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. Pre-professional and first professional degrees available in both areas. Students can choose to specialize at the undergraduate level or leave room for specialization at the graduate level.
The architectural and environmental design programs outlined in this ranking are all high-quality and most of them carry at least one professional accreditation. A big 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 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. The program utilizes:
- real-world learning opportunities
- research papers
- classroom lectures
The school has the distinction of holding accreditation from three important organizations:
- the Council for Interior Design Accreditation
- the National Kitchen and Bath Association
- the National Association of Schools of Art and Design
This is a comprehensive program. Students are 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 to do research and design projects. Students complete internships and field trips. The program 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.
In-State Tuition: $9,090
Out-of-State Tuition: $19,836
Student/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 offered by the school is a general program. Students will learn the foundational theories and concepts that make up the field. The program requires a minimum of 131 credit hours of coursework, 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
- 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
In-State Tuition: $9,080
Out-of-State Tuition: $19,040
Student/Faculty Ratio: 20:1
13. West Virginia University
Morgantown, West Virginia
Students interested in a low cost BS in Landscape Architecture should check out West Virginia University. It’s 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 and functional. Students have a variety of research opportunities available to them, including projects that are done in collaboration with the areas of:
- forest resources management,
- recreation, parks, and tourism resources
Students may also join the Society of Environmental Professionals, a student-run club. They can become student-members of field-specific professional organizations such as:
- the American Planning Association
- the American Society of Landscape Architects
It’s even possible to join a residence hall community on campus that meets their interests. Agreat choice is the Sustainability Environment Economy Energy Design LLC that’s 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/Faculty Ratio: 20:1
12. South Dakota State University
Brookings, South Dakota
South Dakota State University offers the BFA in Architecture. The program combines an understanding of the history and philosophy of architecture with a strong technical focus. The affordable Bachelor of Fine Arts in Architecture is a studio-based program. It’s cross-disciplinary 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 work through the design and planning process while learning 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 earning the Master of Fine Arts in Architecture from the school, completing their degree from a professionally accredited university.
In-State Tuition: $8,764
Out-of-State Tuition: $12,128
Student/Faculty Ratio: 17:1
11. SUNY College of Technology at Alfred
Alfred, New York
The affordable Bachelor’s of Architecture and Environmental Design is offered at the SUNY College of Technology at Alfred. This school offers the only professional five-year Bachelor of Architecture in the SUNY system. It is fully accredited by the National Architecture Accreditation Board. It has six concentrations:
- information technology
- visual communication
Each cognate area will have its own specific requirements. All students must to complete a portfolio and submit it for review prior to graduation. Students will gain all of the information necessary to enter graduate school or move into the field of their desired specialty right after graduation.
In-State Tuition: $8,570
Out-of-State Tuition: $15,395
Student/Faculty Ratio: 18:1
10. The University of Texas at San Antonio
San Antonio, Texas
The University of Texas at San Antonio offers a 121-credit hour low-cost BS in Architecture. This is a pre-professional program for 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
- pragmatic concerns, and more.
In-State Tuition: $8,049
Out-of-State Tuition: $19,538
Student/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 program. It will help students prepare for 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
- complete an undergraduate thesis
Students will have a variety of courses available to them, all designed to prepare them for the field. It’s 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/Faculty Ratio: 15:1
8. Morgan State University
Morgan State University offers a low cost Bachelor’s of Architecture and Environmental Design degree. 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 in this program, ensuring that students can research and design their own projects. It’s a 120-credit hour program. Students can choose one of three concentrations:
- landscape architecture
- city and regional planning
In their junior year, students will begin working on real-world projects, preparing them for work after graduation. This makes 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 at 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 first three years includes the basic architecture core. This is followed by topic studios, a design studio, and a year-long culminating senior project. Students will complete the 225-credit hour program with academic and applied demonstration of their understanding of the field. Classroom learning focuses on the history, theories and concepts of the architecture field. The program also includes information on how technology is enhancing what architects can do in a variety of careers. With a well-regarded faculty have a strong commitment to ensuring that students thrive after graduation.
In-State Tuition: $7,353
Out-of-State Tuition: $19,233
Student/Faculty Ratio: 29:1
6. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Charlotte, North Carolina
The BA in Architecture at 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 Master of Architecture for students who wish to earn 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 such as:
- 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.
In-State Tuition: $6,853
Out-of-State Tuition: $20,287
Student/Faculty Ratio: 19:1
5. Kennesaw State University
The affordable Bachelor of Architecture offered 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. It 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
- an undergraduate thesis
Students will take a series of studio sequences. These will enable students to demonstrate an understanding of how various aspects of the field are informed by each other. They will have 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/Faculty Ratio: 21:1
4. Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University has two affordable architecture degrees available. The BS in Architectural Studies is a four-year, pre-professional program that is broad-based in nature. The Bachelor of Architecture is a professional program that accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board and will meet the educational requirements to become a registered architect. 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. They prepare students for both graduate study and work in the field after graduation. Students will need to complete:
- design studios
- professional practice opportunities.
In-State Tuition: $5,785
Out-of-State Tuition: $17,725
Student/Faculty Ratio: 16:1
3. Florida Atlantic University
Boca Raton, Florida
The affordable Bachelor’s of Architecture is available at Florida Atlantic University. It’s a great choice for students interested in a five-year, first professional degree. This low-cost degree program is fully accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board. It’s a shared-learning institution 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 interested in working in urban planning after graduation. One of the greatest features of this program is the study abroad opportunities. Students have the opportunity to complete programs in:
- South America
The Dessau Institute of Architecture Program offers students train in Germany at the institute.
In-State Tuition: $4,831
Out-of-State Tuition: $17,276
Student/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. The School offerss the five-year, first professional Bachelor of Architecture degree program. This affordable 160-credit hour program will help students complete the educational requirements needed to become licensed architects in the field. The program is a balanced blend of:
- design studios
- portfolio reviews
- research programs
- study abroad opportunities.
students will be prepared to take on graduate study or enter the field after graduation. Additional features 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 work and learn alongside practicing professionals. Fourth-year students will have the chance to take on architecture-specific study abroad programs in:
- Germany. In-State Tuition: $7,140
Out-of-State Tuition: $14,810
Student/Faculty Ratio: 14:1
1. The University of the District of Columbia
Students interested in a low cost Bachelor’s in Architecture and Environmental Design will find a unique offering at the University of the District of Columbia. The 120-credit hour program 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. It’s also a great choice for students who wish to study environmental design. This program includes a mix of lectures and design studios. This ensures that students can put into practice what they’ve learned in the classroom. With small class sizes and affordable tuition, it is a program worth looking into.
In-State Tuition: $5,888
Out-of-State Tuition: $14,810
Student/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 specialty in 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 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. However, 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 a higher income, 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. The accepted disciplines of architecture and environmental design are closely linked, but there are a few differences.
Architecture’s main disciplines include:
Architecture is also composed of subdisciplines, including:
- environmental design
- landscape architecture
- interior design
- 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 get 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. They must have 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. Some states utilize a Reciprocal Agreement with other states to enable professionals to move between those states and still use their license.
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 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.
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,
- 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
- a senior thesis
These programs are comprehensive in nature. They have the added benefit of preparing students to sit for the Architecture Registration Exam right after graduation. Students will have already completed the necessary work and education requirements. Therefore they 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, brings 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. 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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