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Top Drafting and Architecture Schools Online

Top Online Drafting and Architecture SchoolsThe process of turning an empty lot into a corporate campus or community park is not easy. It involves a variety of construction specialists and equipment working together for months toward a single, unified vision. However, before any ground can be broken, detailed, graphic plans must be drafted and approved by licensed structural and landscaping architects. These plans provide the detailed, visual instruction for every step of the project -- from soil topography and projected water flows, to the density of concrete to use at what part of a building.

Combining the individual information on tensile strength and plumbing codes into a visual document can be done by drafters with CADD certificates or associate degrees in drafting and design. However, the documents must be designed and approved by registered architects with degrees from some of the few accredited architectural institutions in the nation. These programs incorporate engineering, mathematics, artistic design and history with practical, hands-on experience both in the classroom and in architectural firms.

Architectural Engineering

While there are distance-learning options for professional certifications and two-year associate programs in drafting, there are very few accredited and board-approved distance learning degree programs offered in the U.S. for architectural design, and the few accredited programs that do offer architecture programs through distance learning, such as the California Academy of Arts University, are usually at the master’s level and require students to have earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution prior to enrollment. There is currently no distance learning program for landscape architecture.

The following schools have been ranked as the top schools to earn a degree in landscape architecture by Design Intelligence, the bi-monthly report from Design Futures Council. Compiled in 2011, rankings are determined by a number of factors, including the quality of education during courses as well as the quality of education possessed by the graduating body. Also included was the school’s contribution to the field of architecture,

Bachelor of Landscape Architecture Degree Rankings:

1.  Louisiana State University
2.  Pennsylvania State University
3.  California Polytechnic University
4.  San Luis Obispo
5.  Purdue University
6.  Texas A&M University

Master of Landscape Architecture Degree Rankings:

1.  Harvard University
2.  Louisiana State University
3.  Kansas State University
4.  Cornell University
5.  University of Pennsylvania (tied)

Below are some of the Drafting and Architecture focuses available from schools and colleges through SchoolsGalore.com

Architectural Drafting

Drafters, specifically architectural or civil drafters, are responsible for making an architect’s drawings a possibility. Drafters analyze building codes and by-laws, as well as structural information and limitations about proposed materials to create a graphic representation of building plans and coordinate electrical and structural designs together into one, usable document. Drafters can specialize in a type of building design, such as suburban houses or apartment buildings, or avoid structural drafting all together and specialize in drafting mechanical documents.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, drafters are increasingly relying upon computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software to perform their jobs. The design software integrates information on building materials, structural designs and topographical information to visually display how elements work together in a virtual finished product. In addition to drafting and design programs, specific software assists drafters and engineers with the day-to-day operations of construction. The BLS recommends current drafters gain experience with these new systems (BLS.gov, 2012) as the software will play a larger role in the profession during the coming years.

Because of the reliance upon CADD software, many technical institutes offer software certificates or associate degrees focusing on the fundamentals of design and sketching in addition to CADD software and many of these programs can be completed through distance learning. According to the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012), an associate degree program can prepare students for a position as a drafter or an apprentice drafter. Additionally, many colleges and schools do not offer bachelor’s degrees in drafting, however, they do often provide classes and degrees in engineering, mathematics and architecture which may help a student interested in drafting.

The BLS (BLS.gov, 2012) reports the national median wage for a drafter employed in the field of civil or architectural drafting was $47,250 per year in May of 2011. Employment of drafters was projected to grow only up to six percent from 2010 to 2020 (BLS.gov, 2012) however, as CADD software and other drafting software lowers costs and increase productivity.

Structural Architecture

Architects do more than draw aesthetically pleasing designs for building construction, they are responsible for estimating material cost and construction time, managing construction projects and drafters while also preparing the designs for a structure that will meet or exceed building safety codes.

According to the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), all states require practicing architects to be licensed in that state and licensure usually requires a professional degree from one of the 123 architectural schools accredited by the NAAB. However, the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012) notes that registration boards set their own standards and some may allow graduation from a non-accredited institution. Check with an individual state’s architectural registration board for local licensing requirements.

Also required for licensure is the three-year, on-the-job training period and continued education. The BLS (BLS.gov, 2012) reports that most students receive their training as an intern during an architectural program and courses for continued education can be completed through distance learning.

According to the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012), a bachelor’s degree in architecture can be completed in five years and is intended for students with no previous training in architecture. For students with experience in architecture, the 1-to-5-year master’s program is available. O*Net Online states that 68 percent of all participating architects felt that either a bachelor’s or a master’s degree was required for employment.

The Boston Architectural College offers an online Master of Architecture for students who have already earned a bachelor’s in architecture and who are currently employed as an architect, as does the Academy of Art University. The colleges also offer online certificates in sustainable design to students with the same background.

Classes in architecture may include construction methods, mathematics, and architecture theory. According to the Academy of Art, the design studio is central to all architecture programs. The studio is where students make scale, three-dimensional models of their designs or concepts to be assessed by instructors.

The BLS (BLS.gov, 2012) expects employment in the architectural profession to grow by 24 percent between 2010 and 2020, with specific growth expected in green and sustainable architectural design fields. The national median salary in May of 2011 is also listed at $73,340 per year for architects and 65 percent were employed in architectural firms (BLS.gov, 2012).

Landscape Architecture

While landscape architects may plan the location of buildings, their primary focus is the arrangement of trees, pathways, roads and open spaces in a construction project. Landscape architects can also plan where to plant flowers, shrubs and trees and which kind should be planted. They design parks and corporate campuses as well as schools and wildlife restoration projects.

Just as with structural architects, licensure is required to practice as a landscape architect. Licensure is awarded upon completion of the two-part Landscape Architect Registration Examination administered by the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards. Requirements for taking the exam include earning a degree from a school accredited by the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board and working one-to-four years under a licensed landscape architect.

According to the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012), many states offer alternatives to the education requirement if the applicant has enough on-the-job experience.

Currently, the LAAB has accredited two bachelor programs for landscaping architecture: a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture and a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture. There is also a Master of Landscape Architecture program available for students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree.

While the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012) does expect the landscape architectural employment to grow, it only expects a growth of 16 percent from 2010 to the end of 2020, slower than the expected growth of other architectural professions. The national median salary for a landscape architect is listed at $63,240 by the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012) using May 2011 data.

Learn more about accredited Drafting and Architecture programs from schools and colleges through SchoolsGalore.com:

Because structural architects and landscape architects are required to be licensed in order to practice, generally degrees from schools that are not accredited by the American Society of Landscape Architects and NAAB cannot be used towards licensure. Verify that your school of choice is accredited by ASLA or NAAB using their search tools before enrolling. There are some exceptions for the licensure education requirements, be sure to check with your state’s board of licensing about specific exceptions. These exceptions usually require extensive work-experience.

For schools offering degrees or certificates in drafting, verify that your school has been accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, which provides a search tool for locating accredited schools.

Sources and further reading:

O*Net Online

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)

The U.S. Department of Education (USDE)

The National Architectural Accrediting Board

American Society of Landscape Architects

Design Intelligence

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