’ ranking position out of 10 (or 8, as the case may be) and to remember that these are ALL “best college values.”
See our methodology page for more information about how we calculated this ranking.
By CVO Staff