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Department of


Bachelor of Architecture (BArch)

Undergraduate Architecture Curriculum

In general, incoming undergraduate students enter as pre-architecture majors and complete the Core Design Program before applying for admission to the professional Bachelor of Architecture (BArch) degree program. All students in the Core participate in a ‘Learning Community’ that helps support and connect them with other students in the College.

In certain instances, students who already have a background in Design related studies may have the Core year waived and enter as transfer students. In addition to satisfying entry requirements, this process involves a portfolio evaluation of prior student work. If you think you may be eligible for this option, please see the link for more information for Transfer Students.

2022-2023 Curriculum Sheet for BArch (PDF)

The curriculum sheet provides an overview of the number of required credits and the list of courses. It also provides details as to the number and kinds of electives you will take.

Our Professional/Major Curriculum is structured around five major course clusters, or “substantive areas”:

  • Design 56 CH (includes 8CH  in the Core Year)
  • Building Science and Technology 29 CH (includes 7CH in the Core Year)
  • History/Theory/Culture 24 CH (includes 3CH in the Core Year)
  • Communications 12 CH (includes 6 CH in the Core Year)
  • Professional Orientation 14 CH (includes 2CH in the Core Year)

In addition, students pursue an additional 30 CH of non-major options, university electives, social sciences & humanities. These courses help round out the degree, providing students with a balanced, broad-based education.

The overall curriculum sequence is designed to provide an increasing amount of flexibility the further along the degree you are. Students initially follow a more structured, common curriculum with fewer options. In later years, you have the freedom to choose from an array of professional options that are tailored to your individual interests. The Professional and HTC options are taken for the most part in the final two years, and students also choose their interdisciplinary studio (selected from options updated annually by the College of Design) in their final semester. This final studio provides students a chance to participate in the broader college context, having gained a specific disciplinary ‘voice’ to bring to the table. 

Student in Versailles, Part of the Interdisciplinary Hospitality Studio

Current students: Planning Your Degree

Below you will find a visualization of your Five Year study plan, broken into semester and years; it shows the different categories of courses and electives you need to complete, and how these can be flexibly arranged.

See also Current Five-Year Plan Visualization

See also 2020-2021 Five-Year Plan

See also 2019-2020 Five-Year Plan

See also 2018-2019 Five-Year Plan

See also 2017-2018 Five-Year Plan


While completing your degree, it is also possible to pursue one of many minors. Doing so requires that you select your electives carefully, but with a bit of planning a minor can be pursued without adding any additional credit hours to your course of study. We have prepared a series of study plans to show you how you can integrate a minor into your degree, highlighting our most popular options, which include:

  • Urban Studies
  • Sustainability
  • Critical Studies
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Digital Media
  • Preservation and Cultural Heritage

Honors Program

The University Honors Program aims to enrich the academic experience of high-ability undergraduates, offering numerous educational and intellectual opportunities and challenges.  Current honors students and alumni share the view that, in addition to providing academic enrichment, the Honors Program helped them grow as leaders and informed citizens, as well as in personal growth and career satisfaction.

Students enrolled in the Honors program supplement the curriculum with the addition of Honors seminars and by adding an Honors component to at least two existing classes. Finally, students participate in research by developing a final ‘Honors Project’ as part of the program. Enrollment requires that students join with and maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or above.  Learn more about Honors Study here.

Post B Arch Studies: Masters of Science in Architecture (MS Arch)

For student in the B Arch who wish to pursue additional research studies, we offer a one-year MS Arch degree which can be pursued at the conclusion of the B Arch. Students are able to transfer up to 6 eligible credits from their B Arch program of study into the M Arch degree, allowing them to complete their research studies in 24 credit hours. Additionally, those wishing to accelerate their B Arch program have options to complete both degrees in 5 1/2 years (normally 6), by pursuing a summer semester while in the program. For more, see the degree visualizations (B Arch + MS Arch)here.

Recommended High School Preparation

Beyond meeting the minimum high school course requirements for admission to Iowa State University and the College of Design, students who plan to enter the professional Bachelor of Architecture degree program are encouraged, but not required, to take:

  • 1 semester of trigonometry
  • 1 semester of analytic geometry
  • 1 year of physics
  • 1 year of studio art classes