America’s Best Architecture & Design Schools 2009

Hiring decision makers from more than 200 U.S. firms and organizations employing tens of thousands of architecture, design, and landscape architecture professionals participated in this year’s research.

Conducted in mid-2008, the survey tapped leaders who have direct and recent experience in hiring recently graduated architecture and design professionals. Leading firms were queried about the programs they considered to be the best at preparing students for professional success overall. They were also asked to cite the programs they considered to be the best in educating and training for specific skills.

Additionally, we asked respondents to rate their satisfaction with the preparedness of new graduates overall.

Survey Methodology

The 10th annual America’s Best Architecture & Design Schools study by the Design Futures Council ranks accredited undergraduate and graduate programs from the perspective of leading practitioners. The survey, conducted in mid-2008, tapped professional practice leaders who have had direct experience in the hiring and performance evaluation of recent architecture and design graduates.

Leading firms were queried about which college and university programs have best prepared students for today’s and tomorrow’s professional practice. A cross section of U.S. firms with disbursed geographic profiles were invited to participate, including firms that are leaders in the market sectors (i.e., health care, commercial, institutional) and that have won major national, state, local, and market-sector awards.

More than 200 leading professional practices were included in this research, which had a response rate of more than 85 percent of the largest architecture and design firms in the United States. Also responding were small- and medium-sized firms that rank among the most respected design organizations. In addition, deans and chairs from more than 100 academic programs participated in this study. A list of participating firms and academic programs begins on page 102.There were also move than 900 architecture students who completed surveys about their satisfaction with design education.

The professional practice study queried participants about many issues in addition to preparedness for practice, such as admired educators, how programs rate in teaching various skill sets, and sustainability education trends.

The rankings are compiled using data from surveys conducted and analyzed by Greenway Group with supplemental information from the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, the National Architectural Accreditation Board, the American Institute of Architecture Students, and the design organizations in each discipline.

The World-Class Architecture Schools rankings were compiled from the aggregated rankings in DesignIntelligence over the past 10 years, plus the most recent year evaluated in the fall of 2008. A weighted point system was used in each of five categories:

  • Practitioner rankings
  • 10-year practitioner composite rankings
  • Deans and chairs composite ranking
  • Combined campus environment evaluations, student evaluations, and integrated learning resources evaluations
  • Accreditation standing

The NAAB accreditation standard was considered mandatory for consideration. Undergraduate and graduate programs were combined for the purposes of this study. A maximum potential score of 100 was used for the first four categories, and 85 for the fifth category. The highest potential score possible was determined to be 485. Five schools scored 477 to lead in this set of evaluations. This evaluation was included to provide added dimension, to objectify the subjective, and to take the evaluation beyond the top 20 listings in undergraduate and graduate architecture education. The surveys were conducted by the research and consulting organization Greenway Group, which has provided the confidential analysis and opinion in each category.