Over 100 accredited schools in the U.S. offer architecture degrees, and while choosing the best architecture program for you can seem overwhelming, there are many resources you can refer to. The most comprehensive is the Guide to Architecture Schools, which describes degrees offered, program philosophies, faculty, alumni, teacher-to-student ratio, cost, school population, and university setting for each program.

But if you want to know which programs ranked the highest, turn to America’s Best Architecture & Design Schools, an annual report published by the journal DesignIntelligence. This study surveys over 200 architecture firms to determine which U.S. programs best prepare students for real world professional practice. For 2009, the five best architecture programs ranked as follows:

1. Cornell University in Ithaca, NY has one of the oldest, most respected programs in the U.S. and also has a good international reputation. While Cornell is a big school, the architecture program is one of the smaller on this list. As an Ivy League school, it’s also one of the most expensive. Its graduates include the prominent architects Richard Meier and Peter Eisenman.

2. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg, VA offers one of the most comprehensive programs of its kind and has a reputation for leadership in technology. Since it’s a state university, tuition is much lower than at many other schools. Dean Jack Davis was named one of the most admired educators of 2009.

3. California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo, CA, is another state school that is relatively inexpensive. The only school in the top 5 located in the west, its known for its “learn-by-doing” philosophy and good student-to-teacher ratio. San Luis Obispo is a small beach town and the atmosphere on campus is quieter and more laid back than at many other schools.

4. Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, RI, was started in 1877 and is considered by many to be the best art and design college in the country. It emphasizes the architect’s role not only a builder of structures but as a communicator of culture. Famous alumni include Preston Scott Cohen.

5. Syracuse University in Syracuse, NY houses the 4th oldest architecture program in the US. Its design studio course, which aims to replicate real-life practice at a design firm, is unique among the best architecture programs. Dean Mark Robbins was also named as one of the most admired educators for 2009.

You may want to check out the rest of the rankings on your own, but while they can give you a good place to start, only you can decide which program is best for you. Aside from the obvious criteria of reputation, program size, and cost, you should consider your personal learning style, comfort level in different environments, and career aspirations. In addition to joining architecture firms, graduates sometimes go into urban planning and design, environmental design, industrial design, interior design, construction management, building inspection, and computer-aided design (CAD). While the best architecture programs will offer a strong base for any of these fields, some will better provide the focus you’re looking for.

Did you know:

According to US News and World Reports the following are the top 2010 National Schools offering Art majors

1.      Yale University – New Haven, CT
2.      University of Chicago – Chicago, IL
3.      Northwestern University – Evanston, IL
4.      Brown University – Providence, RI
5.      Rice University – Houston, TX


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