Architectural Engineering vs. Architecture: Understanding the Distinctions

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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It could be assumed that architectural engineering and architecture are identical fields. It's tough to distinguish between the two because they are constantly featured in different projects.

However, it’s important to note that although they’re part of the same plan, both branches aren’t dedicated to the same thing. A clear example can be seen by looking at the work of architects and comparing it to architectural engineering work.

Are you interested in pursuing a career in the field of architecture? Do you wonder what the difference is between architecture and architectural engineering? If so, we'll explain what architecture and architectural engineering are, how they are similar and different, and which one might suit you better. Let's get started!

Architecture and Architectural Engineering

To know more about the differences between architectural engineering and architecture, it’s necessary to define them. That said, it’s essential to extract their main characteristics.

When talking about architecture, you can refer to the art related to building construction, creation, and projection, considering specific and special elements. Architecture is capable of reflecting the values within society. It’s one of the most important elements at the moment of recognition.

Art vs Technique

Art

Architecture is considered an art. Much of its development focuses on the functionality of buildings and their appearance. This means that architecture is related to exterior and interior design. It looks to adjust these designs to the specific needs of the people who will inhabit the environment.

Over the years, architecture has become a point of reference for civilizations. Its evolution can be easily seen by comparing buildings from ancient times to the present day.

Over time, you can also see how the perception of architecture is changing and improving concerning its previous concepts, which is why designs are becoming more functional and sustainable.

Architectural Engineering

On the other hand, when talking about architectural engineering, other characteristic elements are part of this. Even when the objective of both terms is closely related, they aren’t the same.

Architectural engineering is related to one of the branches of engineering that focuses on including all the concepts of this and its fundamental principles to materialize the structures. It respects the architecture assigned to these structural systems and ensures the project has all the necessary components to succeed.

Those who are dedicated to architectural engineering have the function of creating a connection between engineers and architects. This means that this type of engineering is based on including and developing the technical aspects necessary for creating the works established by the architects.

The solutions offered by architectural engineering respect all the technical aspects necessary for the work to be habitable and not present any risk to those who must live or spend time there.

Both architectural engineering and architecture have emerged under a general concept: to create works and design buildings that serve civilization while each one maintains its well-defined functions.

Architectural Engineering vs. Architecture

Now that you are familiar with the concepts read below to learn the specific characteristics that distinguish them.

Characteristics of Architectural Engineering

This science focuses entirely on choosing and selecting the appropriate techniques for creating buildings. It checks the materials and quality of these to ensure they work. This type of engineering bases itself on a correct projection of the buildings so that they can meet the standards of durability and ensure the safety of all.

Architectural engineers have the job of building and giving life to the architect's design. Besides that, they ensure that each element complies with the technical requirements that make it a place fit for habitation.

They must be sure to incorporate important elements into their work. That's why it usually applies technology and sustainable methods for constructing homes and other small- and large-scale buildings.

Characteristics of Architecture

Architecture is specifically directed towards creating spaces and the distribution and design of these based on shapes. It, too, works on colors and textures while ensuring that the spaces are functional for construction.

It concentrates on the aesthetics of the spaces and that these are suitable for the stay of individuals. This includes the fluidity of their passage through the structure. The architect's main mission is to design the building completely, from the external part to the internal distribution. At the same time, they need to ensure certain aesthetic parameters.

They reflect social values and project-specific characteristics of the era in which people live today, being forced to consider the influence of current trends. The relationship between architecture and architectural engineering is close. Both look to create the most functional and beautiful spaces for everyone. 

Similarities

  • Architecture and architectural engineering are both related to the field of building design and construction.
  • They both require creativity, problem-solving skills, and attention to detail.
  • They both involve working with clients, contractors, engineers, and other professionals to deliver successful projects.
  • Most states require both a bachelor's degree and a license to practice.

Differences

  • Architecture and architectural engineering jobs have different focuses and scopes of work.
  • An architect focuses on the form, function, and appearance of a building's exterior and interior components.
  • Architectural engineering aspects are more concerned with the performance, efficiency, and safety of a building.
  • Architecture is more artistic and subjective. Architectural engineering is more technical and objective.
  • Architecture requires more courses in design, history, theory, and graphics.
  • Architectural engineering requires more courses in math, science, engineering, and analysis.

Architects and Architectural Engineers: Career Paths

Let's explore the similarities and differences between these two professions, as well as the education, training, and licensure requirements for each.

To Become an Architect:

You need to have a bachelor's or master's degree in architecture from an accredited program, preferably in a recognized architecture school. A bachelor's degree typically takes five years to complete, while a master's degree (M.Arch) can take one to five years, depending on your previous education. You also need to complete an internship or training program, which usually lasts three years, and pass the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) to become licensed. All states require architects to be licensed before they can practice, and it is a requirement in some major architectural firms

To Become an Architectural Engineer:

To become an architectural engineer, you need to have a bachelor's degree in architectural engineering or a related field from an accredited program. A bachelor's degree usually takes four years to complete and covers topics such as math, science, engineering design, building engineering, construction methods, and computer-aided design (CAD) software. You also need to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam and the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam to become licensed. Most states require architectural engineers to be licensed before they can work on public projects.

Both architects and architectural engineers use their creativity, math and science skills, and engineering principles and technology to create buildings that are safe, functional, comfortable, and beautiful. They collaborate with each other and with other members of the construction team to ensure that the building meets the needs and expectations of the client and the occupant. Becoming an architect or an architectural engineer is a rewarding profession that requires hard work, dedication, and passion.

Which Profession Should One Choose?

The choice between architecture and architectural engineering depends on your personal interests, skills, goals, and preferences. If you are more interested in creating the vision, concept, and design of a building, you might prefer architecture. If you are more interested in applying the principles of engineering to the building systems and components, you might prefer architectural engineering. If you are more interested in working on the structural aspects of a building, you might consider becoming a structural engineer or a civil engineer.

Both careers have their pros and cons. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for architects was $82,320 in 2020. The median annual salary for architectural engineers was $88,860 in 2020. However, both careers also have high levels of stress, competition, responsibility, and liability. Both careers also require long hours of work, especially during deadlines.

Both careers also offer opportunities for growth and advancement. Both careers require continuing education to keep up with the latest trends, technologies, and regulations. Both careers also allow for specialization in different types of buildings or projects. For example, architects can specialize in residential, commercial, institutional, or industrial design. Architectural engineers can specialize in structural, mechanical, electrical, or environmental engineering.

Both careers also offer opportunities for internship and project management experience. Both careers require completing an internship program before obtaining a license. Both careers also involve managing projects from start to finish.

Ultimately, the choice between architecture and architectural engineering is up to you. You should do your own research on both fields and talk to professionals who work in them. You should also consider your own strengths, weaknesses, passions, and aspirations.

Conclusion

Although, at times, one may seem more predominant than the other, the truth is that architects and engineers know how to balance their pros and cons. Let's remember that one seeks to verify the technical and safety values of a building, while the other seeks to put creativity into play when designing it.

Both work together in architectural design to create buildings that are considered to be true works of art. So there’s no need to decide which one has the advantage over the other.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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