Top Architecture Schools in Illinois: A Guide for Aspiring Architects

Looking for the best architecture schools in Illinois? This guide will help you discover top programs, from Illinois Institute of Technology to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Find out what each school offers and choose the right one for your architecture education.

  • Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) offer robust programs that combine theoretical knowledge with practical application, preparing students to become industry pioneers.
  • Judson University and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale (SIU) provide supportive environments with unique pathways like Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL) and a focus on environmental sustainability.
  • Opportunities for architecture students in Illinois include scholarships, fellowships, and professional development through the Architectural Experience Program (AXP) and organizations like the American Institute of Architecture Students, which help build a successful career foundation.

Are you fascinated by the idea of contributing to the built environment and shaping the future through design? If so, this is the place for you. This guide is tailored to help aspiring architects uncover the best avenues for architectural studies in the state of Illinois. Here, you will find institutions that not only celebrate the rich architectural history but also push the boundaries of innovation and ideas.

Illinois mirrors a global hub for architecture, offering a plethora of diverse academic and professional opportunities. With schools that are recognized for their unique programs, the state is a canvas for students eager to learn the art of transferring bold visions into reality. Whether your interest lies in the time-tested methods of construction or the avant-garde of architectural theory, Illinois’ top schools offer a spectrum of paths to channel your creativity and hone your skills.

Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT)

Nestled in the urban expanse of Chicago, the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) stands as a beacon for architecture students. The school’s B.ARCH. program is a testament to the power of material science and hands-on learning. As you deliberate on a university to lay the foundation for your architectural education, take into account IIT’s devotion to preparing students to secure a place among the world’s respected structures.

The program at IIT is a crucible where undergraduate students apply themselves to the rigorous study of technology and research in architecture. Listed among the prestigious American Institute of Architecture’s programs, IIT’s approach is designed to sculpt not just competent architects, but pioneers ready to leave an indelible mark on the landscape of Illinois and beyond.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) is a place where the future of architecture is taking shape. UIUC’s comprehensive 4+2 program bridges the gap between theory and practice, offering architecture students a gateway to an advanced academic journey. The program commences with a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies, setting the stage for a Master of Architecture degree that places a strong emphasis on new technologies and a diverse student body.

The curriculum at UIUC has evolved to address the dynamic changes in the architecture profession and society as a whole. With a revamped program introduced in Fall 2017, UIUC has cemented its place at the forefront of architectural education. Here, students are not only educated but also inspired to explore the global context of architecture, preparing them to rise as leaders in the field.

University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)

Journey into the bustling city of Chicago to discover the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Here, architecture students find themselves engrossed in a curriculum that harmonizes core coursework with broad study abroad opportunities. Undergraduate students at UIC can choose between a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts in Architectural Studies, each tailored to engage students with the foundational aspects of architectural form, materials, and production techniques.

UIC’s School of Architecture integrates a comprehensive educational experience that goes beyond the studio. With a curriculum encompassing:

  • math
  • natural sciences
  • art and architectural history
  • humanities
  • social sciences

students are equipped to understand the multifaceted nature of architecture. Additionally, the school’s recognition for academic distinction and options for global exploration prepares students for the diverse challenges of the architectural profession.

Judson University

Located in the tranquil surroundings of Elgin, Illinois, Judson University provides a supportive academic milieu for architecture students. With an accepting atmosphere reflected in its 71% acceptance rate, Judson extends a range of educational options to a diverse student population. Here, undergraduate students can pursue bachelor’s degrees in architecture, as well as minors, to complement their major course of study.

Judson’s curriculum is designed to cater to the needs of both budding architects and seasoned scholars. The university’s array of degree programs, coupled with its commitment to providing scholarships and financial support, creates an accessible pathway for students who dream of contributing to the profession. With a robust enrollment and a distinctive vision for architectural education, Judson University is a place where students can find the resources and guidance to build their future.

Southern Illinois University-Carbondale (SIU)

Set in the scenic landscapes of Carbondale, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale (SIU) serves as a focal point for aspiring architects who appreciate multiculturalism and environmental sustainability. SIU’s School of Architecture offers both on-campus and online Master of Architecture programs, catering to a wide range of student needs and lifestyles. The university’s commitment to producing design leaders is evident in its curriculum, which encourages students to innovate and advocate for sustainable practices.

In addition to traditional programs, SIU provides an Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL), streamlining the journey to professional recognition. With this forward-thinking approach, SIU equips undergraduate students with the education and experience necessary to navigate the complexities of the architecture field. Emphasizing inclusivity and global awareness, SIU stands as a beacon for those seeking to make a positive impact on the built environment.

Northwestern University

Northwestern University’s Architecture Engineering and Design (AED) program offers students:

  • A unique landscape to collaborate on projects that push the boundaries of traditional architectural practices
  • Emphasis on interdisciplinary teamwork
  • Opportunities to explore the intersections of architecture with other disciplines

With an acceptance rate of 9%, this selective program attracts students who are not only academically accomplished but also driven by a desire to innovate in the field of architecture.

The AED program at Northwestern stands out for its:

  • Integration of cutting-edge technologies and software, preparing students to thrive in a rapidly evolving field
  • Guest lectures, workshops, and networking events, providing opportunities to engage with industry leaders and cultivate relationships
  • Fostering of creativity and leadership, ensuring that graduates are well-equipped to confront the architectural challenges of tomorrow

Northwestern’s AED program offers a dynamic environment that prepares students for successful careers in architecture.

School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC)

At the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), the Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects (AIADO) is a hotbed of creativity, fostering interdisciplinary innovation and global perspectives. SAIC’s architecture programs are designed to inspire students to engage with the community and address the pressing issues of our time, including climate change and social inclusion. Here, the convergence of studio arts, liberal arts, and museum access provides a rich tapestry for students to weave their architectural narratives.

SAIC’s faculty, drawn from a wide array of professional backgrounds, mentor students to challenge conventional notions of architecture and design. With a curriculum that encourages risk-taking and regards failure as an integral part of the creative process, SAIC nurtures architects who are prepared to impact public life and culture. As students explore various pathways in architecture, interior architecture, and designed objects, they are equipped with the skills and mindset to envision and construct spaces that reflect an evolving world.

Illinois Central College (ICC)

For individuals pursuing a basic education in architecture, Illinois Central College (ICC) provides an Associate in Arts degree in Architecture, specifically designed for transfer to a four-year university. With small class sizes and a strong history of successful transfers to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s architecture programs, ICC is a stepping stone for students charting their academic paths. The program’s focus on fundamental architectural principles ensures a solid base for further studies.

ICC’s architecture program offers the following benefits:

  • Affordability
  • Accessibility, with recommended preparation in high school math and art courses to bolster students’ readiness for college-level coursework
  • Emphasis on individual attention and direct interaction with licensed professionals through site visits
  • Practical edge to the academic experience
  • Encouragement of volunteering and community engagement, enriching students’ understanding of architecture’s role in society.

Opportunities for Architecture Students in Illinois

The landscape for architecture students in Illinois is brimming with opportunities that go beyond the confines of the classroom. Some of these opportunities include:

  • Scholarships, such as the Clarence T. Paul Graduate Fellowship and the Malcolm Jaseph Scholarship, which provide financial support and recognition for students’ academic and creative endeavors.
  • Fellowships like the Greenberg Farrow Award, which fuel students’ passions for specialized areas like commercial architecture.
  • The Architectural Experience Program (AXP), which ensures that students document their internship experiences, a crucial step towards licensure.

These opportunities help students in Illinois pursue their architectural dreams and gain valuable experience in the field.

Professional development is integral to the growth of architecture students. Organizations like the American Institute of Architecture Students foster leadership and community service, while volunteer work with groups like Habitat for Humanity offers practical, hands-on experience. These opportunities are not just stepping stones; they are the building blocks for a successful career in architecture, equipping students with the necessary tools to navigate the profession’s future challenges.

The Role of National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB)

The National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) holds a critical role in the professional progression of architecture students. Accreditation by NAAB is a seal of quality, ensuring that architecture programs meet rigorous standards and adequately prepare graduates for licensure. With an accreditation process that includes thorough self-evaluation reports, site visits, and continuous external reviews, NAAB upholds the integrity of architectural education.

An NAAB-accredited degree offers several benefits, including:

  • Meeting the prerequisite for licensure in the United States
  • Opening up international job opportunities through agreements like the Canberra Accord
  • Graduates from accredited programs consistently performing better on the Architect Registration Examination (ARE)
  • NAAB’s accreditation services ensuring equitable, diverse, and excellent architecture programs that reflect the autonomy of individual schools.