The professional Bachelor of Architecture (B. Arch.) curriculum at Virginia Tech requires five years of study and is fully-accredited as a first professional architecture degree program for the current maximum term of accreditation by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). All undergraduate students in the School of Architecture + Design – in Architecture, Industrial Design, Interior Design, and Landscape Architecture – begin their studies in the first year in a common Foundation Program, Architecture students pursue Professional Studies from the 2nd semester of 1st year through 5th year in the B.Arch. program.
The Professional Bachelor of Architecture degree (B.Arch.) at Virginia Tech is a STEM Designated program in Architectural and Building Sciences/Technology (CIP code 04.0902). The STEM Designation allows international students graduating from our B.Arch. program to apply for an additional 24-month extension after their initial 12 month-long Optional Practical Training (OPT), with eligibility for a total of 36 months of practical training in the United States.
year 1: foundation program
In the first year, students study in the Foundation Program, focusing on basic elements of design, addressed visually, haptically, and conceptually, and directed toward the contemplation and purposeful construction of the built environment. The foundation design lab is primarily concerned with processes of design and making, as well as techniques used to conceptualize, analyze, and represent constructed artifacts. Studies are undertaken in two and three dimensions using various materials and tools. Inquiries are focused on the process of design, discovery through experimentation, methods of working that develop aesthetic judgment and self-evaluation. All architecture, industrial design, interior design, and landscape architecture majors study together in the first year design laboratory.
Summer Qualifying Design Laboratory
The Summer Qualifying Design Laboratory serves as the entry course for students wishing to transfer into the School of Architecture + Design or change their major between Architecture, Interior Design, Industrial Design, or Landscape Architecture (more info…).
This lab is part of the Foundation Program and predicated on the idea that the act of making involves a disciplined, comprehensive approach to thinking, observing, and interpreting. Exercises focus on developing fundamental skills, both mental and physical, essential to the School’s four undergraduate programs.
years 2+3: core professional program
The core professional program in Architecture begins with design theory and process, focusing on building design as a comprehensive activity balancing aesthetic concerns; response to architectural precedents; material, tectonic, and spatial expression; and the limits of building program and site, including environmental forces. The second year design lab introduces the discipline of architecture, isolating and intertwining fundamentals that contribute to the complex totality that constitutes a work of architecture. Students explore how architecture concentrates and conveys natural and cultural forces through means specific to the discipline.
The third year provides study of and engagement with fundamental design principles, technical concepts and applications, and measures of quality in the profession of architecture. It is a time in which practical and quantitative constraints bring the student into a confrontation with standards. The Architecture III design lab gives the student experience with practical design problems and provides order to the student’s developing exploration and knowledge about the nature and means of achieving architecture. Associated with the core professional program are lecture courses intended to expose students to the technical demands and practical knowledge in the design and construction of buildings.
years 4+5: advanced professional studies
Fourth year options offer students the opportunity to participate in one of the extended-campus/off-campus programs: European Study Abroad Programs, the Professional Internship Program, the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center, Chicago, San Francisco, or Boston Studios, and/or Fourth year on-campus studio options. One of the Fourth year design labs must be designated as an Integrated Design Lab; these labs are taught in Blacksburg, WAAC, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, and (contingent on the expertise of the lead faculty) the Steger Center. At this point in a student’s education, there is an expectation of developmental shifts toward a student taking responsibility toward making formulations, rather than responding to assignments.
Extended-campus/off-campus options for fourth year architecture majors:
- Study Abroad Programs:
- The Europe Travel Program emphasizes documentation and analysis of elements of the physical environment, which range in scale from single objects to buildings to cities. Each fall semester, approx. 25-40 undergraduate and graduate architecture students participate in approximately 9 weeks of organized travel in Europe, plus approx. 10 days of independent travel. Students normally include an additional period of independent travel before returning home. Courses in Design, History + Theory, and Culture are offered each semester (check particular offerings and faculty each term).
- The Europe Residency Program is based at the Steger Center for International Scholarship (formerly CESA), a 19,000 square foot complex of buildings centered around an 18th century villa with private gardens located in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland, at the southern tip of Lake Lugano. The Center has residence and dining facilities for approximately 45 students. Each fall and spring semester approximately 16 students from the School of Architecture + Design are in residence at the Center along with university students from other academic disciplines. Study, research, and travel are structured to advance first-hand knowledge of the architecture, geography, and culture of Europe.
- Fourth-year architecture students may also apply to participate in international academic exchange programs at foreign universities with which the College has bi-lateral exchange agreements.
- Chicago Studio, San Francisco Studio, and Boston Studio options are alternatives to the traditional upper level design lab–integrating design education with interactions between the profession within an urban context.
- The Professional Internship Program allows students to spend a semester in an approved professional setting and receive 12 hours of academic credit. This program provides a valuable link between the academic environment and the profession throughout the world.
- The Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center affords students from the School of Architecture + Design and related college disciplines the opportunity to study with students and faculty from a national and international consortium of schools in the historic urban context of Old Town Alexandria. The Center, based in a turn-of-the-century schoolhouse redeveloped for the College, has over 14,000 square feet of studio, design, and review space; a library; offices; and exhibition spaces; plus shops, darkrooms, and computer labs. The university owns an apartment building adjacent to the facility, which creates an economic and convenient housing option for students studying at the WAAC.
fifth year thesis
The fifth-year is conducted as advanced independent study with individual faculty advisors in a mode comparable to graduate studies and is intended to provide the student an opportunity to develop depth and expertise within a particular area within the field of architecture. Fifth-year students usually formulate and accomplish independent work in the form of a terminal project. Working with their advisor, students prepare programmatic statements, meet informally on a regular basis, and have periodic formal reviews throughout the year. With approval of the Advanced Professional Program Chair and the Director of the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center, B.Arch. students may elect to study at the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center during their fifth year. All students are required to document formally their year-long thesis work.
The first professional degree programs in architecture (B.Arch., M.Arch.2, and M.Arch.3) at Virginia Tech are accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board, meeting the professional degree requirements for professional registration established by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.
In the United States, most registration boards require a degree from an accredited professional degree program as a prerequisite for licensure. The National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), which is the sole agency authorized to accredit professional degree programs in architecture offered by institutions with U.S. regional accreditation, recognizes three types of degrees: the Bachelor of Architecture, the Master of Architecture, and the Doctor of Architecture. A program may be granted an eight-year, three-year, or two-year term of accreditation, depending on the extent of its conformance with established educational standards.
Doctor of Architecture and Master of Architecture degree programs may require a preprofessional undergraduate degree in architecture for admission. However, the preprofessional degree is not, by itself, recognized as an accredited degree.
Virginia Tech, College of Architecture and Urban Studies, School of Architecture + Design offers the following NAAB-accredited degree programs:
- B.Arch. (160 undergraduate credits)
M.Arch.2 (pre-professional degree + 54 graduate credits)
M.Arch.3 (non-pre-professional degree + 84 credits)
Next accreditation visit for all programs: 2026
(NOTE: A pre-professional degree, where offered, may be useful for those wishing a foundation in the field of architecture, as preparation for either continued education in a professional Master degree program or for employment options in architecture-related areas. A four-year, pre-professional architecture degree is not offered at Virginia Tech.)
Required pathways to General Education Courses
45 credits (12 from in-major required courses)
- 1 – Discourse: 9 credits: 6 foundational (ENGL 1105-1106 First-Year Writing) + 3 advanced/applied
- 2 – Critical Thinking in the Humanities: 6 credits (satisfied by ARCH 3115-16)
- 3 – Reasoning in the Social Sciences – 6 credits
- 4 – Reasoning in the Natural Sciences – 6 credits
- 5 – Quantitative and Computational Thinking: 9 credits: 6 foundational (MATH 1535-1536 Geometry and Mathematics of Design) + 3 advanced/applied
- 6 – Critique and Practice in Design and the Arts — 6 credits (satisfied by ARCH 4514, ARCH 4524)
- 7 – Critical Analysis of Identity and Equity in the United States – 3 credits
Required Foundation Program Courses
- ARCH 1015-1016 Foundation Design Lab (1st year) – 12 credits
Required Professional Courses
- ARCH 2015-2016 Architecture II (2nd year design lab) – 12 credits
- ARCH 2034 The Art of Building (2nd year) – 2 credits
- ARCH 2044 Building Materials (2nd year) – 2 credits
- ARCH 3015-3016 Architecture III (3rd year design lab) – 12 credits
- ARCH 3045-3046 Building Assemblies (3rd year) – 4 credits
- ARCH 3054 Building Analysis (3rd year) – 2 credits
- ARCH 3115-3116 Histories of Architecture (1st and 2nd year) – 6 credits
- ESM 3704 Basic Principles of Structures (2nd year) – 3 credits
- ARCH 4015-4016 Architecture IV (4th year design lab: one req. semester = Integrated) – 14 credits
- ARCH 4034 Building Cities (4th year) – 3 credits
- ARCH 4044 Professional Practice (4th or 5th year) – 3 credits
- ARCH 4055-4056 Environmental and Building Systems (3rd year) – 6 credits
- ARCH 4075 Building Structures I (2nd year) – 3 credits
- ARCH 4076 Building Structures II (3rd year) – 3 credits
- ARCH 4114 Ideas, Concepts, and Representations of Architecture (4th or 5th year) – 2 credits
- ARCH 4514 Thesis Inquiry (5th year) – 3 credits
- ARCH 4515 Architecture V (5th year design lab) – 6 credits
- ARCH 4516 Architecture V (5th year design lab) – 6 credits
- ARCH 4524 Thesis Documentation (5th year) – 3 credits
Professional and Free Electives
- Professional Elective Courses – 6 credits
To be selected from an approved list of courses specified by the program (see approved checksheet)
- Free Electives or additional Professional Electives, 2000-level or above – 14 credits
Can be taken at any time allowed in the student’s program of study
Note: to meet general studies requirements for the NAAB-accredited B.Arch. degree, at least 9 of these 20 elective credits should be in non-ARCH courses, for an overall total of 45 credits of non-ARCH coursework (see approved checksheet for more information).
Total required for B.Arch.: 160 credits
In addition to university requirements, upon completion of the second year in the program, students must have completed ARCH 1015-16, ARCH 2015-16, ARCH 2034, ESM 3704, ARCH 4075, and ARCH 3115-16 with a minimum in-major grade point average of 2.00 or above.
Upon successful completion of the Pathways to General Education requirements, program requirements of the foundation level of study, professional courses of study in architecture, professional and free electives, and so completion of a total of at least 160 credit hours of study, a first professional degree of Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) is awarded.