What is an Architecture Major and is it Right for Me?

Whether you’re looking at houses, shopping centers, factories or skyscrapers, chances are an architect was involved in creating the designs. If you’re looking for a college major that will allow you to mix subjects like math and business while also praising your keen design eye, you might want to consider taking on a major in architecture.

What is an architecture major?

Architecture is a mix of art, science, math and business so it requires you to have a robust background in a variety of subjects. It also requires a five-year course of study rather than the standard four years for an undergraduate degree.

Throughout your time as an architecture major, you’ll take classes in areas like math (including geometry, algebra, trigonometry and calculus), science (most likely physics and engineering), statistics, computer science (particularly 3D modeling and linear programming) and art (such as drawing and art history). If the idea of undertaking a truly interdisciplinary course of study excites you, a major in architecture may be the one for you.

Is it right for me?

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you’re considering becoming an architecture major:

  • Am I a strong math and art student? Can I just as easily solve complex equations as I can design models?
  • Do I want a major that is interdisciplinary (combining two or more academic disciplines) instead of focusing on a particular subject?
  • Do I handle criticism/critiques well, regardless of whether it comes from professors or peers?
  • Am I willing to work long hours to get projects done? Am I able to work well with others on these projects?
  • Regardless of the program, majoring in architecture is challenging at any college, so you must be prepared to spend lots of time on your studies and working on a variety of different projects at once.

What can I do with an architecture degree?

Architecture majors can embark on a wide variety of career paths after graduation, from construction and engineering to design and theatre.

Possible career paths include (but certainly are not limited to) becoming a licensed architect, urban planner, civil engineer, carpenter, building designer, mechanical engineer, set designer or surveyor. And that’s just the start. For more advice on what career opportunities are best for architecture majors, read Career Opportunities for Architecture Majors (link).

What do architects earn?

Salary can vary greatly by the type of job you do, but architects earn an average annual income of $79,300, with some salaries as high as $120,000. Your salary also depends on if you’re working independently or within a larger firm, as well as whether or not you’re working in the private or public sector.


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What Types of Skills Are Best for an Architecture Major?

Think that majoring in architecture sounds useful, but aren’t sure if you’ll be able to thrive in the department? Here are five major skill sets you’ll need to be successful during your college years as an architecture major and beyond.

Math and science skills

Even though many people see an architect’s finished product and think it’s about design, architecture is heavily rooted in strong mathematical and scientific skills, including geometry, algebra, engineering, programming and physics.

To succeed as an architecture major, you’ll have to have strong math and science skills to understand how and why certain designs and ideas may or may not work before they’re built. Your calculations, after all, could make or break a project.

Design skills

Unsurprisingly, design skills are extremely important, regardless of whether you’re creating a new piece of machinery or designing an entire building. Architecture majors need to be able to have calculations to back up their claims, but anything they build must look elegant as well.

Analytical and problem-solving skills

When it comes to majoring in architecture, it’s not enough to know which equations to type into a calculator or computer program; you need to understand how those calculations act in practice and not just in theory. You also need to be able to understand why certain numbers aren’t working out as well as how to fix them.

The same principles go for the design side of being an architecture major: Why are some designs and plans better than others? How can you continuously improve your work? This desire to never leave anything unsolved will serve you well in architecture.

Team-building skills

Architecture majors are working with many other people, like designers, engineers and other architecture majors when creating complex projects, so it’s important to know how to not only be part of a team but how to lead one when necessary.

Communication skills

Because you will be working with so many different types of people as an architecture major, you’ll have to be able to efficiently and effectively communicate your ideas to people who work on various projects. This also means knowing how to explain your ideas and findings in a number of different ways so people of varying knowledge and experience levels can understand what you’re talking about.

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Career Opportunities for Architecture Majors

An architecture major is a great opportunity to develop both technical skills and creative ones. And because of the broad range of skills involved in this major, students studying architecture can find career opportunities in many industries including interior design, urban planning and construction management.

Here are some of the many fields where you can use your architecture degree:


The most obvious career option for architecture majors is also the most popular one. By working as an architect, you’ll be designing buildings for a range of clients including large corporations. The key to finding a specific type of architecture that fits your personality is to ask yourself what kind of buildings you’d like to design. Whether the answer is giant skyscrapers or single-family homes, identifying the types of structures (and clients) you’d like to work with will help you find a role at an architecture firm that fits your style.

Interior Design

Another popular field for architecture majors is interior design. This involves coming up with designs that maximize the efficiency and style of interior spaces. A designer breathes beauty and life into a space, while also making sure the designs are safe and functional. Just like with architecture, working in interior design is all about find out what types of spaces are most appealing to you and focusing your energies there.


Whether working to build a room, a patio or a cute little cafe, architecture majors can start a career in construction management where they will be involved in coordinating building processes. This can include everything from preparing contracts to tracking the progress of craftsmen to ensuring that the right materials are available for each project. This is a great role for someone who is interested in the management aspect of construction.

Urban planning

An architecture major can also specialize in urban planning, where you make the best use of community land by coordinating, developing, analyzing and reviewing resources. As an urban planner, you’ll work alongside public officials and community members to help an area adapt to evolving problems, goals and economies. It involves not just systematic planning, but also creativity, two key factors that emerge from an education as an architect.


The general skill set you’ll acquire as an architecture major transfers well into many fields of business. These industries require just as much of planning, conceptualization, communication and attention-to-detail as jobs in architecture and design. As a result, architecture majors can sometimes find themselves in the roles of project managers or directors, working to build companies rather than the buildings that house them.


Your degree in architecture can also be put to use in education, whether this is through teaching high school math or conducting a seminar on the basics of interior design at a community college or private institution. Your architecture major can also put you on the road to earning an advanced degree, making you eligible for a teaching career in a university setting.

A major in architecture puts you in the running for some incredibly satisfying career opportunities. The best way to find out which one is right for you is to pick a field that interests you and then find an internship that will give you the hands-on experience you need to make your decision.

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Types of Internships for Architecture Majors

If you’re majoring in architecture and want to know what it’s like to work as an architect on a day-to-day basis, there’s no better way of finding out than by doing an architecture internship. In fact, this field has a lot of great internships to choose from, each of which will offer you significant insights into what it’s like to work in the field.

Some of the best internships for architecture majors include:

Architectural model making intern

From scaling drawings to assisting with prototypes, an architectural model-making intern assists in the making of architectural models. In addition to being creative and requiring attention to detail, this role will give a hands-on understanding of how modeling works and why it’s such a crucial part of architecture.

Property development intern

A property development intern gains experience in the field by researching development sites, visiting prospective ones and interviewing potential clients in order to assist in the writing of business plans. Because this role is so cross-functional, you’ll learn how to work with architects and contractors, while managing development projects.

Design intern

A design internship is one of the most diverse internships you can take on since, depending on the design firm you choose, this can be focused on including interior, landscape or stage and set design. While the responsibilities vary depending on the type of design internship, they may include assisting with client presentations, participating in design teams, or even developing and visualizing concepts.

3-D rendering and interior design intern

If you’re interested in broadening your knowledge of interior design, a 3D rendering & interior design internship gives you the experience you need to make it in this profession. During your internship, you’ll participate in client presentations, update resources and communicate with vendors, or even in create quality 3D-visualizations.

Transportation intern

As a transportation intern, you’ll learn more about what keeps your city or nation going. By becoming a transportation intern, you’ll be taking on projects that teach you how to apply new technical tools, analyze data and make presentations. Best of all, you’ll be getting some deep insights into how transportations systems work and applying skills from your major to help make those systems even more effective.

Architectural design intern

An architectural design internship familiarizes you with the a-day-in-the-life of an architectural firm. You’ll get an around-the-clock view of the office, with your duties ranging from assisting higher-ups in aspects of architectural design to making client presentations and working with a construction team. You may also assist with general logistics and research out-of-state rules pertaining to design and construction.

Urban planning intern

An interest in the optimal use of land and community welfare translates well into an urban planning internship. As an urban planning intern, you may work for a public department or private firm, where your responsibilities will range from assisting in field investigations/ surveys to reviewing site plans.

By taking on an internship related to your architecture major, you’ll be able to figure out what career path you want to focus on after graduation. And with so many great options, from design to urban planning, you’ll be sure to find something that works for you.

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Types of Entry-Level Jobs for Architecture Majors

Graduating with an architecture degree is an incredible accomplishment and one that opens doors to a lot of fantastic opportunities in the world of architecture and beyond. If you’ve already had a paid or unpaid internship in the field, then you have some idea of what to expect once you enter the workforce as a full-time employee. Even if you don’t, there are many great job opportunities that you should consider as you embark on your career path.

Here are some of the best entry-level jobs for architecture majors.

Assistant urban designer

If you’re interested in urban planning, working as an assistant urban designer is the perfect way to get started. There are openings at both public and private companies, and you will gain exposure to a range of responsibilities including surveying land, expanding or renovating a facility to meet present-day needs or even developing a transportation network. You will also likely be making presentations to community leaders and the public to raise awareness about plans for an upcoming project.

Assistant city planner

As an assistant city planner, you’ll be contributing to the process of determining the best use of the city’s land and resources. From gathering community input to preparing reports, drafting legislations, constructing new public housing and conserving the environment, there’s a lot you can learn in this position. And as you move through your career, you may go on to specialize in environmental or urban design, transportation planning or in other facets of city planning.

Junior architectural designer

This entry-level position offers a great start for aspiring architects. Your responsibilities will include ensuring the feasibility of building designs by using computer aided drafting, and working on different aspects of design with the principal architect and design team.

Project architect

As a project architect, you’ll make sure the project is completed on time and to the satisfaction of the client. You’ll also coordinate with your team, communicate with clients, work with designs and come up with an estimate of the budget.

Residential architect

If you’re employed as a residential architect, you’ll specialize in designing and building residential properties. Because of the differences between commercial and residential architecture, you may have more flexibility with your projects and could be self-employed, work for an architectural or construction company or be a real estate developer.

Graphic designer

The skills you’ve gained from your architecture major can be used in graphic design, helping an advertiser, public relations firm or small business communicate their message to the public.

Because of the varied skills gained during your major, graduating with a degree in architecture will allow you to apply your planning, problem-solving and design skills in a range of environments, giving you the opportunity to explore several opportunities and find the best fit for you.

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