As the understanding of the relationship between architecture, technology and the environment grows, more students are seeking out Bachelor’s in Architecture and Environmental Design programs. With pre-professional and first professional degrees available in both areas, students can now choose to specialize at the undergraduate level or leave room for specialization at the graduate level. But with so many choices available, students will have to rely on rankings like this one to make a choice on where to attend university.
One of the biggest factors when it comes to deciding which school is best for a student, it rarely comes down to quality; the architectural and environmental design programs outlined in this ranking are all high-quality and most of them carry at least one professional accreditation. No, the factor that determines where a student applies is still cost; expensive programs are out of reach for most students, so affordable options are highly sought after.
This ranking was created specifically to showcase the best affordable Bachelor’s in Architecture and Environmental Design programs available. The base list of schools that were considered for this ranking was compiled by utilizing the College Navigator database, which is available through the National Center for Education Statistics Website, and searching for undergraduate programs in the field. 25 schools were initially identified as qualifying for a spot on the ranking. From there, every school was independently analyzed and awarded points based on the following factors:
Tuition is calculated annually at 15 credit hours per semester.
Under $7,500 – 3 Points
$7,500 – $15,000 – 2 Points
$15,001 and above – 1 Point
10:1 or less – 3 Points
11:1 to 15:1 – 2 Points
Greater than 15:1 – 1 Point
The 15 schools that make up this ranking were chosen based on total points awarded during the selection process. They are listed below in descending order.
15. Indiana State University
Terre Haute, Indiana
An affordable foray into a BFA in Architecture comes from Indiana State University. This school offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Architecture Design, a program that utilizes real-world learning opportunities, contests, research papers and classroom lectures to create a well-rounded program. Students at this school will note that the school has the distinction of holding accreditation from three important bodies: the Council for Interior Design Accreditation, the National Kitchen and Bath Association, and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. This is a comprehensive program; students will be required to complete 122 credit hours of coursework, a sophomore portfolio review and a senior thesis for graduation. The program uses state-of-the-art facilities for conducting research and design projects, enables students to complete internships and field trips and provides students with a pathway towards becoming members of the American Society of Interior Designers, the International Interior Design Association, and the National Kitchen and Bathroom Association, making this an exceptional school for students interested in this profession.
In-State Tuition: $9,090
Out-of-State Tuition: $19,836
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 21:1
14. Texas Tech University
El Paso, Texas
Texas Tech University has a great option when it comes to an affordable Bachelor’s in Architecture. The BS in Architecture that is conferred by the school is a general program; students will be able to learn the foundational theories and concepts that make up the field. The program requires a minimum of 131 credit hours of coursework for graduation, 65 of which must come from architecture-specific courses. But it’s not just about classroom study; students can also join field-specific organizations on campus, including the Knights of Architecture, the American Institute of Architecture Students, Tau Sigma Delta, and the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students. It is also possible for students to study abroad in their fourth year to complete requirements for architecture; opportunities exist in South America, Europe, and Asia.
In-State Tuition: $9,080
Out-of-State Tuition: $19,040
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 20:1
13. West Virginia University
Morgantown, West Virginia
Students interested in a cheap BS in Landscape Architecture will find what they need at West Virginia University, the only professionally accredited Bachelor’s in Architecture and Environmental Design program in the state. This program is accredited by the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board. This is a field that requires a strong understanding of both the design and technical processes that involve creating a space that is both beautiful to look at and functional. Students in this program will find that they have a variety of research opportunities available to them, including projects that are done in collaboration with the horticulture, forest resources management, and recreation, parks, and tourism resources. Students may also join the Society of Environmental Professionals, a student-run club, or become student-members of field-specific professional organizations such as the American Planning Association and the American Society of Landscape Architects. It’s even possible for students to join a residence hall community on campus that meets their interests; a great choice is the Sustainability Environment Economy Energy Design LLC that is available for all undergraduates. Students will need to complete 124 credit hours of coursework, 20 of which may come from a service-learning category, as well as an undergraduate thesis or project.
In-State Tuition: $8,856
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 20:1
12. South Dakota State University
Brookings, South Dakota
Combining both an understanding of the history and philosophy of architecture with a strong technical focus, South Dakota State University stands as a major influencer on the BFA in Architecture within the United States. The school confers the affordable Bachelor of Fine Arts in Architecture, a studio-based program that is cross-disciplinary for the first year then moves into pre-professional and professional requirements for the degree. This 120-credit hour program is fully accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board. Students will complete this general degree by working through the design and planning process while also understanding the practical and business aspects of the field. Students are reminded that as a studio-based degree, time in the studio is just as important, if not more so, as classroom learning. This is a great program for students interested in applying for the Master of Fine Arts in Architecture from the school after graduation, completing their degree from a professionally accredited university.
In-State Tuition: $8,764
Out-of-State Tuition: $12,128
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17:1
11. SUNY College of Technology at Alfred
Alfred, New York
The affordable Bachelor’s of Architecture and Environmental Design that is available from SUNY College of Technology at Alfred will no doubt be of interest to students. This school confers the only professional five-year Bachelor of Architecture in the SUNY system; it is fully accredited by the National Architecture Accreditation Board. It comes with six concentrations: business, construction, information technology, sustainability, and visual communication. Each cognate area will have its own specific requirements, but one that is the same across the board is the need for a student to complete a portfolio and submit it for review prior to graduation. Students will gain all of the information necessary to complete graduate school or move into the field in their desired specialty right after graduation.
In-State Tuition: $8,570
Out-of-State Tuition: $15,395
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 18:1
10. The University of Texas at San Antonio
San Antonio, Texas
The University of Texas at San Antonio confers a 121-credit hour low-cost BS in Architecture. This is a pre-professional program that is best utilized by students interested in completing a Master of Architecture in order to be certified in the field; it is not for students who wish to move directly into the field after graduation. This is a studio-based course of study that has students working on research and design projects as well as completing course work. Some of the disciplines that are discussed both in the classroom and in the studio include material conditions, graphic design, technology, pragmatic concerns, and more.
In-State Tuition: $8,049
Out-of-State Tuition: $19,538
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 25:1
9. The University of Maine at Augusta
Students interested in a low-cost and high-quality Bachelor of Architecture program will want to check out the University of Maine at Augusta. This 150-credit hour professional program is a general degree that will help students take the next step and attend graduate school after they have completed their undergraduate study. This is a rigorous and fulfilling course of study; along with their coursework, students will be required to complete a portfolio, participate in an apprenticeship, take on an architectural travel experience, and complete an undergraduate thesis for graduation. Students will have a variety of courses available to them, all designed to prepare them for the field, making it a great choice for those interested in committing to the architectural field as their career choice.
In-State Tuition: $7,998
Out-of-State Tuition: $17,918
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 15:1
8. Morgan State University
Morgan State University confers a cheap Bachelor’s of Architecture and Environmental Design degree, which is also known as AREN. This is a four-year, pre-professional degree that will help students prepare for professions in both fields. The program itself is broad and cross-disciplinary, enabling students to learn about the technical and humanistic elements of the field. Studio courses are also available for this program, ensuring that students can research and design their own projects. Successful completion of this 120-credit hour program will result in graduation. Students can choose one of three concentrations: architecture, landscape architecture, and city and regional planning. In their junior year, students will begin working on real-world projects, preparing them for work after graduation, making this a great and inexpensive option for students interested in the field.
In-State Tuition: $7,900
Out-of-State Tuition: $18,167
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 13:1
7. California State Polytechnic University at Pomona
The low-cost Bachelor of Architecture that is provided by California State Polytechnic University at Pomona is a five-year professional degree with a strong focus on studio work. Students will follow a four-segment program; the basic architecture core for the first three years, topic studios, a design studio, and a year-long culminating senior project that will combine their 225-credit hour course of study with an applied demonstration of their understanding of the field. Classroom learning focuses on the history, theories and concepts of the architecture field and also touch on how technology is enhancing what architects can do in a variety of careers. With a well-regarded faculty and a strong commitment to ensuring that students thrive after graduation, this is a great choice for students who want to make architecture their career.
In-State Tuition: $7,353
Out-of-State Tuition: $19,233
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 29:1
6. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Charlotte, North Carolina
The inexpensive BA in Architecture that is provided by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte is a four-year, pre-professional foundational degree. This 128-credit hour affordable degree program can be complemented with the one-year Bachelor of Architecture or the Master of Architecture should students wish to obtain a professional degree that is accredited by the National Architecture Association Board. This program combines classroom learning with studio work, with both aspects being equally represented in the program. Students will also learn about the different aspects of the field that inform professionals, such as writing, history, theory, technology, and more. As a general pre-professional degree, this program will serve students who are interested in becoming certified as architects or who would like to work in a related field, using their newfound knowledge to make a difference in architectural design.
In-State Tuition: $6,853
Out-of-State Tuition: $20,287
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 19:1
5. Kennesaw State University
The affordable Bachelor of Architecture that is conferred by Kennesaw State University is a five year, first professional degree that can lead to licensure in the field. This program is fully accredited by the National Architecture Association Board and is recognized as fulfilling the educational requirements to sit for the Architectural Registration Exam. Students in this program will need to complete 150 credit hours of coursework, a portfolio, and an undergraduate thesis for graduation. Students will take a series of studio sequences that will enable them to demonstrate an understanding of how various aspects of the field are informed by each other, leading to a holistic foundation of architecture education and training. This degree is perfect for students who wish to learn from practicing professionals and want to earn licensure in the field.
In-State Tuition: $6,347
Out-of-State Tuition: $17,329
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 21:1
4. Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University has two architecture degrees available. The cheap BS in Architectural Studies is a four-year, pre-professional program that is broad-based in nature. The affordable Bachelor of Architecture is a professional program that holds accreditation by the National Architectural Accrediting Board and will meet the educational requirements to become a registered architect; please note that the Bachelor of Art in Architecture is a one-year, 30-credit hour program designed to complete a student’s undergraduate study in the field. Both programs have their own specific graduation requirements as well as will prepare students for both graduate study and work in the field after graduation. Students will need to complete coursework, design studios, and professional practice opportunities for graduation.
In-State Tuition: $5,785
Out-of-State Tuition: $17,725
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 16:1
3. Florida Atlantic University
Boca Raton, Florida
The affordable Bachelor’s of Architecture that is available from Florida Atlantic University is a great choice for students who are interested in a five-year, first professional degree. This low-cost degree program is fully accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board and serves as a shared-learning institution; this is an operative organization that serves Florida, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Students at this school will complete a variety of courses, design studios, and professional experiences both at home and abroad for graduation. It is also possible for FAU students to complete the Bachelor of Arts and the Master of Urban and Regional Planning as a dual degree; this is a great choice for students who are interested in working in urban planning after graduation. One of the greatest features of this program is the study abroad opportunities. For instance, students have the chance to complete programs in Europe, South America, and Asia. The Dessau Institute of Architecture Program also is a great choice; students will be able to complete training in Germany at the institute; please note this is a three-term commitment.
In-State Tuition: $4,831
Out-of-State Tuition: $17,276
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 24:1
2. CUNY City College
New York, New York
CUNY City College is home to the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture, where the five-year, first professional Bachelor of Architecture degree can be found. Students in this affordable 160-credit hour program will help students complete the educational requirements needed to become licensed architects in the field. With a balanced blend of lectures, design studios, portfolio reviews, research programs and study abroad opportunities, students will be well prepared to take on graduate study or enter the field after graduation. Additional features of this program include the school’s well-known Summer Architecture Career Lab, a summer-length immersion that is open to high school students and undergraduates. Students will be able to develop portfolio materials for their degree and will work and learn alongside professionals who are already practicing in the field. Equally interesting is the fact that fourth-year students will have the chance to take on architecture-specific study abroad programs in Spain, France, Brazil, and Germany, making it a great choice for those who would like to work in the international space after graduation.
In-State Tuition: $7,140
Out-of-State Tuition: $14,810
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14:1
1. The University of the District of Columbia
Students who are interested in a cheap Bachelor’s in Architecture and Environmental Design will find a unique offering at the University of the District of Columbia. This school confers a 120-credit hour BS in Architecture that has a stated focus on urban sustainability. This affordable degree program will fulfill the foundational requirements for students interested in moving into graduate study to become registered architects, but it is also a great choice for students who wish to study environmental design. This program requires a mix of lectures and design studios, ensuring that students can put into practice what they’ve learned in the classroom. With small class sizes and affordable tuition, it is definitely a program worth looking into.
In-State Tuition: $5,888
Out-of-State Tuition: $14,810
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14:1
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Career Options for a Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture and Environmental Design?
Architecture and environmental design have a lot of overlap, but here’s a quick view of the careers that can be started with an undergraduate degree in either, or both, fields.
- Design Journalist
- Set Designer
- Real Estate Developer
- Office Designer
- Municipal and Counting Planner
- Licensed Architect
- Corporate Facilities Manager
- Real Estate Appraiser
- Urban or Town Planner
- Entertainment Industry Production Designer
- Store Planning Designer
- Landscape Architect
- Video Game Designer
- Workplace Safety/Productivity Manager
- Architect Assistant
- Sustainability Consultant
- Environmental Designer
- Vice President of Product Development
- Historic Building Inspector and Conservator
- Business Program Manager
- Architectural Designer
- Project Architect
- Sustainability Writer
- Environmental Design Coordinator for a Nonprofit Organization
- Environmental Architect
- Environmental Restoration Planner
- Landscape Architect
- Environmental Interior Designer
- Environmental Draftsman
Students should note that while there is a cross-pollination of available careers in both sectors, environmental design is considered to be a subdiscipline, or specialty, within the architecture field. This means that more training and education may be required for careers in environmental design.
How Much Can You Earn in This Field?
The average salary for professionals in the architecture and environmental design field is $76,100. However, the salary range for professions in this field goes from $45,000 to well over $125,000 for professionals with experience. Please note that these figures do not take into account any cost-of-living adjustments or bonuses that may be applicable to some career options.
There is a difference in salaries depending on if a professional chooses to work with a firm or work independently as a consultant. Generally speaking, architects, regardless of their specialty, will find higher wages at larger firms; the drawback is that there may be less room for personal projects or room on teams working on different projects. Professionals who work for themselves may see lower salaries while building up their clientele, but this is offset by the fact that they will be able to work on different projects with ease, building up a resume that fits their interests; in time, this will result in higher wages, as they have a proven track record in the field.
What are the Various Disciplines of Architecture and Environmental Design?
Architecture is a field that encompasses a variety of disciplines that inform it. The accepted disciplines of architecture and environmental design are closely linked, but there are a few differences.
Architecture’s main disciplines include history, theory, architecture, technology, coding, law, design, and economics. These are also the subfields in which students will spend most of their time when taking on their degree. Architecture is also composed of subdisciplines, including environmental design, landscape architecture, interior design, and regional and urban planning.
Environmental design is the study of how manmade structures interact with their environment. The main disciplines are the same as architecture, but sustainability and environmental sciences take precedence in the field. As a subdiscipline of architecture, it is itself a specialty, but one that could be further broken down into regional or city planning.
Is it Necessary to be Registered to Work as an Architect?
Yes, professionals must be registered as architects in the United States. This is true for American citizens as well as foreigners who come to work in the country. While this is a federal requirement, licensing is done on a state-by-state basis, which will be covered below.
The professional licensing association for architects in America is the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. The licensing exam is known as the Architect Registration Examination. It is impossible to earn employment as an architect without first passing the exam.
Licensing requirements vary by state, but students will find that most states will require at least a first professional degree in the field, or a pre-professional undergraduate and a master’s degree, at least one year of field experience, and completion of the exam. Students who are studying in one state but have plans to move to another state for work will need to check that state’s requirements for registration; failure to do so may result in the inability to work in the state. Some states utilize a Reciprocal Agreement with other states to enable professionals to move between those states and still use their license; more information on this can be found on the NCARB website.
A university degree will fulfill the needs for the educational component for registration; however, students will need to complete a program that has been accredited by the National Accrediting Board or complete additional educational courses that are approved by the Board. Students will also need to complete the Architectural Experience Program, which requires a total of 5,740 hours of practical experience. Much of this can be completed within a university degree, but some programs may require that the student complete the program after graduation.
Should a student complete a non-accredited program, hope is not lost. It is possible to complete the necessary work and education experiences with the guidance of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. Students will need to apply through their state’s licensing board but once completed, they will be registered architects.
What is the Difference Between a Pre-Professional and a First Professional Degree?
At the undergraduate level, architecture and environmental design students have two choices when it comes to programs: pre-professional and first professional degrees. Architecture is a professional career, one that has been distinguished as one of the main fields to require a professional degree; others include law, medicine, veterinary science, and engineering.
Architecture students can choose between a pre-professional and a first professional degree. Because the choice is available, it is important to distinguish between the two.
Pre-professional degrees are programs that help build a student’s understanding of architecture in a general way. These programs are categorized as being the following options: Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, and Bachelor of Science. These programs have fewer practical experience and final graduation requirements, making them a little easier to manage in terms of course load and study requirements. The drawback is that students who are interested in becoming registered architects will have to continue their education in order to meet the education requirements set forth by the Registration Boards.
There is only one type of professional degree available to architecture students; the Bachelor of Architecture. This is generally a five-year program that has a minimum of 150 credit hours of coursework; many schools require as many as 225 credit hours for graduation. In addition to this, students may be required to complete a portfolio, research projects, an internship or apprenticeship, and a senior thesis. These programs are comprehensive in nature but have the added benefit of preparing students to sit for the Architecture Registration Exam straight after graduation; students will have already completed the necessary work and education requirements and therefore can move straight into earning their license.
Are Studio Courses Important for a Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture and Environmental Design?
Design studios, which is what these courses are known in the field, are critical for undergraduate programs in architectural and environmental design. Students are required by most, if not all, programs to take on at least three or four design studios; most programs require the completion of seven studios which are disseminated throughout the course of study. It is part of the practical experience requirement for a professional degree such as architecture.
Design studios are used for design and research purposes for undergraduates; working in a studio, designing structures or researching real-world problems, strings together the theories and concepts taught in the classroom with applied learning. In fact, most first-professional degrees start students off with design studios in their first year in the program. The experiences often last until the completion of the degree.
Additionally, design studios are often where students begin building their senior thesis or project. In architect and environmental design programs, a project or research thesis is often used in lieu of a capstone course. Architect undergraduates often take on a project that requires 3d mockups or other technical aspects, making access to design studios all the more important; using the technology throughout their course of study will enable them to be confident when it comes to their final project.
Architecture and environmental design are two fields that go hand-in-hand; with technology and society’s evolving understanding of how man and nature co-exist together, it has never been more critical to have professionals who understand the relationship when it comes to designing structures. And with architects continually improving old buildings while designing new ones, understanding both fields is necessary. With a variety of Bachelor’s in Architecture and Environmental Design programs available all over the country, students can now devote their education to their chosen field within architecture.
This concludes our ranking of the Top 15 of the Most Affordable Bachelor’s Degrees in Architecture and Environmental Design.
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