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Best Architecture Schools in California

The best architecture schools in California can expose you to some of the best careers for visionaries. Whether you’re looking for a creative career in landscape architecture or a solution-driven job in urban planning, the options are endless. Undoubtedly, architecture is one of the most useful degrees you can have when applying to any architectural firm.

This guide explores five of the best architecture colleges in California, ranked from the lowest annual average cost to the highest. Each architecture school meets the following criteria:

  • An average yearly expense of no more than $47,000
  • An expected median starting salary of no less than $50,000
  • Accredited programs by recognized bodies

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Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

5 Best Architecture Schools in California

1. California State Polytechnic University – Pomona

4 Year; Pomona, CA

Average Annual Cost: $14,304

California State Polytechnic University – Pomona is a phenomenal school for architecture students to consider. Currently, the school offers multiple architecture degree pathways for students to consider, including:

  • Bachelor of Architecture
  • Master of Architecture
  • Master of Interior Architecture

Each of the listed programs has been thoroughly vetted and received accreditation from the National Architectural Accrediting Board.

In the Bachelor of Architecture program, undergraduate students will explore the many tenets of architectural design. You’ll also work to develop your professional communication, design thinking, and investigative skills.

As an architectural designer, you’ll need to show you can use abstract ideas to solve complex programs across multiple industries. Other areas of specialty students can expect to explore include:

  • Using organizational, environmental, and formal principles in three and two-dimensional design
  • Gathering, assessing, and recording information to support projects
  • Consider diverse points of view to create well-reasoned solutions and alternative outcomes
  • Examine the fundamental principles of architecture and urban design projects

Regarding the overall architecture curriculum at California State Polytechnic University – Pomona, students should prepare for 150-semester units.

These units include 48 general education courses, including 12 from the Department of Architecture. Also, you’ll need 102-semester units within the Department of Architecture itself.

2. University of California – Los Angeles

4 Year; Los Angeles, CA

Average Annual Cost: $15,023

The University of California – Los Angeles has one of the more unique architecture programs in the state. Students can obtain multiple degrees depending on the specialty they want to venture into. These degree programs include:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Architectural Studies
  • Master of Architecture Professional Degree
  • Master of Science in Architecture and Urban Design
  • Master of Arts in Architecture
  • Ph.D. in Architecture

Students in the bachelor’s degree program will have two years of study within their major. This degree program begins in your junior year, allowing you to obtain a solid foundation for this specialty.

During your enrollment, your courses will explore tectonics, form, and space and how they relate to cultural and social constructs.

The two primary learning objectives for students are to understand urban design and architecture from a human perspective. Also, you’ll need to have a good understanding of the history of cities and architecture.

If you intend to move onto a graduate program, there’s plenty of support for continuing education students.

To study architecture at the University of California – Los Angeles means your classes focus primarily on technology, design, and critical studies. You’ll be well-equipped to understand innovative material assemblies, emerging technologies, and designing architecture based on various tenets.

Some of the most common classes you can expect to take include:

  • History of Architecture and Urban Design
  • Modernism and Metropolis
  • Domestic Architecture
  • Technology II: Materials and Methods
  • Technology III: Digital Technology

3. University of California – Berkeley

4 Year; Berkeley, CA

Average Annual Cost: $16,032

The architecture program at the University of California – Berkeley is well known in the state. With a more creative-minded approach to this area of study, it’s ideal for innovative students.

Also, they have a vast collection of degree programs to choose from, including:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Architecture
  • Master of Architecture
  • Master of Advanced Architectural Design
  • Master of Science in Architecture
  • Ph.D. in Architecture

The architecture curriculum at this school helps students develop their critical thinking and foundational knowledge. You’ll also find your course selection will strongly prepare you for a career in architectural practice, environmental design, or the building industry.

Depending on the program you choose, you can also move on to continuing education to get your Master’s in a specific field of choice.

Undergraduate students will be enrolled in a four-year program, providing them with a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture. The course selection is a blend of pre-professional education and liberal arts.

You’ll learn about sustainable design, how architecture affects societies, and environmental history. Students can also acquire minors at the University of California – Berkeley as an added benefit. You can opt to minor in urbanism in developing countries, environmental design, sustainable design, and more.

4. California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo

4 Year; San Luis Obispo, CA

Average Annual Cost: $20,677

Among the best architecture schools in California, this university has one of the more illustrious architectural programs.

Students have multiple avenues of study to consider with architecture minors and majors. You can also find additional architectural-related minors to help bolster your transcripts to specialize in a specific area.

For example, students can opt to minor in general architecture as well as the following:

  • Landscape Architecture
  • Architectural Engineering
  • Real Property Development
  • Sustainable Environments
  • City and Regional Planning

When striving for a general architecture undergraduate degree, you’ll find the Bachelor of Architecture program ideal.

It’s a five-year degree program that helps students diversify their design skills to enter some of the most illustrious career options. Additionally, there are graduate degree programs for continuing education students.

In the Bachelor of Architecture program, students will be required to get 60 units of upper-division courses. You will also need to meet your Graduation Writing Requirement while maintaining a 2.0 GPA.

Some of the most common courses students in this program experience include:

  • Architectural System Integration
  • Design and Visual Communication
  • History of World Architecture
  • Survey of Architectural Education and Practice

5. Art Center College of Design

4 Year; Pasadena, CA

Average Annual Cost: $46,054

Compared to other schools in the state, Art Center College of Design has a unique option for architects.

You’ll be able to enroll in the Bachelor of Science in Spatial Experience Design program in this California college. It’s a far more artistic approach to architecture, but is designed based on practical experience.

Students will try their hands at building different environments and working with interiors, furniture, lighting, and more. All of your courses will revolve around human-centered designs, helping to improve living conditions, and functionality.

Students have multiple study options, such as Transdisciplinary Studio courses, study abroad opportunities, and sponsored projects. Some of the most popular careers students venture into after completing this program include:

Final Thoughts

When considering a career in architecture, California’s top architecture schools provide a solid foundation for future success. Whether you choose California State Polytechnic University – Pomona, UCLA, UC Berkeley, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, or the Art Center College of Design, each school offers unique programs and opportunities to nurture your architectural aspirations.

Accredited Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

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