My list of recommended architecture schools


Hey, it's a Sunday morning, cotton pajamas feel good, and it's the first day of December.  Also, many people have the "this one or that one" question lately as to which schools to attend.  So, I'll toss in my opinion(s) as to 25 worthwhile architectural programs in the U.S.

A couple of things:

  • I am not including Ivy League schools.  Clearly, they could be better than most listed, but I am NOT familiar with them and, for the ENTIRE pool of those considering a-school, they are not academically or financially viable.
  • I am indicating what I think is the best program in each region by an asterisk (*) for their dominant accredited program, either the M.Arch. (4+2) or their B.Arch (5); in rare cases, they feature both
  • Footnotes are added to clarify these opinions
  • Within region, they are listed alphabetically


Middle Atlantic / Northeast / New England:

Pennsylvania State University

Syracuse Univ.

University of Maryland, College Park (1)   

University of Virginia 

Virginia Tech (*)


Georgia Tech (*) 

North Carolina State University

University of Florida (2)

Upper Midwest:

Iowa State University

University of Cincinnati (3)

University of Detroit - Mercy (4)  

University of Illinois, Urbana (5)   

University of Michigan (*)   

South Central:

Oklahoma State University (6)   

Rice Univ. (7)    

University of Texas - Austin (*)

Mountain West:

Arizona State University (*)

University of Arizona

University of Colorado - Denver (8) 

University of New Mexico (9)


Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (*)


USC (10)

University of Washington, Seattle (11)

Washington State University, Pullman                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         


(1) considered a solid school among practitioners in DC area and "Delmarva"

(2) M.Arch. for non-architecture backgrounds is a semester longer than need be, imo

(3) known for its co-op program

(4) intimate, with professor attention to students reportedly being good and a practical curriculum

(5) see (2) above

(6) very pragmatic curriculum

(7) competitive tuition for a private school of its quality and reputation

(8) internship possibilities in a dynamic urban laboratory are available for credit within the curriculum; however, they could dial back some of those 18 cr. semesters caused by all the electives in the M.Arch. for non-architecture backgrounds

(9) intimate, with professor attention to students and a reportedly non-competitive, collaborative studio environment

(10) the best alumni network in Southern California

(11) can be tailored to the student's desired direction - either more practice oriented or more theoretically oriented

Again, there are the Ivy Leagues, MIT, Tulane, and Carnegie Mellon which are not included for the reasons listed at the beginning of this thread.

Happy holidays.










Dec 1, 13 2:05 pm

I feel there needs to be commentary on their pedagogies.  A school like UCLA with it's suprastudio is catered towards a totally different individual than Maryland's very pragmatic approach. Here is my opinion on the school that I am familiar with by doing my search for schools to apply to / areas that I am located in.

Middle Atlantic / Northeast / New England:

Syracuse Univ. - A bunch of friends have gone here.  Perennially a great program and except for a studio that some haven't especially liked (getting too theoretic), there is a consensus of liking the program.  They recently poached Michael Speaks as dean from Kentucky so I feel it's under good leadership.  Good network for NYC?

University of Maryland, College Park - Visited and have friends who have gone there. It is a very archaic program completely adverse to pushing any bounds.  What makes you say it's highly regarded in the DC Metro?  I guess they do feed well into the banal developer-driven architecture firms that are gentrifying DC.  I feel that Catholic or V Tech WAAC produces the better students for the DC Metro.   

University of Virginia - One of the best choices in this region (Close call to Va Tech).  The work produced by a fellow intern who went there was great.

Virginia Tech - Blacksburg(*) - Produce good work and definitely a solid choice. Looking at the plethora of portfolios that the firms I've worked at have received, VaTech seems to take an artsy approach to design (collages, charcoal drawings, ect) but their design/build looks fantastic.  I have friends who go to the WAAC and it seems like a personable place to study.


Upper Midwest:

University of Illinois, Urbana (5)  - They recently revamped their image but it'd be a tough choice against UIC with Somol at the helm.  From what I hear, the shake up at IIT by Wiel Arets hasn't been successful.     

University of Michigan (*) - Very abstract program.  From the plethora of portfolios that I've seen and their dimensions publication, I question student's abilities to secure employment after graduation. They are consistently in the rankings and offer access to some great robotics for digifab though.  Massive endowment.  

How come Cincinnati doesn't get the (*) in this segment (just wondering since they offer the co-op which seems like a great idea)  

What has pushed Iowa State into the spotlight? I seems to have appeared in the rankings out of no where. 

No love for the great plains - Kansas? KState? 

Dec 1, 13 4:15 pm

Thanks for the dialogue and points raised.  I'm no expert.

1.  Syracuse is good, and their curricular layout, with exchanges or NYC studio, looks good.  I do not know its NYC ties.

2.  UMD - I'm listing it because it's a bread and butter school with a traditional curriculum, on DC's metro system.  The placement area is huge.  One can argue that people don't push boundaries at some Ivy Leagues either.  It is dependent on the student.  I'm not so convinced about CUA.

3.  UVa - technology is not it's strength, but historical precedent and design theory (even modern) are.  It is the best public university on the East Coast, but I've heard practitioners say they'd rather hire from VTech and UMD for the skills acquired.  Also, is the work great in terms of design, or is it masked by presentation?

4.  VTech - agreed; they have gone from bread and butter to trying to capture part of the high-design spotlight

5.  UIUC - revamped in terms of breaking up the technical tracks?  This has made them more amorphous, if anything.  It has historically been a very reputable school.  My only objection was the long M.Arch. for other majors, as was my objection to Florida.  Both should be using either a 7th semester or summer(s) instead.  They attract a different kind of student than UIC.

6.  Michigan - yes, they have taken that turn, but buy-in is not necessary, from what I've heard.  Their curriculum is so broad, with all these electives in every area - technology, structures, history, theory, and digital, so you can make it what you want.  They can't expect the student who will co-enroll in their MBA to produce work that's among the artsiest in any given class.  They seem to encourage pluralism and it's the best public university in the country's interior.  The alumni love each other.

7.  Cincinnati - the in and out of school aspect of the co-ops is weird.  Also, the university itself is just ok.  That's my perception.

8.  Iowa State has gotten higher rankings as of late.  Sure, you could argue that Kansas is right up there with Iowa State and offers access to Kansas City, which is more difficult for Iowa State.  As for KSU, I'd take Kansas, the same way I'd take OkSU over Oklahoma.

Again, these are opinions.  Schools overhauling their images can be successful, lukewarm, or a fail at this endeavor.  Also, there is nothing wrong with wanting bread and butter education, and some people from high-design schools end up in bread and butter work.  Easily over half the work out there is conventional work, which is satisfying enough for many.

Sorry, I didn't recall all that white space at the end of my initial post.

Dec 1, 13 4:42 pm

^^Though I would not disagree entirely, Dimensions is a fair bit more abstract than the "typical" U of M work. (I should know, I was one of the previous editors haha)

nothing said about SCI-Arch?... I'm not complaining, just curious.

Dec 1, 13 4:50 pm


Glad you chimed in, natematt, and reinforced the pluralistic attitude of U of M.  Had their program at the time I was applying been configured like the current program, with a little less of the new bent, I would have gladly gone.  Even then, it laid out nicely in terms of progression.  And while I was doing the 3 year, a friend's sibling was enrolled in the 3 year at U of M at the very same time, and he liked it very much.

Dec 1, 13 5:06 pm

Yeah, I think there is a little bit of trickery in the "abstractness" of it. Much of what you might see from the school is from the final studios of each program, which do tend to be pretty abstract and are actually the only studios included in Dimensions. Otherwise it is a mixed bag, and you can pretty much get what you chose.

Dec 1, 13 5:27 pm

What about K-State or KU, are their programs not up to the rigor of the Universities mentioned above for the MId-West?

This summer I spoke to a girl that was in the architecture program at CU Denver. I asked what she did all her design work in and I was expecting to hear Revit, but she said that she didn't know Revit or AutoCAD, and that most everyone in the program was using sketch-Up. She was in her 5th year I believe.

Then she started asking about what type of salary she should expect. I walked away as quick as I could on those egg shellz.

Luckily she was married to an engineer graduate.

Dec 1, 13 8:16 pm
As a Tulane grad, primarily via scholarships (with which they're generous), I just disagree that it's not financially viable.
Dec 1, 13 8:28 pm

People are free to apply to the Ivy League, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Tulane, and even WUSTL (forgot that one), but also be prepared to pay, or have tuition defrayed based on ability to pay / demonstrated academic ability and aptitude for architecture.  If they score on financial aid, good for them.  They should go.  Of these schools, I've only set foot at Yale and WUSTL, while in their areas for other reasons, and did not see design in studios that was any more thought provoking then what I saw at the public universities.

DeTwan, I addressed KU (Lawrence) and KSU.  They are reportedly good.  I would pick Univ. of Kansas over the other, personally.  I worked with a KU grad and he was very competent and practical, so my sample is limited.  I'm going off what other practitioners say.

Revit is among the electives at CU-Denver.  Various levels of it, too.  With all those electives, one should be able to custom tailor their education.

The reason this topic is interesting to me is because I found that architects can't read curricula ("oh, this looks good," and he was a UT-Austin grad who taught me a night class at a c.c., and a friend), the personality fit with a school is extremely important, and the content of what is taught either accelerates or decelerates how you transition into a firm.  Plus, since I like airline and train schedules, it only makes sense I like reading and comparing curricula.  *wink*

Dec 1, 13 10:26 pm
Bilal Ozdemir

hey observant, if you had rated IIT where would it be? I'm planning to transfer to IIT for its location being close to Chicago but I am also thinking about  Iowa State, which one would you recommend and why?

Dec 1, 13 10:29 pm


Since you are there, and the states are adjacent, you should visit both.  I take it you are going for the B.Arch.  At IIT, you would get the stimulus of Chicago, the connections, and IIT's place in history.  At Iowa State, it looks like they offer a pretty comprehensive curriculum, but it is rural.  They are very different from each other.

I looked at IIT's 3 year M.Arch., and they're doing it in 6 semesters, and have about 3 or 4 semesters with 18 credits.  With 6 studios, you will likely encounter a prof or two who are duds, and one who is marginal.  I'm not comfortable with any program that has only 6 studios for those not coming from an architectural background. 

I was not pleased with the quality of my studio profs, ratio wise, though supporting course profs were good.

Dec 1, 13 10:34 pm

I question why you chose to omit Cooper Union, Pratt Institute, and RISD from your Mid Atlantic / North East / New England category considering all three of those schools are easily within the top 25 schools in the country and a regarded as being more worthwhile than some of those listed. Rensselaer also could  be included in the list. It is not as if any of those schools are "MIT or Ivy League" as you put it.

Dec 6, 13 8:14 pm

I question why you chose to omit Cooper Union, Pratt Institute, and RISD from your Mid Atlantic / North East / New England category considering all three of those schools are easily within the top 25 schools in the country and a regarded as being more worthwhile than some of those listed. Rensselaer also could  be included in the list. It is not as if any of those schools are "MIT or Ivy League" as you put it.

I'm not an expert and these are my opinions and evaluations.  I knew that this trio of schools would come up.  There is no doubt that these are quality schools.  Note that I tried to exclude private or specialty schools in general.  I was trying to list comprehensive public universities, for the most part.  I believe Rennselaer might qualify as the most comprehensive of the ones you mentioned, and on par with Syracuse.  Other than Syracuse, the only other privates I listed were Rice (decent tuition rates) and USC (has gotten more selective across the board and a good investment if planning to live and work in Southern California).

Dec 6, 13 10:44 pm

Hello, I am a rising high school senior and I want to be an architect. I am very interested in hearing updates to these opinions regarding schools and programs. 

I was sure that the 5-yr BArch was the best way to go, but now I am wondering about the 4+2. Trying to decide which is the better path for me. I would love to hear what schools are getting the best reputation among professionals for their respective programs. 

I am looking for a more practical than theoretic program. I love the art/design, but I also love the construction aspects. I just want to make sure that I have a broad skill set, breadth of knowledge and good intern opportunities/connections. And if I go 4+2 what are some good combinations for undergrad and grad? I want to make an informed decision here.

Thank you for the assistance!

Jul 29, 17 10:53 am

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