Students at construction site

What is architectural engineering?

Architectural engineers apply practical and theoretical knowledge to the engineering design of buildings and building systems. The goal is to engineer high-performance buildings that are sustainable, resilient, economically viable, that ensure the safety, health, comfort, and productivity of occupants. 

Uniting scientific principles from structural, mechanical, electrical, lighting, acoustical, and construction engineering, architectural engineers apply their discipline-specific expertise to conceptualize, design, construct, operate and maintain built environments in interdisciplinary team environments. 

Graduates of architectural engineering are widely considered to be creative systems engineers, with formal training in creativity and design through architectural design studios married with a solid engineering education.

Architectural engineers have a lasting impact on society. Because people spend 86% of their time in indoors, architectural engineers concentrate on indoor building environments that prioritize the human condition and well-being of society. They also promote sustainable practices by lowering energy consumption and occupants’ carbon footprint, so much so that architectural engineering has been identified as the discipline with the highest potential to combat climate change.

The employment opportunities for architectural engineers are endless and wide-ranging! Graduates regularly accept job offers from architectural engineering firms, consulting engineering firms, real estate developers, building equipment designers, manufacturers, designers and producers of building materials and products, facilities engineering and management groups, building owners, specialty contractors, forensic engineering consultants, building technology consultants, software developers, contractors, and construction managers. Other non-traditional employment fields for architectural engineers are in finance, outer space construction, government and policymaking, code developing, and much more. Many Penn State AE alums are in key positions in their firms or even own their own businesses.

Taught by world-class faculty who come from interdisciplinary fields and countries around the globe, architectural engineering students are poised to become leaders in the building industry immediately after they graduate. 

Pursue your academic and career goals with what is widely recognized as the best architectural engineering program in the world! Explore our undergraduate and graduate programs today.

You might like architectural engineering if …

  • You have aptitude in math and science.
  • You appreciate the artistic and emotive aspects of buildings and architecture.
  • You are fascinated by the design and construction of buildings and building systems.
  • You are passionate about sustainability and energy conservation.
  • You are concerned about climate change.
  • You are concerned about building environment-related illnesses like asthma or allergies.
  • You like to organize parts of a system or process.
  • You enjoy solving problems and helping others.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the difference between architectural engineering and architecture?
A: Architectural engineering focuses its study on the design of all building systems, including the mechanical, lighting/electrical, and structural systems of a building, while also planning the construction process of buildings and building systems. AE graduates receive an engineering education and can pursue professional licensure after graduating. While architecture has a lot in common with AE, the study of architecture focuses on the spatial, cultural, and material forces that shape buildings and the built environment. The Department of Architecture is housed within the Stuckeman School in the College of Arts and Architecture at Penn State.

Q: What is Penn State AE’s job placement rate?
A: The Department of Architectural Engineering at Penn State had virtually 100% placement upon graduation for the last three decades.  

Q: Are there any networking opportunities for students?
A: Yes, Penn State AE is the home of the largest AE career fair in the world, and largest single-department career fair on campus. Each year, more than 135 companies attend with a wait list of more than 60 companies. Over 50 geographic countries are represented.

Q: How is Penn State AE ranked?
A: Though architectural engineering programs are not ranked by U.S. News in the traditional fashion, Penn State AE is the only engineering program listed by USA Today in the top 25 college major with the lowest unemployment at number 13.

Q: How many credits are the programs, and how long does it take to complete a degree?
A: Penn State AE offers multiple degrees: a B.A.E. (Bachelor of Architectural Engineering) and integrated B.A.E./M.A.E. (Master of Architectural Engineering) degree. The B.A.E. is 160 credits and the B.A.E./M.A.E. is 172 credits. The B.A.E. degree is a five-year professional degree. While the B.A.E./M.A.E degree is 12 credits more, most students complete the master’s degree along with their bachelor’s degree in five years. 93% of AE students in the 2014 junior cohort graduated on time, while 98% graduated with one extra semester or year. 

Q: Can I study abroad with Penn State AE?
A: Penn State AE offers multiple major-specific study-abroad opportunities to Rome and China. Approximately 50% of all architectural engineering students participate in an international educational activity.

Q: Do AE students usually complete internships?
A: Penn State AE the home of world’s largest architectural engineering Career Fair. Undergraduate students have an abundance of summer internship opportunities, with over 90% of all architectural engineering students securing internships during the summer of 2019. 

Q: Is a senior capstone experience/thesis a part of the undergraduate degree program?
A: All AE students complete a senior thesis design project over the course of their fifth year. This year-long course is a culmination of the prior AE knowledge applied to real building projects in two formats: 1) individual exploration and 2) a team competition. Each year, teams of students compete against other universities in the AEI Student Design Competition. In 2019, Penn State’s competition team won top place in every standing award category, and in 2020, the team won three first-place awards and three second-place awards. Learn more here.

Q: Does Penn State AE have any student organizations I can get involved in?
A: Yes, Penn State AE is home to over 15 student groups in all major building system disciplines as well as interdisciplinary groups. You can learn more here and get involved your very first day on campus!

Q: Are Penn State AE programs accredited?
A: Yes, architectural engineering programs at Penn State are accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET. Penn State AE boasts one of the longest-accredited undergraduate architectural engineering programs in the world.

Q: Can I complete research as an undergraduate?
A: Yes! Penn State AE has robust undergraduate research programs and has state-of-the-art facilities and equipment. Learn more about our research labs and groups.  

Q: Can interested students start their academic career at a Penn State Commonwealth campus?
A: Yes. Contact Moses Ling, undergraduate programs officer, at with any logistical questions.

“I loved the practical experience we got while studying in the AE program. The focus we had on buildings versus civil programs was broader, broad in the sense that we looked at all systems of buildings, not just the structure. We looked at how it’s built, including the mechanical components, which really helped us as designers to be able to relate to the whole design package that is involved.”
Mark Taylor, Nitterhouse Concrete Products
BAE 1992, Structural Option

“The unique thing about this program is the emphasis on building systems. You collaborate with a lot of other disciplines, so you learn why a lot of what you do structurally depends on mechanical applications. You get the foundation of understanding of the full scope of a building from the architectural standpoint, so when you graduate you come into a company with eyes wide open because you have a fuller understanding of what goes together.”
Jamison Morse, PVE Engineering
BAE/MAE 2009, Structural Option



Globally recognized as a leading architectural engineering department, the mission of the Department of Architectural Engineering at Penn State is to advance the built environment through the development of world-class architectural engineers and research. The vision of the Department of Architectural Engineering at Penn State is to lead the world in innovative education and research to achieve high-performing built environments. Our program emphasizes the scientific and engineering aspects of planning, designing, and constructing buildings, providing our architectural engineering graduates with outstanding education and research opportunities. 

Department of Architectural Engineering

104 Engineering Unit A

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-6394