Architectural engineers are at the forefront of addressing significant challenges of the century, from reducing greenhouse gases to constructing resilient buildings. They are responsible for the technological aspects involved in planning, designing, creating, and operating structures. Because people spend over 85% of their time indoors, these professionals have a lasting impact on communities worldwide.
As opposed to architects, architectural engineers study the art and science of constructing buildings, typically applying the latest scientific knowledge and technologies in their field.
While working on a building, architectural engineers combine structural, electrical, mechanical, lighting, acoustic, and safety elements into a whole. There are many ways for their projects to impact society, from designing earthquake-proof buildings to state-of-the-art stadiums. The interdisciplinary skillset of an architectural engineer makes them highly employable to engineering firms, real estate developers, manufacturers, building owners, contractors, and construction managers. Other professionals choose to start their own business.
To become an architectural engineer, students choose to study architectural engineering or a related field like civil engineering. In their courses, they study a broad range of technical topics including physics, mathematics, architectural design, and construction. The most successful students will receive practical training through laboratories and internship opportunities.
Their formal training in creativity and design, coupled with solid engineering education, makes them well-versed architectural engineers. These engineers must be creative, detail-oriented, and versatile with technology and problem-solving skills to succeed. Architectural engineers earn an average salary of $86,000 per year.
Students interested in utilizing the latest technologies to design and build structures that will improve the lives of many should consider architectural engineering.
Here are the ten best architectural engineering schools in the United States, based on each university’s overall academic ranking on Niche.
10. The University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa, AL)
At the University of Alabama, architectural students are prepared to lead fulfilling professional careers in their interest areas. Through a robust foundational base of technical courses, students are in high demand for many employers in the area. As architectural engineering is a highly interdisciplinary field, students are encouraged to take mathematics, science, humanities, and social sciences classes. Students are encouraged to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam before their graduation to support their professional endeavors.
Architectural engineering students have the opportunity to participate in the University of Alabama’s research and creative culture. The school promotes interdisciplinary research through networking sessions, resources to locate external funding, and professional development workshops. The civil and environmental engineering department, including architectural engineering, spent $1.5 million on research in 2019. Through working with faculty and other students, engineers develop critical hands-on skills.
9. Oklahoma State University (Stillwater, OK)
At OSU, architectural engineering students graduate with a desirable understanding of the overall production of architecture found in few other programs nationwide. The courses encourage a cooperative approach to architecture, whether students choose to focus on structural design or construction project management. After graduation, students go on to work as construction managers, structural designers, project engineers, and engineering technicians.
While at OSU, students have the opportunity to learn from leading faculty members in state-of-the-art facilities. The program is dedicated to providing students with a studio-based education to explore their creative side while simultaneously furthering their math and science abilities.
In addition to the Bachelor of Architectural Engineering degree, the school has a twelve-credit-hour Graduate Certificate. The program focuses on the Integrative Design of the Building Envelope, where students can explore a specific technical aspect of building design that interests them.
8. University of Oklahoma (Norman, OK)
University of Oklahoma architectural engineering students are exposed to various classes from the College of Architecture, College of Engineering, and more. During the last two years, undergraduates study more specialized subjects such as structural engineering and building systems. The curriculum finishes with a capstone design experience that requires students to utilize their interdisciplinary knowledge to solve a real-world architectural engineering problem. Showing off their technical know-how, a past capstone class designed the Radar Innovations Laboratory, currently part of OU’s research campus.
In addition to courses, architectural engineering student groups supplement classroom education through interactions with faculty and peers. The Architectural Engineering Institute (AEI) at UO, founded in 2006, seeks to promote information on the field through study, research, and discussion. The group hosts various events, from sponsored site tours to seminars from professionals in the field.
7. Milwaukee School of Engineering (Milwaukee, WI)
MSOE’s architectural engineering degree allows students to choose between three specialties: electrical, mechanical, and structural systems. While in classes, students learn from a wide range of accomplished professors. Dr. Deborah Jackson, professor and program director, has technical expertise in sustainability, energy systems, and process analysis. In addition, she is a member of the Peer Review Corps of the Higher Learning Commission and has expertise in the accreditation process.
As one of only 22 accredited programs nationwide, the architectural engineering curriculum provides the hands-on experience necessary for success. This can be seen in the school’s impressive Class of 2020, of which 100% are fully employed, enrolled in graduate school, or enlisted.
In June of 2018, construction began on the university’s Dwight and Dian Diercks Computational Science Hall. Many architectural engineering alumni from MSOE are leading the project as construction executives, data center specialists, and project engineers.
6. California Polytechnic Institute (San Luis Obispo, CA)
At Cal Poly, architectural engineering students learn through interdisciplinary, team-based design and construction. These integrated design projects, from laboratories and senior capstone, combined with modern technological tools, prepare students for employment in the field. In addition, students learn about the ethical implications and societal issues that drive their work in professional engineering practice.
This project-based approach to learning leads to success in competitions and the real world. In 2019, one of the Cal Poly student teams won an honorable mention in the Steel Design Student Competition. Their work designing a housing skyscraper was highly regarded by the panel of architects and structural engineers. Placing second out of over 50 teams, Cal Poly architectural engineering students excelled in the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute Student Competition. The team constructed a balsa-wood prototype structure that could withstand shake-table testing.
5. Auburn University (Auburn, AL)
The Rural Studio at Auburn is dedicated to educating citizen architects. Architectural engineering students have the opportunity to gain hands-on educational experience while helping underserved communities in West Alabama. Today, the Rural Studio has built over 200 projects and has worked with over 1,000 citizen architects.
Auburn architectural engineering students can also travel internationally to broaden their education. By visiting Rome or Scandinavia, undergraduates learn about the cultural context and architectural history from around the globe. Third-year students have the opportunity to study at the Aarhus School of Architecture in Scandinavia for six weeks of studio and seminar instruction.
Events at Auburn promote the work of architectural engineering community members and facilitate interactions. In 2021, Auburn held the Building Technology Educators’ Society Conference to best support students of the building disciplines.
4. Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worcester, MA)
As the only accredited architectural engineering program in New England, WPI focuses on the science and engineering aspects of building design. The technical school is well-known for its strength in project-based education.
The architectural engineering program at WPI performs research at the forefront of the field on intelligent materials and systems that reduce energy usage. Additionally, the program participates in the US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition. Through working on these applied research projects, students become engaged with sustainable building design.
As a result of their relevant hands-on experience, WPI architectural engineers find success professionally. Graduates have been hired at prestigious companies, including ARUP, Avery Dennison, and RDK Engineers. They go on to work for a variety of industries, from architectural engineering firms to governments.
3. Penn State University (University Park, PA)
The architectural engineering program is the oldest, continuously accredited program in the United States. Since its founding in 1910, it has become one of the top engineering programs in the nation. Through providing education and research opportunities, the program aims to advance the built environment through the development of top-tier architectural engineers.
The AEI Student Design Competition, an annual competition for architectural engineering students, highlights the value of collaboration and competition. Since its start in 2010, 15 teams from Penn State have competed, with five teams finishing first in building integration. In 2019, Penn State won first in all five core categories.
The Building Components and Envelopes Research Laboratory contains many research facilities for testing building components. From entire walls to beams to roofs, the center can analyze construction materials at various scales. The facilities include equipment to test seismic activity, lateral load, and windborne debris.
2. University of Miami (Coral Gables, FL)
At the University of Miami, architectural engineering students study material so they’re able to identify and solve complex engineering problems. Courses for undergraduates include mechanics, structural analysis, and energy-efficient building design. In the senior design project, students have the opportunity to apply their knowledge under realistic constraints. The course follows the design sequence of schematic formation and development phases.
Students can also get involved through numerous research opportunities on campus. The Department of Chemical, Environmental, and Materials Engineering blend the University of Miami’s recognized strength in engineering. The new department will promote interdisciplinary collaboration and bolster the school’s research capabilities. As an integrated field, architectural engineering will pursue its interests at the intersection of architecture and materials, chemicals, or the environment.
1. University of Texas at Austin (Austin, TX)
Topping the rankings with the #1 program in Texas, the Cockrell School of Engineering is a global leader in technology and engineering education. The faculty includes the highest number of National Academy of Engineering members among all US universities. Architectural engineering students know that they are learning from some of the brightest minds in the industry in the center of an innovative city.
Architectural engineers at UT Austin work to build sustainable and structurally resilient buildings for the future. According to their interests, students can focus on a variety of topics including structural systems, HVAC systems, energy analysis, or project management. Graduates work in the public and private sectors, with the average architectural engineer earning $63,000. The majority of students go on to become licensed professional engineers who are highly regarded in the field.