Building a Career in Architecture
Learn About Being an Architect
Architects design structures including houses, apartment complexes, shopping centers, office buildings, and factories. In addition to considering their physical appearance, they also make sure these structures will be functional, safe, and economical, and suit the needs of the people who will use them.
Architects work in an office most of the time. There they meet with clients, draft plans, work on cost estimates, file permit applications with municipal building departments, and help clients set up agreements with contractors.
Architects also have to visit construction sites to check the progress of projects and make sure contractors are building them according to their plans.
- Architects, in 2016, earned a median annual salary of $76,930.
- Almost 129,000 people worked in this occupation.
- Most jobs are in architectural and engineering firms.
- According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in this field will grow more slowly than the average for all occupations between 2016 and 2026.
Roles and Responsibilities
These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for architect jobs we found on Indeed.com:
- "Lead and develop projects from early concept through design development"
- "Prepare drawings, specifications and construction documents"
- "Design and document commercial and industrial building projects"
- "Consult with client to determine client's needs and wants"
- "Coordinate preliminary architectural studies for major new structures and alterations to existing structures and site development"
- "Organize and manage permit documents"
- "Work with teams across business lines, in remote locations, and coordinate with subcontractors"
- "Resolve complex design issues with innovative and practical solutions"
- "Modify existing plans and elevations to fit client and sales needs"
Education and Licensing Requirements
If you want to become an architect, you will have to earn a professional degree in architecture.
You can complete one of the following programs offered at many colleges and universities:
- 5-year Bachelor of Architecture (BArch) program intended for students entering college from high school or with no previous architectural training
- 2-year Master of Architecture (MArch) program for students with pre-professional undergraduate degrees in architecture or a related area
- 3 or 4-year Master of Architecture program offered to students with degrees in other disciplines
In most states in the U.S., you must earn a professional degree in architecture from a school accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). You can search for a program on the NAAB website.
In the United States, you will have to get a professional license from the state or municipality where you want to provide your services. To become a licensed architect, you must first earn a professional degree in architecture, complete a period of practical training or an 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 where you plan to work, use the Licensed Occupations Tool from CareerOneStop
What Soft Skills Will Help You Succeed in This Career?
While meeting your education and licensing requirements are essential, you also need certain personal qualities, known as soft skills, to succeed as an architect. These are some of them:
- Creativity: You must be able to create designs for buildings and other structures.
- Visualization: You need to be able to see, in your mind's eye, what those structures will look like once they are complete.
- Verbal Communication: This skill will allow you to describe your ideas to your clients and colleagues.
- Active Listening: In addition to clearly communicating information to others, you must be able to understand what others are sharing with you.
- Problem Solving: Problems will inevitably arise during most building projects. You must be able to quickly identify and then solve them to keep the project moving forward.
- Critical Thinking: Good problem solving requires the ability to evaluate possible solutions before choosing the most promising one.
The Truth About Being an Architect
- If you become an architect, you will likely have to work overtime (more than 40 hours per week), at least occasionally, to meet deadlines.
- Approximately 20% of architects are self-employed.
- While you will spend most of your time working in an office, you can also expect to travel, sometimes far away, to construction sites.
What Will Employers Expect From You?
Here are some requirements from actual job announcements found on Indeed.com:
- "Strong written and verbal skills, fluency and grammar"
- "Ability to perform duties at other than normal working hours and days as required by projects or tasks"
- "Ability to produce 2D & 3D design drawings for meeting presentations"
- "Must be knowledgeable in the applicable building codes"
- "Team player with a positive attitude"
- "Ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously"
Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?
You should always consider your interests, personality type, and work-related values when choosing an occupation. If you have the following traits, a career as an architect may be suitable for you:
Do You Have What It Takes to Be an Architect? Take this quiz to find out.
Occupations With Related Tasks and Activities
Median Annual Wage
|Minimum Required Education/Training|
|Designs shopping centers, college campuses, residential areas and golf courses to make them both beautiful and functional||$63,480||Bachelor of Landscape Architecture or Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture|
|Architectural Drafter||Turns architects' designs into technical drawings using special software||$51,640||Associate Degree or Certificate in Drafting|
|Environmental Engineer||Uses knowledge of engineering, soil science, biology and chemistry to solve environmental problems||$84,890||Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Engineering|
|Agricultural Engineer||Designs machinery, processes, and structures that are used in agriculture||$73,640||Bachelor's Degree in Engineering With a Concentration in Agricultural Engineering|
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook; Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online (visited December 19, 2017).
Career, Salary and Education Information
Top 3 Architect Jobs
- Architect - Mills Construction (SD) - Brookings, SD
You will collaborate positively and professionally in a Design
- Project Architect - ODA Architecture - New York, NY
Requirements • Bachelor's or Master's degree in Architecture • 5-8 years of experience with multi-family
- Principal Enterprise Architect - GreenKiss Staffing Solutions - New York, NY
This includes solutions which must leverage customers’ existing
See all Architect jobs
What Architects Do[About this section] [To Top]
Architects plan and design houses, factories, office buildings, and other structures.
Duties of Architects
Architects typically do the following:
- Meet with clients to determine objectives and requirements for structures
- Give preliminary estimates on cost and construction time
- Prepare structure specifications
- Direct workers who prepare drawings and documents
- Prepare scaled drawings, either with computer software or by hand
- Prepare contract documents for building contractors
- Manage construction contracts
- Visit worksites to ensure that construction adheres to architectural plans
- Seek new work by marketing and giving presentations
People need places to live, work, play, learn, shop, and eat. Architects are responsible for designing these places. They work on public or private projects and design both indoor and outdoor spaces. Architects can be commissioned to design anything from a single room to an entire complex of buildings.
Architects discuss the objectives, requirements, and budget of a project with clients. In some cases, architects provide various predesign services, such as feasibility and environmental impact studies, site selection, cost analyses, and design requirements.
Architects develop final construction plans after discussing and agreeing on the initial proposal with clients. The architects' plans show the building's appearance and details of its construction. These plans include drawings of the structural system; air-conditioning, heating, and ventilating systems; electrical systems; communications systems; and plumbing. Sometimes, landscape plans are included as well. In developing designs, architects must follow state and local building codes, zoning laws, fire regulations, and other ordinances, such as those requiring easy access to buildings for people who are disabled.
Architects use computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) and building information modeling (BIM) for creating designs and construction drawings. However, hand-drawing skills are still required, especially during the conceptual stages of a project and when an architect is at a construction site.
As construction continues, architects may visit building sites to ensure that contractors follow the design, adhere to the schedule, use the specified materials, and meet work-quality standards. The job is not complete until all construction is finished, required tests are conducted, and construction costs are paid.
Architects may also help clients get construction bids, select contractors, and negotiate construction contracts.
Architects often collaborate with workers in related occupations, such as civil engineers, urban and regional planners, drafters, interior designers, and landscape architects.
Work Environment for Architects[About this section] [To Top]
Architects hold about 128,800 jobs. The largest employers of architects are as follows:
|Architectural, engineering, and related services||68%|
Architects spend much of their time in offices, where they meet with clients, develop reports and drawings, and work with other architects and engineers. They also visit construction sites to ensure clients' objectives are met and to review the progress of projects. Some architects work from home offices.
Architect Work Schedules
Most architects work full time and many work additional hours, especially when facing deadlines. Self-employed architects may have more flexible work schedules.
How to Become an Architect[About this section] [To Top]
Get the education you need:Find schools for Architects near you!
There are typically three main steps to becoming a licensed architect: completing a bachelor's degree in architecture, gaining relevant experience through a paid internship, and passing the Architect Registration Examination.
Education for Architects
In all states, earning a bachelor's degree in architecture is typically the first step to becoming an architect. Most architects earn their degree through a 5-year Bachelor of Architecture degree program. Many earn a master's degree in architecture, which can take 1 to 5 additional years. The time required depends on the extent of the student's previous education and training in architecture.
A typical bachelor's degree program includes courses in architectural history and theory, building design with an emphasis on computer-aided design and drafting (CADD), structures, construction methods, professional practices, math, physical sciences, and liberal arts.
Currently, 35 states require that architects hold a degree in architecture from one of the 122 schools of architecture accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). State licensing requirements can be found at the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB).
Training for Architects
All state architectural registration boards require architecture graduates to complete a lengthy paid internship—generally lasting 3 years—before they may sit for the Architect Registration Examination. Most new graduates complete their training period by working at architectural firms through the Architectural Experience Program (AXP), a program run by NCARB that guides students through the internship process. Some states allow a portion of the training to occur in the offices of employers in related careers, such as engineers and general contractors. Architecture students who complete internships while still in school can count some of that time toward the 3-year training period.
Interns in architectural firms may help design part of a project. They may help prepare architectural documents and drawings, build models, and prepare construction drawings on CADD. Interns may also research building codes and write specifications for building materials, installation criteria, the quality of finishes, and other related details. Licensed architects take the documents that interns produce, make edits to them, finalize plans, and then sign and seal the documents.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Architects
All states and the District of Columbia require architects to be licensed. Licensing requirements typically include completing a degree program in architecture, gaining relevant experience through a paid internship, and passing the Architect Registration Examination.
Most states also require some form of continuing education to keep a license. Continuing education requirements vary by state but usually involve additional education through workshops, university classes, conferences, self-study courses, or other sources.
Advancement for Architects
After many years of work experience, some architects advance to become architectural and engineering managers. These managers typically coordinate the activities of employees and may work on larger construction projects.
Important Qualities for Architects
Analytical skills. Architects must understand the content of designs and the context in which they were created. For example, architects must understand the locations of mechanical systems and how those systems affect building operations.
Communication skills. Architects share their ideas, both in oral presentations and in writing, with clients, other architects, and workers who help prepare drawings. Many also give presentations to explain their ideas and designs.
Creativity. Architects design the overall look of houses, buildings, and other structures. Therefore, the final product should be attractive and functional.
Organizational skills. Architects often manage contracts. Therefore, they must keep records related to the details of a project, including total cost, materials used, and progress.
Technical skills. Architects need to use CADD technology to create plans as part of building information modeling (BIM).
Visualization skills. Architects must be able to envision how the parts of a structure relate to each other. They also must be able to visualize how the overall building will look once completed.
Architect Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]
The median annual wage for architects is $76,930. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $46,600, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $129,810.
The median annual wages for architects in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|Architectural, engineering, and related services||75,910|
Most architects work full time and many work additional hours, especially when facing deadlines. Self-employed architects may have more flexible work hours.
Job Outlook for Architects[About this section] [To Top]
Employment of architects is projected to grow 4 percent over the next ten years, slower than the average for all occupations.
Architects are expected to be needed to make plans and designs for the construction and renovation of homes, offices, retail stores, and other structures. Many school districts and universities are expected to build new facilities or renovate existing ones. In addition, demand is expected for more healthcare facilities as the baby-boomer population ages and as more people use healthcare services.
Demand for architects with a knowledge of “green design,” also called sustainable design, is expected to continue. Architects should be needed to design buildings and structures that efficiently use resources, such as energy and water conservation; reduce waste and pollution; and apply environmentally friendly design, specifications, and materials.
Job Prospects for Architects
With a high number of students graduating with degrees in architecture, strong competition for internships and jobs is expected.
Employment of architects is strongly tied to the activity of the construction industry. Therefore, these workers may experience periods of unemployment when there is a slowdown in requests for new projects or when the overall level of construction falls.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2016||Projected Employment, 2026||Change, 2016-26|
|Architects, except landscape and naval||128,800||133,900||4||5,100|
Careers Related to Architects[About this section] [To Top]
Architectural and Engineering Managers
Architectural and engineering managers plan, direct, and coordinate activities in architectural and engineering companies.
Civil engineers conceive, design, build, supervise, operate, construct, and maintain infrastructure projects and systems in the public and private sector, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment.
Construction and Building Inspectors
Construction and building inspectors ensure that construction meets local and national building codes and ordinances, zoning regulations, and contract specifications.
Construction managers plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from start to finish.
Drafters use software to convert the designs of engineers and architects into technical drawings. Most workers specialize in architectural, civil, electrical, or mechanical drafting and use technical drawings to help design everything from microchips to skyscrapers.
Industrial designers develop the concepts for manufactured products, such as cars, home appliances, and toys. They combine art, business, and engineering to make products that people use every day. Industrial designers consider the function, aesthetics, production costs, and usability of products when developing new product concepts.
Interior designers make interior spaces functional, safe, and beautiful by determining space requirements and selecting decorative items, such as colors, lighting, and materials. They read blueprints and must be aware of building codes and inspection regulations, as well as universal accessibility standards.
Landscape architects design parks and the outdoor spaces of campuses, recreational facilities, businesses, private homes, and other open areas.
Surveying and Mapping Technicians
Surveying and mapping technicians collect data and make maps of the Earth's surface. Surveying technicians visit sites to take measurements of the land. Mapping technicians use geographic data to create maps. They both assist surveyors and cartographers and photogrammetrists.
Surveyors make precise measurements to determine property boundaries. They provide data relevant to the shape and contour of the Earth's surface for engineering, mapmaking, and construction projects.
Urban and Regional Planners
Urban and regional planners develop land use plans and programs that help create communities, accommodate population growth, and revitalize physical facilities in towns, cities, counties, and metropolitan areas.
*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.