Frequently Asked Questions

Degrees and Licensure

Why should I major in Architectural Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign?

There are 115 colleges and universities in the United States that offer accredited programs in architecture, each with unique programs and strengths. The architecture program at Illinois is the second oldest in the country and is consistently ranked among the top 20 programs nationally. In 2004, DesignIntelligence magazine ranked our program first in the Midwest.

The architecture program at Illinois is the oldest program in the country at a public university, and is consistently ranked among the top 20 programs nationally. It is recognized as one of two programs in the nation best at preparing students for the architecture profession.

The undergraduate Architectural Studies program provides outstanding opportunities for undergraduates to assist in faculty research or to participate in international study. The 4 + 2 structure of our programs allows students to take a balance of liberal arts and professional courses as undergraduates in preparation for the rigors of a professional graduate program. Many students choose to gain experience by working in a professional office during summers or before returning for the professional Master of Architecture degree.

Our alumni practice in all 50 states and many foreign countries. Our program challenges assumptions and broadens perspectives, and provides access to a global network of personal and professional opportunities.

What is a “pre-professional” degree in Architectural Studies?

The four-year pre-professional Architectural Studies program leads to the Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies (BSAS) degree. A pre-professional degree allows students to apply for advanced standing in a professional Master of Architecture (M. Arch) program. At Illinois, students with a pre-professional BSAS can complete the M. Arch in two years. Students must apply to the M. Arch program in a competitive admissions process.

How long does it take to earn a degree?

The Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies is a four-year pre-professional program. Most students graduate in four years. The professional Master of Architecture degree (required for licensure in most states) takes an additional two years for those who have earned a BSAS at Illinois, or an equivalent degree from another program.

What are the steps involved in becoming a licensed architect?

In most states, professional licensure in architecture requires:

  • An accredited professional degree (at Illinois, the Master of Architecture, or M. Arch)
  • Completion of the Architecture Experience Program (AXP), which takes roughly three years; students can begin the AXP while working on their undergraduate degree
  • Passage of the Architect Registration Exam (ARE) a comprehensive six-part computer-based exam (which may be taken concurrently with the AXP program)

For more information on the AREs, visit the National Council of Architecture Registration Boards website.

Student Experience

How large are the programs?

There are about 125-140 undergraduate students in each entering class, and about 125 students graduate each year from the BSAS program. Overall, there are roughly 550 undergraduate students in the Illinois School of Architecture.

There are roughly 225 graduate and post-graduate students in the school.

What is studio like?

A major part of an architectural education is the studio experience. Studios typically have 12-15 students working with a professor three times a week; guest critics often join the class a few times throughout a semester. Students develop a design project based on the parameters and feedback provided by instructors. The studio class teaches a range of skills and techniques, from concept design and iteration, to model-making and digital software, to public speaking and presentation skills.

Students are given 24/7 access to studio space. Students are encouraged to work in the studio, so that can learn from each other while they work. The studio experience is social as well as academic; students spend a lot of time with their studio-mates and often form lasting friendships.

Learn more about this unique experience on our Studio Life page.

Applying as an Undergraduate

How do I apply?

The university’s Office of Admissions and Records is responsible for undergraduate admissions. See their website for more information and the online application. Incoming students should declare Architectural Studies as a major when applying. In your application essay, please describe your interest in architecture and any experience you may have in the profession.

Do I need a portfolio?

The School of Architecture does not require a portfolio for incoming freshmen. Transfer students seeking Advanced Placement may require a portfolio in order to determine placement in the architecture sequence.

Transfer students seeking advanced standing in the curriculum should be prepared to submit a portfolio after admission in order to determine their appropriate studio placement.

What can be done to prepare for freshman year?

  • Complete three years of a foreign language in high school.
  • Take a broad range of courses in high school. Consider especially courses in art, history, physics, and mathematics.
  • Take Advanced Placement (AP) courses if they are available at your high school or take a course at a community college. Satisfactory AP and community college credit can be used to fulfill General Education requirements and allow students to take more electives. The rigor of these classes typically helps students prepare for university-level instruction and study.
  • Reading skills are very important for university-level studies. Developing your reading skills will also improve your vocabulary, your ability to write, and your proficiency in understanding what you read. One means to accomplish this is to visit your high school or local library and request a list of suggested books. Then the goal should be to read at least one book every three weeks.
  • Place special emphasis on becoming proficient in taking class notes. For university-level studies this is quite important and it is significantly different from what is practiced in high school.
  • Become a self-starter. It is a student’s responsibility to set his/her own goals and work to accomplish them.
  • Read about how to study effectively. Practice improving your study habits and time management. A local library should have information about this subject, or it can be found on the University of Illinois Counseling Center website.

What type of academic advising is available?

The staff of the school’s Office of Undergraduate Affairs is available to help with planning and course selection. The undergraduate library provides assistance with writing and research in the Writer’s Workshop.

The Associate Director of Student Services and a full-time advisor both assist students with planning and course selection.

Is it possible to combine a double major with the BSAS degree?

The study of architecture attracts outstanding, talented students. Nonetheless, it is unusual for a student to obtain a second undergraduate degree while completing their Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies. This is due to the time-consuming nature of a studio-based curriculum.  Students are encouraged to focus their energies on this rigorous pre-professional program; there is an option for a second degree at the graduate level.

Is it possible to combine a minor with the BSAS degree?

Some students, especially those entering with college credit, are able to complete a minor. A minor is a concentration of about 18 credit hours in a field of study different from the major.  The University of Illinois offers a wide range of minors which can be found here.

A minor must be completed at the same time as the major, so architecture students are encouraged to start their minor program early in their college careers.

Information on Graduate Programs

What is the difference between the Master of Architecture programs?

The M.Arch is a two-year professional program for students with a bachelor’s degree in Architecture. International Students with a professional B.Arch are also eligible to apply to this program, if they desire to sit for licensure in the U.S. upon completion of the M.Arch.

The M.Arch 2+ is also a professional program, designed for students who do not have a bachelor’s degree in Architecture. This program can range anywhere from two-and-a-half to four years.

The Master of Science in Architectural Studies is a one-year, post-professional program for students with a professional degree in Architecture who want to further their studies in a specific area or begin pre-doctoral research. Admission to this program does not guarantee subsequent admission into our Ph.D. program.

Are GRE scores required?

GRE scores are only required of Ph.D. applicants to the School of Architecture. GRE scores are encouraged from MS applicants. GRE scores are not required for application to the Masters of Architecture programs. However, if a Masters of Architecture applicant chooses to apply for a joint degree, they should review the requirements for the other joint program (Civil Engineering, MBA, Urban Planning) to make sure they submit required test results.

Is an English Score required of all international applicants?

International applicants whose native language is not English, are all required to submit either TOEFL or IELTS scores during the application process. The exception to this rule pertains to international students who are already studying in the U.S. or another English speaking institution. Students have completed at least 2 years of study at an English speaking institution within 5 years of applying to graduate programs at the Illinois School of Architecture, do not have to submit a TOEFL or IELTS score. However, regardless of this, ALL international students who do not have a score of 103 on the TOEFL or 8.0 on all sub sections of the IELTS, must take a test of spoken English upon arrival at the university before registering for classes. This may mean that some English as a Second Language courses may be required for degree completion.

Is a portfolio required for application to the M.Arch and M.Arch 2+ programs?

Yes. Please see our Admissions and Applying page for details on the portfolio submission. Portfolios should be uploaded under the “Program Essay” section in the Admissions Application.

Is a portfolio required for application to the MS program?

Yes. The portfolio should include both design work and written papers. Applicants should contact the chair of the Program Area of interest for specific materials to be included in an MS applicant’s portfolio, and see see our Admissions and Applying page for more details.

Is a portfolio required for application to the PhD program?

Yes, a portfolio of written papers is required as part of the application materials for the Ph.D. program. Applicants with questions about this portfolio should contact the chair of the PhD program for specific materials to be included and see the Ph.D. website for additional details.

Facilities and Resources

What types of computing facilities are available?

The school provides three architecture-only computer labs loaded with all required specialized software and with equipment for large format printing, scanning, and video editing. A limited number of computers are also placed in upper-level studios. There are several computer labs located around campus operated by the university for the use of all students; these labs do not necessarily have the specialized software necessary for some architecture courses. University residence halls and certified private housing facilities (where freshmen are required to live) also have computer labs.

Please see our Facilities and Spaces page for more information.

As of Fall 2005, the Illinois School of Architecture strongly recommends that all new students purchase a notebook computer. Recommended minimum specifications and information about discounts available through the university will be provided to all new students during summer orientation. Download our suggested technical specifications below.

Are scholarships and financial aid available?

The school provides a substantial amount of financial assistance based on both need and merit. We typically give over $250,000 in financial aid each year.

Please see our Financial Aid page for additional details, and our Awards page for a full listing of scholarships, fellowships, and prizes.

Careers and Employment

What types of career services are available?

Both the College of Fine and Applied Arts and School of Architecture have career services advisors. These are the people to talk to about course selection, internship opportunities, and graduate schools. Most faculty members are also happy to discuss these topics during studio or office hours. The school offers a number of opportunities to meet with prospective employers, from intimate settings such as design reviews that include practicing architects to large events such as Career Expo, a two-day event held annually on campus. Career advisors also regularly organize workshops on topics such as resume editing, interviewing, portfolio preparation, and business etiquette.

Please see our Careers in Architecture page for more information.

What do students do when they graduate?

Most students follow one of two paths:

  • Many students go into the workforce as an intern and begin accumulating Intern Development Program units, and may spend a range of one to three years working at a firm. Then, at some point, they return to school as a graduate student to complete their professional M.Arch degree.
  • Other students apply and are accepted into a graduate grogram the fall after completing the BSAS degree. These students finish their professional educational requirements before going into the workforce.

Can I get a summer job in an architect’s office?

The BSAS curriculum is rigorous and pre-professional. Most students are prepared to work in a professional setting during the summer between their junior and senior years. We highly recommend that students work during their summer breaks if that is possible. Some students will participate in study abroad programs administered through the School of Architecture and others will have commitments that will not allow working in an office. The Placement Office communicates many opportunities allowing students to pursue summer employment in an architect’s office through an online announcement board, and brings many employers to campus each spring for the Career Expo.

More Information

Where can I find more information about the School of Architecture?

Please explore our website. If you can’t find the information you’re looking for, call or email us. The Undergraduate Office can be reached by calling (217) 333-7720 or by emailing We’re happy to help answer your questions.

If you’d like to schedule a visit, contact the Campus Visitors’ Center by calling (217) 333-0824. All prospective undergraduates must make appointments through this central office. Your scheduled visit will include a general campus information session and tour in addition to an appointment with a representative of the Illinois School of Architecture.

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