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2023 Most Affordable Online Master's Programs in Architecture

By OnlineU Staff Writers | Updated 1/11/2023
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An online master’s in architecture is designed for those interested in planning, designing, and overseeing the creation and development of buildings — both inside and out. Online master's programs help both full-time students and established professionals develop the skills and gain the knowledge necessary to pursue leadership roles in architecture. Many colleges with an online master’s in architecture have programs that explore topics like the history of architecture, architectural technology, and interior materials. Graduates in architecture may pursue a range of careers, such as landscape architects, lighting designers, and production designers, to name a few. 

View our methodology for details about rankings or learn more about us. You can also check out our overall list of the most affordable online degrees for more inspiration.

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All tuition numbers were manually collected and verified
Rank School Locations Annual Tuition
# 1 #1 Southern Illinois University - Carbondale Carbondale (IL) $6,446
# 2 #2 Arizona State University Tempe (AZ) (and 4 others) $10,497
# 3 #3 University of Missouri Columbia (MO) $12,438
# 4 #4 Chatham University Pittsburgh (PA) $15,705
# 5 #5 University of Nebraska - Lincoln Lincoln (NE) $17,478
# 6 #6 Rochester Institute of Technology Rochester (NY) $19,290
# 7 #7 Academy of Art University San Francisco (CA) $25,578
Annual Tuition: $6,446
Annual Tuition: $6,446
Annual Tuition: $6,446

Southern Illinois University - Carbondale (SIU) is a public institution that offers an online Master of Architecture totaling 42 credit hours. This full-time program can take 16 months to complete, and it has a cohort-based approach. This means that a group of students are in one unit from the start of classes until graduation.

SIU facilitates asynchronous and synchronous online learning via the learning management system (LMS) D2L Brightspace. The program’s online curriculum focuses on regional architecture. Sample courses include Global Traditions, Energy and Systems, and Comprehensive Studio. The program’s students attend two in-person weekend studio sessions each semester, and a thesis is required for graduation. Potential career options include building surveyors, interior designers, and town planners.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 95%
  • Average SATs: 1030 -1250
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,534
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 552
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Arizona State University

Tempe (AZ) (and 4 others)
Annual Tuition: $10,497
Annual Tuition: $10,497
Annual Tuition: $10,497

Arizona State University (ASU) is a public institution offering an online Master of Architecture that requires 48 credit hours. This master's program can last between 2-3 years, and it offers two tracks: (1) a two-year track for students with a bachelor’s in architecture and (2) a three-year track for students with a bachelor’s degree in another discipline.

ASU facilitates asynchronous and synchronous online learning via Canvas, a popular LMS. The graduate program in architecture at ASU aims to develop students’ professional talents and increase their social awareness. The program’s courses explore architectural technology, iterative design processes, and the history of architecture. Graduates may pursue careers like architects, regional planners, and energy modelers.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 96%
  • Average SATs: 1091 -1301
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 33,410
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 10,843
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

University of Missouri

Columbia (MO)
Annual Tuition: $12,438
Annual Tuition: $12,438
Annual Tuition: $12,438

At the University of Missouri, a public institution, prospective students can pursue an online Master of Arts/Master of Science in Architectural Studies. Requiring 30 credit hours, it can take full-time students one year to complete this program. In addition, this online graduate program offers a concentration in Design Research.

Missouri Online facilitates asynchronous and synchronous online learning via the LMS Canvas. The architectural studies program is designed for students who are interested in working across the various disciplines of architecture, with courses such as Energy-Efficient Building Design, Philosophy of Environmental Design, and Information Visualization and Visual Analytics. Additionally, a completed thesis project is required for graduation. Potential career opportunities include project architects, architectural designers, and engineering technicians.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 89%
  • Average SATs: 1120 -1340
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 835
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,423
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Chatham University

Pittsburgh (PA)
Annual Tuition: $15,705
Annual Tuition: $15,705
Annual Tuition: $15,705

Chatham University is a private, nonprofit institution offering an online Master of Science in Interior Architecture that requires 30 credit hours. Future students can expect to spend at least one year finishing the program. Overall, the curriculum is designed for Chatham students who are also pursuing a Bachelor of Interior Architecture, as part of the university’s integrated degree program.

At Chatham, online students complete coursework asynchronously and synchronously on D2L Brightspace. A master’s in architecture from Chatham can help students advance their careers in various architecture specialties. Some of the program’s courses include Issues in Interior Materials, 2D Visual Communications, and Building Codes. Supervised teaching and a thesis are also required to graduate. Graduates may pursue careers like mechanical designers, BIM modelers, and urban planners.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 117
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 264
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
Annual Tuition: $17,478
Annual Tuition: $17,478
Annual Tuition: $17,478

The University of Nebraska - Lincoln (UNL) is a public institution that offers an online Master of Science in Architecture - Interior Design, which totals 36 credit hours. Future students can expect to complete the program within a year. The program offers thesis and non-thesis options that students can choose from.

UNL's online students complete coursework in asynchronous and synchronous formats on Canvas. The architecture graduate program helps students develop the necessary research and problem-solving skills for careers in architecture. Sample courses are The Changing Workplace, Branding, and History of Interiors and Designed Objects. Thesis students must spend 6-10 credit hours working on their projects and research. Prospective careers for alumni include residential architects, architectural drafters, and specification managers.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 91%
  • Average SATs: 1120 -1360
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 228
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,400
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Overview of Online Architecture Master's Degrees

An online master's degree in architecture is designed to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the design, planning, and management of the built environment. Individual courses take a deep dive into various aspects of architecture, such as environmental design, energy-efficient building methods, and object and interior design.

The course curriculum often includes studio-based design projects, theoretical essays, and research-based assignments that explore various architectural concepts and applications. In the process of completing these projects, you can expect to hone your technical skills in the use of advanced computer-aided design (CAD), building information modeling (BIM), and other tools for architectural visualization. You'll also develop soft skills like collaboration, problem-solving, critical thinking, and project management. 

Online architecture master's programs require 30-48 credit hours. Some programs are meant to be completed in 12-18 months of full-time study, while others may take up to three years. 

To be accepted into an accredited master's program in architecture, you'll need to hold a bachelor's. Most graduate students have earned a bachelor's degree in architecture or possibly civil engineering. Those who majored in other subjects as an undergraduate may need to take up to one year of prerequisite courses before beginning their master's-level courses.

Common Courses

Online master's programs in architecture usually involve 10-15 classes, including a thesis project, which may account for 3-10 of the total credit hours required. The following are some of the core courses you may find in your graduate architecture program:

Architectural Design and Theory

Students delve into the complexities of architectural design, learning how to integrate various principles, materials, and technologies to create functional and aesthetically pleasing structures. Design projects allow students to apply what they're learning in the course.

Sustainable Architecture

This course focuses on sustainable design practices that allow architects to minimize the use of energy and water. Course materials explore the principles of green building, efficiency, and eco-friendly materials.

Historical Perspectives on Architecture

Students explore significant architectural movements throughout history, examining their influence on contemporary practices. Coursework may focus on regional design trends and practices.

Advanced Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Building upon their previous experience, students learn to use advanced BIM software, which is used to visualize, design, and manage building projects more efficiently.

Professional Practice

This course familiarizes students with the legal and ethical aspects of architectural practice. Topics may include project management, contracts, and building codes.

Advanced Structures and Materials

In this course, students gain an in-depth understanding of the various materials used in construction and their structural implications.

Funding an Online Architecture Degree

Earning an online master's degree can be expensive. Tuition rates vary dramatically, but the National Center for Education Statistics has collected data from schools across the country to establish some average total annual tuition and fees for all graduate programs. This NCES data shows that the annual tuition and fees average $12,394 at public universities and $26,621 at private institutions. 

Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to help save money while pursuing your graduate degree. Some possibilities are listed below:

  • Earning your degree through distance education. Going to school online may allow you to save on tuition, especially if you choose one of the affordable online architecture degree programs listed above. At many schools, the tuition rate for online students is the same or possibly lower than the rate for in-state, traditional students. Additionally, learning from home means you won't have to pay for transportation or on-campus room and board. 
  • Finding an inexpensive place to live. If you're attending school online, you can live anywhere you want. That means you can choose an economical place with a lower cost of living while you're in school.  
  • Choosing a state-run university. If you're looking for additional cost-effective programs, you may find some at public schools. Based on the NCES data shown above, tuition and fees at public universities may be less than half of private school rates.
  • Working at a full-time or part-time job while going to school. By working, you may be able to generate extra income that you can put toward your degree. There are pros and cons to this approach — for example, you may have to take fewer courses each semester — but graduating with less college debt may be worth it. Also, depending on your circumstances, your employer may offer tuition reimbursement.

Financial Aid

Another means of funding at least part of your graduate degree is by obtaining financial aid. Funding for students with financial needs comes from several sources, including the federal and state governments and the universities themselves. Private scholarships may also be available. 

As long as you're enrolled in an accredited program, you may be eligible for grants, fellowships, and scholarships. These are the best types of aid to receive because they don't have to be paid back. 

However, if you don't qualify for these types of aid, you may be offered a federal or private student loan. Loans do have to be repaid — and with interest, which can add a significant amount of money to your loan. If you're considering a loan, you may want to calculate the total cost by using our student loan repayment calculator

Applying for most types of financial aid is fairly straightforward, requiring only one form known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). After your application has been evaluated, you'll receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) that lets you know if you're eligible for financial aid. Your school will then send you an offer detailing the specific kinds and amounts of aid you may receive.

What Can You Do With an Online Architecture Degree?

With a master's degree in architecture, you can become a licensed architect, possibly specializing in designing certain types of buildings or utilizing a particular design style. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a master's degree qualifies you for more complex and interesting projects, and in time it may allow you to step into a managerial position. 

A master's degree is not required to become an architect — only a bachelor's degree in architecture is needed.

A master's degree is not required to become an architect — only a bachelor's degree in architecture is needed. Bearing this in mind, the BLS states that the median annual salary for all architects, regardless of degree level, is $80,180. A master's degree, however, may position you for an income level closer to the top end of the range for architects, $129,980.

Obtaining a state-issued license to practice as an architect is a lengthy process. Although there is some variation in each state's licensure requirements, most states require you to complete a degree from a program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), fulfill a paid internship in architecture — which may last up to three years — and pass the Architect Registration Examination. To retain your license, you'll need to complete a certain number of hours of continuing education.

Some graduates with master's degrees in architecture pursue other career paths. However, you'll probably need additional education or certification to become a construction manager, urban planner, or another related occupation.

FAQs About Online Architecture Degrees

How Do I Choose a Master's in Architecture?

Selecting the right online master's program in architecture is a personal choice based largely on your own priorities. Among the key factors to consider are the curriculum, online format, noteworthy faculty, and the school's online support services.

Above all, however, you'll want to choose an architecture program that has earned both institutional and programmatic accreditation. In addition to institutional accreditation for the entire school, look for programs that have been accredited by the NAAB. Per the BLS, NAAB accreditation is likely to be a requirement for licensure in your state.

How Long Is an Architecture Degree?

There is a fairly significant amount of variation in architecture master's programs. Some require about 30 credit hours, which can be completed in 12-18 months. Others require as many as 48 credit hours, which could take two to three years. Program length also depends on whether you're studying full time or part time.

What Are the Admission Requirements for Architecture Degrees?

Generally speaking, you'll need a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution to be accepted into a master's program in architecture. You'll also need to demonstrate that you earned a GPA above a certain minimum, which could be 2.5 or 3.0. 

Your undergraduate degree may be in architecture or a related field, such as civil engineering. If you haven't studied architecture before, you may still be accepted, but you'll be required to take quite a few prerequisite courses before starting the master's program. These additional courses could significantly drive up the total cost of the degree.

Is a Master's Degree in Architecture Worth the Cost?

Pursuing a master's degree in architecture is a personal decision based on your career goals and individual circumstances.

The BLS notes that, although a master's degree is not required to become a licensed architect, many architects have earned master's degrees. You may find that you need an advanced degree to remain competitive in this field. 

A master's degree may also equip you for more advanced types of projects and for managerial roles. These higher-paying positions may help you realize a greater return on your investment in education, making an online architecture degree worth it.

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