Which Schools Offer the Best Employment Outcomes for Architecture Majors?

Employment data for more than 166,000 architecture graduates highlights the best schools for a job at the top 25 architecture firms in America.

Taylor Nichols Written By: Taylor Nichols
Published: February 15, 2022
Key Insights:
  • Texas and Midwest colleges dominate the list of top architecture schools for leading firm employment
  • Rice University has the highest percentage of graduates at a top firm (8.32%) and offers the best chance at a job with Gensler
  • SCI-Arc is the only West Coast school to make the list, beating USC

When architecture and design majors first enroll in a bachelor's program, many are inspired by the futuristic designs and large-scale projects taken on by major firms. Even for those who don't plan on becoming licensed architects, a job with a top architecture firm is often the goal after graduation.

Compared to other fields of study, architecture schools get much less attention from college rankings like U.S. News. Even less information is available about employment outcomes in the industry, making it difficult to determine which schools offer the best path to the top firms.

Our study answers the question: which schools offer the highest chances of a job with the top 25 firms in the country? To find out, we gathered employment data for more than 166,000 alumni who studied architecture and related majors at the bachelor's and master's levels.

Who are the Top 25 Architecture Firms in the US?

We looked at employment rates for the top 25 architecture firms in the country by revenue using data from Architectural Record. Our study included:

  • Gensler
  • Perkins&Will
  • HDR
  • HKS, Inc.
  • HOK
  • Jacobs
  • Stantec
  • AECOM
  • CannonDesign
  • Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
  • Perkins Eastman
  • ZGF Architects
  • KPF
  • DLR Group
  • NBBJ
  • Corgan
  • Leo A Daly
  • Callison
  • RTKL
  • Populous
  • IBI Group
  • PBK
  • PGAL
  • SmithGroup
  • Ware Malcomb
  • Page Southerland Page

Best Schools for a Job at a Top Architecture Firm

Surprisingly, our list was largely dominated by schools in the Midwest and Texas, very few of which typically rank in the top 10 for architecture schools. However, many of these colleges do appear on the "Most Hired From Architecture Schools" rankings list from DesignIntelligence.

While these colleges have strong outcomes across the top 25 architecture firms, they don't often have high percentages of alumni at each of the specific firms, which suggests two things. First, architecture graduates of these colleges tend to have success at a broad range of firms across the United States. Second, the colleges with the most alumni at leading firms likely have good relationships and reputations within the industry.

Unlike sectors such as law and business, architecture seems to place less of a focus on program prestige. The schools on our list are an even mix of public, private, highly ranked, and less often recognized. While few are centrally located near major hubs for architecture work such as San Francisco or New York City, most have local ties to major firms headquartered nearby.

Graph of the top architecture schools
1.

Rice University

8.32% of alumni at leading architecture firms

Best School for a job at Gensler

Rice University is well-known for its highly ranked architecture program, with 8.32% of architecture alumni working for a leading firm. The university boasts small class sizes and offers a six-year pathway to architecture licensure through its double BA and B.Arch program, rather than routing students to a master's program. Rice sent 2.5% of architecture alumni to top-ranked firm, Gensler, the most of any school on our list.

2.

Kansas State University

7.45% of alumni at leading architecture firms

Best school for a job at HOK and Populous

Although it's less often favored in rankings, K-State has a strong reputation among architecture firms. It sent 7.45% of alumni to the top 25 firms and was the best school for a job at HOK and its former affiliate, Populous, headquartered in Missouri.

3.

University of Nebraska - Lincoln

7.10% of alumni at leading architecture firms

Best School for a Job at HDR, DLR, and Leo A Daly

While the University of Nebraska doesn't often rank highly for architecture schools, it's not uncommon for it to appear in the top 50. The University of Nebraska sent 7.10% of alumni to leading firms. It also has the highest percentage of students at HDR, DLR, and Leo A Daly, all headquartered in Omaha.

4.

University of Houston

6.75% of alumni at leading architecture firms

Best School for a Job at PBK and Page Southerland Page

The University of Houston also doesn't typically rank in the top 10 for architecture, often eclipsed by other Texas colleges. However, UH architecture alumni had a higher employment rate at leading firms than the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University. It also offered architecture majors the best chance at a job with PBK and Page Southerland Page, both headquartered in Houston.

5.

The Catholic University of America

6.59% of alumni at leading architecture firms

The Catholic University of America is another surprising find on this list. With 6.59% of architecture graduates working for the top 25 firms, CUA ranks fifth for alumni employment at leading firms. However, Niche placed CUA at #53 for top architecture schools. The university offers one of the only M.Arch programs focused on the role of architecture in spiritual settings. CUA is the third-best school for a job at Gensler and has alumni employed at 20 out of the top 25 firms.

6.

Washington University in St. Louis

6.46% of alumni at leading architecture firms

Washington University in St. Louis has been recognized in a variety of architectural college rankings over the last decade, including #15 on DesignIntelligence's Most Admired list and #3 on Niche's list of the best architecture colleges in America. Just under 6.5% of architecture alumni graduating from 2010 through 2020 landed a position with a leading firm.

7.

Texas Tech University

6.36% of alumni at leading architecture firms

Best school for a job at Perkins&Will

Although it only ranks #55 on Niche's architecture college list, Texas Tech was recognized by DesignIntelligence as one of the top schools for architecture employment. It's also the third Texas university to make our list based on alumni employment data and sent the highest rate of alumni to top-ranked firm Perkins & Will.

8.

University of Pennsylvania

6.17% of alumni at leading architecture firms

Best school for a job at AECOM and KPF

With 234 total alumni working for a leading firm, UPenn beat out every other college except for Columbia University in terms of total graduates working in the highest-grossing firms. However, its larger enrollment size means it ranks lower based on the percent of architecture alumni at top firms. UPenn is also the best school for a job at AECOM and KPF and has alumni employed at every firm except PBK.

9.

Southern California Institute of Architecture

6.15% of alumni at leading architecture firms

SCI-Arc is often recognized in the top 10 architecture programs and was ranked #6 for architecture employment by DesignIntelligence. A total of 6.15% of architecture graduates work for a leading firm. SCI-Arc also has a notably high employment rate at Gensler, with 2.14% of alumni at the top-ranked firm.

10.

University of Kansas

6.14% of alumni at leading architecture firms

The University of Kansas ranks very closely with SCI-Arc and UPenn, coming in 10th. The university sent 6.14% of architecture alumni to a leading firm, with many alumni going to HOK alongside their peers from K-State.

Honorable Mentions

Because not every alumni has a LinkedIn profile or keeps theirs updated, it's important to note that schools with very similar alumni employment rates have very comparable outcomes that could be shifted by the addition of one or two graduates.

Syracuse University

6.07% of alumni at leading architecture firms

Syracuse ranked very closely with UPenn, SCI-Arc, and the University of Kansas, with 6.07% of graduates at leading architecture firms. Syracuse graduates also landed positions at 21 out of 25 leading firms.

Columbia University

287 alumni at leading architecture firms

Columbia has the highest total number of graduates working at a top firm, with 287 or 5.11% of its total architecture graduates at major firms. It was also a major feeder school for AECOM, Skidmore, and Perkins Eastman, due in part to its large enrollment.

University of Southern California

USC is often recognized as one of the top architecture schools in the country. The university sent the highest total number of alumni to Gensler, a total of 53 graduates.

Texas A&M University

Best school for a job at Jacobs

Texas A&M doesn't often make the top 10 for architecture rankings. However, the university sent the most alumni to HKS by number and was the best school for a job at Jacobs.

Methodology

We collected employment data from LinkedIn for 166,420 graduates of 118 colleges and universities. Our data set was filtered to include alumni who graduated from 2010 through 2020 from the following programs: Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Architectural and Building Sciences/Technology, Interior Architecture, Environmental Design/Architecture, Architecture and Related Services, City/Urban, Community, and Regional Planning, and Urban Studies/Affairs.

We gathered alumni data from each college included on Niche's 2022 Best Colleges for Architecture in America rankings and the DesignIntelligence Rankings for Most Admired Architecture Schools. When applicable, data was gathered from both the main university page and each school's architecture or design college page. We used Architectural Record's firm rankings to determine the top 25 architecture firms by revenue. Data collection occurred from February 1-9, 2022.

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