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Building a Career in Architecture


Two architects discussing project at high table in modern studio
AMV Photo/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Job Description:

Architects design buildings and other structures. In addition to considering the way these buildings and structures look, they also make sure they are functional, safe, economical and suit the needs of the people who use them.

Employment Facts:

There were approximately 113,700 architects employed in 2010, mostly in the architectural, engineering and related services industry. About a quarter were self employed. Most jobs were full-time positions, but if you're thinking 9 to 5, you're wrong. Many architects work over 50 hours a week and those hours include weekends and evenings. While they work in offices most of the time, they also have to visit construction sites to check up on the progress of the projects they have designed.

Educational Requirements:

To become an architect one must earn a professional degree in architecture after completing one of the following programs offered at many colleges and universities:
  • 5-year Bachelor of Architecture program intended for students entering programs from high school or with no previous architectural training
  • 2-year Master of Architecture program for students with a pre-professional undergraduate degree in architecture or a related area
  • 3 or 4-year Master of Architecture program offered to students with degrees in other disciplines

Generally, the professional degree in architecture must be from a school of architecture accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). A few states don't have this requirement.

Why Do You Need to Know About Educational Requirements?

Other Requirements:

In the United States those who want to provide architectural services must be licensed. To become a licensed architect one must earn a professional degree in architecture, complete a period of practical training or internship, and pass all divisions of the ARE (Architect Registration Examination). In most states, continuing education is required to maintain licensure. To find out what the requirements are in the state in which you want to work use the Licensed Occupations Tool from CareerOneStop

One needs certain qualities to succeed in this occupation. If you want to be an architect you should be creative and have good visualization skills. Not only do you need to be able to create designs for buildings and other structures, you need to be able to see, in your mind's eye, what they will look like once they are built. Since architects have to describe their ideas to other people including clients and colleagues, you must have strong communication skills. The ability to think critically will help you solve problems that inevitably arise during most projects.

Advancement Opportunities:

A licensed architect, after gaining experience, may take on increasingly responsible duties and eventual managing entire projects. Architects may advance to supervisory or managerial positions in large firms. Some become partners in established firms while others set up their own practices.

Why Do You Need to Know About Advancement?

Job Outlook:

Employment in this field is projected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2020. Prospective architects may face competition for positions at prestigious firms. To increase one's chances of getting an internship after graduation, it is important to get career-related experience in an architectural firm while still in school. Those who know CADD technology will also have an advantage.

Why Do You Need to Know About Job Outlook?


Architects earned median annual earnings of $73,340 and median hourly wages of $35.26 in 2011. Recent graduates working on internships will earn much less. Those starting out in private practices will go through a period of time when they are operating at a loss.

Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much architects currently earn in your city.

A Day in an Architect's Life:

On a typical day an architect will:
  • Discuss the objectives, requirements, and budget of a project
  • Provide various predesign services which may include conducting feasibility and environmental impact studies, selecting a site, or specifying the requirements the design must meet
  • Prepare drawings and present ideas for the client to review
  • Develop final construction plans that show the building's appearance as well as details for its construction
  • Follow building codes, zoning laws, fire regulations, and other ordinances
  • Make necessary changes throughout the planning process

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Architects, Except Landscape and Naval, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos038.htm (visited April 24, 2013).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Architects, Except Landscape and Naval, on the Internet at http://online.onetcenter.org/link/details/17-1011.00 (visited April 24, 2013).

Should You Become an Architect? Take a Quiz to Find Out.

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