Architectural engineering is a hybrid of the engineering and architectural disciplines. The process of becoming a licensed professional architectural engineer typically takes at least eight years and includes formal education, work experience and licensing.

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Architectural engineers combine the principles of design and engineering to create usable buildings. Like all engineers, they apply math and science to problem solving. Architectural engineers often work on-site with a team of other engineers, architects and construction workers.

Architectural engineers must complete academic and professional requirements to become fully licensed. Most architectural engineering jobs require a bachelor’s degree from an accredited program, but students seeking research and development positions may need to earn a graduate degree. Aspiring architectural engineers must pass two exams and gain the required work experience to become licensed professional engineers.

Educational Requirements

Bachelor’s degree programs have requirements outside engineering that typically include sequences in math and physics. The math requirements might include a sequence in calculus and analytic geometry plus a course in differential equations. The architectural engineering curriculum includes courses from multiple engineering departments, including mechanical and civil. Some programs integrate architecture courses and studios into the curriculum or allow students to seek these through technical electives. Seniors are often required to complete a research or design project prior to graduation.

A few schools offer joint degree programs with the architecture college. Other schools offer concentrations, such as construction engineering and project management, construction materials or structural engineering, within a bachelor’s program. During the summers, many students perform paid cooperative internships that provide work experience.

Any prospective program should be accredited by ABET (the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc.). As of 2011, there are 17 accredited architectural engineering programs. Many graduate schools, licensing boards and employers look for applicants who’ve graduated from an accredited program.

Individuals with experience who are interested in research or want to teach at the university level may consider graduate programs. These programs may offer students the option of completing just a thesis, a research project or coursework. Graduate programs are flexible and allow individuals to choose their electives with the help of an advising committee.

Licensing Requirements

Graduates, if they plan on offering and charging the public for their services, they must obtain licensure to become professional engineers (PE). Both exams that students must pass for licensure are administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). Students may take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam near graduation. The FE exam is divided into two sections, one for all engineers and one that varies by discipline. This exam covers math, science and engineering. According to the NCEES, the April 2011 pass rate of first time testers was 73% for architectural engineering (

After four years of work experience, individuals are eligible to sit for the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam. The PE is often the final step to becoming licensed. Architectural engineers answer questions on building, structural, electrical and mechanical systems. According to the NCEES, the April 2011 pass rate of first time testers was 76%.

If a graduate has completed a joint degree in architectural engineering and architecture, they may also seek licensure as an architect. Licensure requirements include earning a professional architecture degree, completing an internship and passing an exam.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

In 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a median annual salary for architecture and engineering occupations of $73,540. Faster than average job growth of 24% was predicted by the BLS for architects, from 2010-2020, while average job growth of 19% was expected for civil engineers.

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