Studying Architecture and Housing Design: A Guide for International Students

career planning
Let us help you find your best fit university!Find your school
By Sakina Taher
Published on September 26, 2023

Want to become an architect? Discover international friendly degree programs in architecture and explore exciting career opportunities with Shorelight universities.

Many international students head overseas to study architecture in hopes of one day becoming an architect, planning and designing buildings. As a profession, architects are skilled problem solvers who design solutions for all sorts of construction projects, from homes and offices to malls and city centers. If you want to pursue a career in architecture and/or home design, an architectural degree can prepare you for rewarding careers in commercial architecture, residential design, environmental design, and more by equipping you with the technical skills and experience needed to take your concepts from blueprint to reality.

Read on to discover more about architecture majors, Shorelight universities offering degree programs in architecture, and the STEM skills you can gain with your degree.

What Is Architecture?

Architecture is the study of designing and building structures. From the ancient Egyptian pyramids to modern cities like New York, architecture has helped distinguish places based on their cultural, historical, and national identities. Architecture majors study courses in architectural theory, design methods, environmental systems, mathematics, and sustainability, learning the skills and knowledge needed to solve today’s architectural challenges and reimagine cities of the future. A degree in architecture prepares you for a variety of lucrative careers, including housing design, commercial architecture, city planning, and more!

What Can You Do with an Architecture Degree?

With a degree in architecture, you will learn how to build structural designs for different types of buildings. Curricula may include subjects such as art, computer science, mathematics, physics, and sustainability. Most degrees are also designed to develop skills in creativity, analytics, and attention to detail, which are important for workplace success. These transferable skills are valuable for multiple career pathways, from construction and engineering to design and business, preparing you for a variety of jobs in the industry. 

Here are several popular career options you can consider with a degree in architecture.

  • Architect

  • Building designer

  • Civil engineer

  • Mechanical engineer

  • Set designer

  • Surveyor

  • Urban planner

Creating precise building designs requires a high level of engineering and mathematics skills, which is why architecture is now regarded as an important STEM major. As an international student majoring in architecture in the US, you can access unique benefits such as a 24-month (STEM) Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension, where you can continue practical training in an internship, a work-study program, or a job for an additional year. With the US government actively funding STEM initiatives, you can also participate in career development opportunities such as state-funded research projects and industry showcases.

Let’s take a look at some of the popular career pathways you can access with a degree in architecture.

Types of Undergraduate Architecture Degree Programs 

A degree in architecture is typically five years in length and includes accreditation by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAACB). With a degree in architecture, you can design and build structures for commercial businesses, make landscape and/or housing designs for homeowners, and offer urban planning advice to governments. There are a variety of architecture specializations you can choose from, depending on your interests. 

Housing Design

Housing design is a specialization of architecture where training focuses on geometry, structures, lighting, and outdoor landscaping to create safe and comfortable spaces. This specialization also teaches you to solve design problems in residential projects, suggest renovations for existing buildings, and conceive new architectural styles based on the preferences of homeowners, developers, and home builders.

Environmental Design

Environmental design combines architecture with landscape design to build structures and spaces that are both ecologically sustainable and environmentally safe (e.g., recreational parks, garden centers, courtyards, and public squares). A degree in environmental design will teach you the fundamentals of architecture, landscaping, and urban planning that address how to structure projects according to plans.

Landscape Architecture

Landscape architecture involves planning, designing, and sustainably managing natural and manmade environments. A specialization in landscape architecture combines site planning, living space design, urban design, and historic preservation. Students also learn about botany, climatology, topography, and floriculture, and discover how to tackle problems related to green space. Landscape architecture graduates learn skills in aesthetic sensitivity and environmental awareness that can be applied to diverse careers centered around the outdoors, from cartography to floriculture consulting.

Commercial Architecture

Commercial architecture is a discipline related to the design and development of business-oriented spaces such as office buildings, malls, factories, hospitals, and retail stores. A degree in commercial architecture explores how to create project drawings and models, oversee contractors, and maintain budgets efficiently. Degrees also prepare you for professional practice through practical learning opportunities, such as design studio projects and internships. 

Whether you choose to specialize in housing design, landscaping, sustainability, or commercial architecture, a degree in architecture branches out to many different specializations. Let’s take a look at what you can expect to study by pursuing an undergraduate degree in architecture.

Sample Degree Curricula for an Undergraduate Architecture Student

While the exact courses and subjects in a program may differ depending on the university, most undergraduate degrees are five-year study programs requiring a minimum of 150 credits in subjects including mathematics, science, and programming. Students can also enhance their interpersonal skills, such as communication, critical thinking, and leadership, while building strong theoretical knowledge during their degree program. 

Here is a sample curricula for an architecture degree:  

First year, first semester: 17 hours

  • Design Studio I

  • Introduction to Architecture

  • Introduction to Urban Environments

  • Precalculus

  • University Seminar

First year, second semester: 17 hours

  • American Diversity and Design

  • College Physics

  • Design Studio II

  • Writing and Rhetoric

Second year, first semester: 17 hours

  • Architecture History I

  • Architecture Media I

  • Communications Literacy I

  • Design Studio III

  • Environmental Systems I

Second year, second semester: 17 hours

  • Architecture History II

  • Architecture Media II

  • Communications Literacy II

  • Design Studio IV

  • Structures I

Third year, first semester: 16 hours

  • Architecture Media III

  • Design Studio V

  • Environmental Systems II

  • Mathematical and Quantitative Reasoning

  • Structures II

Third year, second semester: 14 hours

  • Architecture Media IV

  • Construction Technology

  • Design Studio VI

  • Scientific Literacy and Inquiry

Fourth year, first semester: 15 hours

  • Architectural Materials

  • Architectural Theory

  • Capstone Project

  • Design Studio VII

  • Environmental Systems III

Fourth year, second semester: 15 hours

  • Architecture Proseminar

  • Building projects

  • Design Practicum

  • Structures III

  • Sustainable Design

Let’s take a look at several Shorelight universities with excellent architecture programs, ready to enroll international students like you.

Shorelight Universities Offering Undergraduate Degrees in Architecture

Belmont University

Belmont University, listed in the Top 30 in the US for Strong Commitment to Undergraduate Studies (U.S. News & World Report), provides a comprehensive architectural degree program supported by a culture of creativity and collaboration. The programs at the O’More College of Architecture and Design integrate both in-depth theoretical knowledge and practical learning opportunities, and students have access to state-of-the-art classrooms, studios, and workspaces to enhance their learning experience.

  • Bachelor in Architecture (B.Arch.) — Belmont’s Bachelor of Architecture program is the only one in Nashville to earn a National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) accreditation. The five-year program builds foundational and professional skills in architecture with an emphasis on experiential learning programs (e.g., internships at industry-leading organizations, study-abroad programs).

Heriot-Watt University UK

Heriot-Watt University, the eighth-oldest institution in the UK, features a Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Design that offers cross-disciplinary programs in architectural engineering, civil and structural engineering, construction projects, and quantity surveying. The GoGlobal program and Constructionarium give students a chance to network with professional engineers and work on international projects, expanding their industry knowledge and exposure.

  • Bachelor of Engineering in Architectural Engineering (B.Eng.) — The Bachelor of Architectural Engineering program covers engineering-related disciplines including mechanics, construction, energy, thermal performance, water and wastewater, and acoustics. The sustainability-oriented curriculum provides hands-on classroom and workplace learning opportunities, including a 12-week industrial placement.

Louisiana State University

Ranked #87 in Top Public Schools by U.S. News & World Report, Louisiana State University is known for its commitment to student research. The Louisiana School of Architecture is the oldest public school of architecture in Louisiana and a long-standing member of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. Its programs are geared toward broad educational experiences through project-oriented coursework and collaborative research projects. 

University at Buffalo

The University at Buffalo in New York State, ranked #89 among National Universities by U.S. News & World Report, is a premier flagship public research university in the US. The University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning offers comprehensive degree programs in architecture and related disciplines such as urban planning and real estate development. Expert-led programs ensure that students graduate ready for careers as commercial architects, interior architects, architectural drafters, and more.

  • Bachelor of Science in Architecture (BS.Arch.) — The Bachelor of Science in Architecture program is a pre-professional course covering design, construction technologies, digital arts, humanities, and social science. The curriculum provides practical training opportunities at the university’s design studio, equipped with the latest materials, technology, and tools. Students can build a diverse industry network and showcase their architectural portfolio through industry exhibitions, conferences, and community engagement events. 

University of Illinois Chicago

The University of Illinois Chicago is ranked in the top 25 public universities in the US (Times Higher Education). The university’s School of Architecture equips students with advanced design skills, critical and creative thinking skills, and analytical skills applicable across diverse career fields, including graphic design, real estate management, urban planning, and business.

  • Bachelor of Science in Architecture (BS.Arch.) — The eight-semester, pre-professional architecture program provides hands-on learning opportunities with access to modern studios and labs for projects, fabrication, and printmaking. Students can also benefit from intern development programs, career fairs, and the Year End Show to build and showcase their portfolios.

  • Bachelor of Arts in Architectural Studies (BA.Arch.) — This upper-level undergraduate program presents architecture and design practices through a historical and cultural lens. Students can collaborate with peers, gain expert advice from professors on assignments and case studies, and discuss the impact of industry developments in the field. By joining a student organization such as the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) or National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS), participating in internships, and attending panel discussions, students can explore and diversify their skills and knowledge of the field.

Career Opportunities for Architecture Majors

With rapid urbanization spreading across the globe, the architectural service market is projected to grow 4.3% by 2023 to a total value of $549.6 billion. As such, being trained as an architect qualifies graduates for lucrative career options around the world.

Here are several career pathways available with a degree in architecture, including their annual average salaries in the US, India, China, and Brazil.

Housing design


Architectural designer

Starting Salary in the US

Starting Salary in India

Starting Salary in China

Starting Salary in Brazil

Environmental design


Sustainability manager

Starting Salary in the US

Starting Salary in India

Starting Salary in China

Starting Salary in Brazil

Landscape architecture


Landscape architect

Starting Salary in the US

Starting Salary in India

Starting Salary in China

Starting Salary in Brazil

Commercial architecture


Urban planner

Starting Salary in the US

Starting Salary in India

Starting Salary in China

Starting Salary in Brazil

Sources: Payscale and Economic Research Institute(ERI)

Architects use their technical expertise to design multi-purpose structures that are both functional and attractive. With a degree in architecture, students gain transferrable technical and interpersonal skills applicable to many architectural specializations and job roles in different industries, such as CAD technicians, project managers, interior designers, and more.

With the School Match Tool, Shorelight advisors can provide expert guidance on how to identify your best-fit architecture degree program. In collaboration with your counselor, you can build a career development plan to identify which courses to take and when to apply for internships and mentorship programs to achieve your academic and career objectives. Begin your journey in the field of architecture with Shorelight today! 

Shorelight advisors help you find your best-fit school