All states require aspiring architects to be licensed before they can practice within their jurisdiction. Licensure criteria between states vary, but a bachelor’s degree in architecture is a common requirement. Recognizing the increasing cost of a college education, this guide focuses on some of the top low-cost online bachelor’s in architecture and interior design.
In addition to being a requirement for an architectural license, a bachelor’s degree in general serves as an excellent income booster and also provides a hedge against unemployment. Bachelor’s degree-holders earned a median weekly salary of $1,248 in 2019, while associate-trained workers and employees with some college but no degree earned lower median incomes ($887 and $833, respectively). The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports an unemployment rate of 2.2% for bachelor’s degree-holders, which is lower than the 2.7% for workers with an associate degree and 3.3% for individuals with some college experience but no degree. Architects earned a median salary of $82,320 in 2020.
To calculate for our ranking of the best and most affordable online bachelor’s in architecture programs, we applied our standard rating and ranking methodology for all qualifying programs. In our ranking, we also include bachelor’s in interior design programs too. In cases of a tie, the more affordable program was awarded the higher ranking. Our research was based on each school’s website and other reputable college ranking sites like U.S. News, The Princeton Review, and Niche.
Affordable Online Bachelor’s in Architecture Programs
#1 — University of Arizona
- Tuition: $525 per credit
- Delivery Format: Asynchronous
The University of Arizona offers an online bachelor’s in sustainable built environments with two areas of emphasis: sustainable buildings or sustainable real estate development. The 120-credit program focuses on the emerging science of energy-efficient building and design. The curriculum includes hands-on opportunities for students to develop the practical skills and knowledge required in the field.
Courses cover topics such as natural ventilation systems, net-zero energy design, and climate-responsive architecture. The program requires an internship experience prior to graduation. Students must also complete a capstone project in their senior year.
#2 — Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design
- Tuition: $544 per credit
- Delivery Format: Asynchronous and synchronous
The bachelor of fine arts in interior design at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design requires 126 credits and offers a specialization in sustainable design. An interdisciplinary program, the BFA draws from several disciplines including architecture and industrial design. Applicants must submit a portfolio to be considered for the program.
The curriculum includes coursework on space planning, interior materials and systems, environment and human behavior, and manual drafting and computer aided design. The program also familiarizes students with a variety of infrastructure codes and regulations that impact specific practice areas and the industry as a whole.
#3 — The Savannah College of Arts and Design
Savannah, GA; Atlanta, GA
- Tuition: $37,575 per year (three courses per quarter)
- Delivery Format: Mostly asynchronous
SCAD offers an undergraduate interior design program accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation. The program leads to a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Students enroll in coursework that prepares them for careers in residential, commercial, and institutional design.
The BFA comprises 180 quarter credits (120 semester credits) and includes two capstone requirements. Students must complete a capstone in design thinking for innovation and in design development and communication. The curriculum also includes coursework in modern architecture, digital communication for the building arts, color theory and application, and interior construction and systems. Students can opt to complete an undergraduate internship experience or enroll in at least two pre-approved elective courses.
#4 — Academy of Art University
San Francisco, CA
- Tuition: $1,011 per credit
- Delivery Format: Asynchronous
The Academy of Art University offers a bachelor’s of architecture program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board, which is the sole accrediting agency recognized in the field. The 10-semester program comprises 162 credits and prepares graduates to take the Architecture Registration Exam administered by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.
The curriculum includes core coursework in site operations and tectonic systems, sustainable strategies, materials and methods, and site design and mapping, among others. Online coursework follows 7.5- and 15-week formats. Students must complete a final thesis project to graduate from the program.
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