The River Thames outside DLD College London

Want to study Architecture at University? FAQs

7th August 14

Want to study architecture at university  

Another of our most popular blog posts that generated a lot of interest was “Want to be an Architect?” back in August 2012. You asked some great questions, and here are a collection of the most popular ones with answers.

1. Do I have to have an A Level in Maths to study Architecture at University? 

This is a little less clear than it used to be. What used to be a definite YES now depends on which university you are applying for and what your otherA Levels are. Some universities still require Maths as a mandatory A Level, other don’t mind as much. You should have one of Maths or Physics anyway as there is a lot of both in Architecture. Universities like their students to have a broad range of A Level subjects ranging from humanities like History or Geography, to art subjects like Art and Design or Graphic Design.

2. My university wants to see a portfolio of my work, what should I do?

Usually, if a university wants to see a portfolio of your work, they will specify what they want in it. You should follow their guidelines. If they don’t specify, you need to create your own. Many students show paintings, drawings, sketches or photographs. Anything that shows your creative side basically. You should work hard on your portfolio, and do your best to present it professionally, this is your chance to show the university that you are creative and can draw, and that you can use those skills to communicate visually. 

Here are some great examples of portfolios from Kings College Cambridge students

Not all universities require a portfolio. 

3. I’ve heard it takes a really long time to become an Architect, is that right? 

Yes. For most students it can take upwards of seven years. Becoming an architect is a three stage process. First, depending on what course you study and where you go, you will do a three or four year degree course. Next you will do two years study for a Master Degree or a Post Graduate Diploma. Then when you’ve finished that, you have to take the Royal Institute of British Architects Exams (the RIBAs). It is a long old course, and you should think long and hard about whether it is right for you, but once you graduate the hard work is worth it. 

4. Do I need any work experience?

It’s not mandatory, but your application will be strengthened by showing you have a passion for the work, and this will only be enhanced with some relevant work experience. 

5. Are there any specific items I should buy before I go? 

Your university will usually send you a list of things before you turn up for your first day. Some essentials though are: a really top set of mechanical drawing pencils, a really top set of drawing pens, a metal ruler, an A3 cutting matt, a scalpel, an adjustable set square and masking tape – you will never have enough masking tape. 

6. What about a computer? Should I get a MAC or a PC? 

Your university will supply computers and software to work on while you are in class. You will probably need one to work at home though. Opinion in the industry is split pretty much evenly between MACs and PCs, and each have their plus points and minus points. PCs are everywhere and getting hold of software for them is a lot easier and cheaper. MACs are more powerful for use with CAD and 3D modelling, so it really is up to you. 

One handy tip is to wait until you are at university to buy your computer as you could qualify for student discount or special offers.

7. Are there any books I can read before I go?

Absolutely, there are thousands! But here is a small selection to get you started: 

Architect’s Pocket Book by Ann Ross 

101 Things I learned in Architecture School by Matthew Frederick 

BLDGBLOG Book by Geoff Manaugh 

Lessons for Students in Architecture by Herman Hertzberger

Metric Handbook: Planning and Design Data by David Adler BSc DIC CEng MICE

Architecture: Form, Space and Order by Francis D. K. Ching 

The Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture: Comprehensive Edition by Miquel Adria

So there you are. We hope that helped you. If you have any more questions, don’t be afraid to write in, we’ll always try our best to answer your questions. You might like to think about contacting the university you want to go to ask them any specific questions regarding entrance requirements or portfolios or specialised enquiries, they will be able to answer more comprehensively than us.

Good luck!