Most high schools don’t offer a dedicated set of architectural studies. Careful selection of subjects increases your success in applying to study for an architecture degree.
Architecture colleges or universities expect:
- Excellent SAT or ACT results
- Official transcripts – your high school coursework.
Some architecture schools may expect SAT subject tests in addition to the primary exam. Many students opt to take both the SAT and the ACT to give them more options when choosing an architecture school.
Architecture is an interdisciplinary subject that leads to many careers, even if you decide that your future does not lie in designing buildings and interiors.
The underlying portfolio of critical thinking skills, problem-solving, communication, attention to detail, and math are essential skills for most high-level employments.
High school subjects needed to study architecture cover a mixture of core and elective choices.
Core School Subjects Required to Study Architect
Every State sets the core subjects that allow you to graduate from High School. These cover the base areas of:
- Social Studies.
If you are aiming for an Architecture degree, then your best subjects from each of the core areas are:
You need to demonstrate communication and presentation skills and the ability to structure written work.
As an architect, you expect to present to clients, team members, and other project stakeholders. You will also write project proposals and other reports.
If your high school offers the options, focus on speaking, debating, technical and creative writing.
If you are an international student planning to study in a country where English is the first language, you would need a form of certification to prove English proficiency, such as TOEFL (source) or IELTS (source).
The essential core science for an architect is Physics – calculating forces in tension, compression, and various climatic conditions is a fundamental part of designing buildings that impress and function.
If available – geology is a worthwhile subject because all structures stand on the ground. Think about the impact the ground surface had on the leaning tower of Pisa.
Environmental science also offers useful insights for future architects as it covers alternative energy, pollution control, and designing systems for people.
Regardless of your architectural approach as an engineer or an artist, mathematics underpins our world.
When it comes to deciding what kind of math you need for architecture, you have some freedom to choose your best subjects.
Trigonometry is vital closely followed by Algebra and Calculus. Most architecture schools do not demand Calculus, but it certainly helps demonstrate your competency in dealing with numbers.
Ancient Greek and Roman architecture need a grasp of mathematics, and that has not changed today. Mathematics makes possible the creation of some of the most awe-inspiring buildings on the planet.
4. Social Studies
Social studies or humanities tend to cover all the subjects that do not fit neatly into other categories. Excellent subjects to round out your portfolio include History, Geography, Philosophy, and Psychology.
When completing projects and presentations, try to see these through an architectural lens – psychology, for example, influences buildings’ interior layout.
Including an architectural focus with other subjects demonstrates your commitment to your chosen career to colleges as they will be looking at transcriptions of your coursework.
Social studies let you demonstrate and improve your writing skills, presentations, and project design and management. All these are useful college and business skills.
If the opportunity presents – embrace Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes.
Elective High School Subjects
The range and options of elective subjects depend on the school approach, but where available, your best choices for architecture include:
1. Visual Arts
Architecture involves the visualization and the creation of structures. All the visual arts are useful.
- Painting – art, colors, and perspective.
- Sculpture – understanding balance and design in 3D
- Drawing – design, perspective, and understanding buildings by drawing them.
- Photography – an excellent way to put together a portfolio of impressive buildings and features.
- Art history – tracking architecture and aesthetic appeal through time.
2. Performing Arts
Presentation skills and communication are all enhanced by the confidence that working with the performing arts gives. Plus, you learn team working and how to relax and have fun.
3. Vocational Education
Computer-Aided Design (CAD) is not essential, but you may find it useful because it teaches a way of looking at a 3D world through plans.
Vocational skills are a broad range, but you are looking for practical skills related to architecture, structures, and buildings.
For example, understanding the plumbing basics gives you a feeling for constructing a building to accommodate human needs. Architects design the whole building – in teams.
Meanwhile, woodworking skills obtained through vocational training can demonstrate to the school that you are good at working with woods – an essential skill in architectural model-making.
4. Computer Science/Information Technology
Computers dominate both the working and the leisure activities of every community on the planet with some extreme exceptions.
Cover the essential office software; when it comes to working as an architect, you will be more interested in the software and applications than the physical hardware side of computing.
Pick through what you have as options and choose to acquire useful skills.
There may be opportunities to help run a school newspaper, create videos, and other communication and writing-based activities. Improving your writing and communication skills is always worthwhile.
6. Foreign Languages
Speaking another language is beneficial but not essential (unless your desired architecture school has it as a requirement).
If you find picking up a language relatively straightforward, it may be worth adding one to your portfolio.
Plus, the degree may include time studying abroad, and a second language increases your options.
7. Business Studies
As an architect, you may find yourself running a practice – a foundation of accountancy and business studies is helpful.
If you know the basics, brushing up and acquiring these skills when you need to is less daunting.
When deciding on elective subjects, the most important for architecture are the visual arts.
You do not have to do all the elective subjects – pick a selection that helps build observation, communication, project management, time management, and critical thinking.
Plus, choose some that give you joy and are fun to study. Not every subject you study at high school needs to relate to architecture.
Out of School Activities
School is not the only influence on your skills and suitability for acceptance onto an architecture degree course.
Some practical activities that help you with your time as an architecture student are:
- Build a sketchbook/scrapbook – compile a portfolio of buildings and structures when you visit a new place or go on holiday. Write notes about why they work or why they aren’t and need improvement.
- Get to know some architects – they have been through the process and can help you work out how to move forward. There are online forums and social media pages if you live somewhere with a shortage of architects.
- Look for work experience in an architect’s office – clearly, you won’t be designing the next award-winning building (yet), but pitch to shadow a working architect and do admin to pick up a feel for what it means to work as an architect.
- Attend an architecture summer camp – plenty of colleges organize these so you can ‘try before you buy’ and get to see what subjects you study for the diploma or bachelor’s degree in architecture.
The core and elective high school subjects you need to study architecture are well-rounded and give you an excellent base for the subjects you eventually study in an architecture program.
They also give you a solid foundation for alternative career options, so you are not locked into this choice by optimizing your High School options for Architecture.