Architects plan and design houses, factories, office buildings, and other structures.
What they do
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 with clients the objectives, requirements, and budget of a project. In some cases, architects provide predesign services, such as feasibility and environmental impact studies, site selection, cost analyses, and design requirements.
Architects develop final construction plans on the initial proposal after discussing 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 reasonable access for people with disabilities.
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 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 that clients’ objectives are met and to review the progress of projects. Some architects work from home offices.
How to become an Architect
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.
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.
About two-thirds of states require that architects hold a degree in architecture from one of more than 120 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).
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.
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.
The median annual wage for architects was $80,750 in May 2019. 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 $48,700, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $137,620.
Employment of architects is projected to grow 1 percent from 2019 to 2029, 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, schools, healthcare facilities, and other structures, particularly in the area of sustainable design. However, improved building information modeling (BIM) software and measuring technology are expected to increase architects’ productivity, thereby limiting employment growth for these workers.
Similar Job Titles
Architect; Architectural Project Manager; Design Architect; Principal Architect; Principal, Architectural Firm; Project Architect; Senior Architect/Design Manager; Senior Architectural Designer; Senior Planner; Specifications Writer
Construction Manager, Architectural and Engineering Manager, Civil Engineer, Architecture Teacher-Postsecondary, Interior Designer
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- Association of Licensed Architects - ALA is open to all architects and professions related to architecture. Members hold individual memberships and specialize in all types of architecture. Some members are international leaders in the architecture profession while others have award-winning city and suburban practices. Others are building industry suppliers or allied professionals and leaders in their markets. Students and new graduates are encouraged to join to connect with architects who they can learn from.
- Construction Specifications Institute - This organization’s mission is to advance building information management and education of project teams to improve facility performance.
- National Council of Architectural Registration Boards - NCARB, in collaboration with licensing boards, facilitates the licensure and credentialing of architects to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public.
- Society of American Registered Architects - The Society of American Registered Architects (SARA) is a vibrant professional organization of architects and industry related partners guided by the mantra, “Architect Helping Architect.” Founded in 1956, this is a national organization with active councils and chapters throughout the country, as well as international members. SARA focuses on fellowship, friendship and mentorship.
- The American Institute of Architects - This organization advocates for the value of architecture and give architects the resources they need to do their best work. Their work drives positive change through the power of design. Educators, be sure to check out the K-12 Initiatives.
- S. Green Building Council - This organization has a vision that buildings and communities will regenerate and sustain the health and vitality of all life within a generation. Their mission is to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.
Magazines and Publications
- Licensed Architect
- SARAScope Newsletter
- Architectural Digest
- Architect Magazine
- Metropolis Magazine
Behind the construction of every building, road, and crucial network of piping is an architectural and engineering manager. They are the leaders who research and develop new projects and ensure high standards of quality and safety, while also considering the impact on the environment and user needs. These managers craft detailed plans to meet technical goals, from mapping out training, staff, and equipment needs, to evaluating welding subcontractors and asphalt grades, to calculating the structural stability of a building site. Based on this research, they propose budgets and lead teams of architects and engineers to execute the project. Architectural and engineering managers often work more than 40 hours per week to meet deadlines and budgets. While many work in offices, it’s also fairly common to work in a lab or on a construction site. They typically enter the position with at least a bachelor’s degree in either architecture or an engineering specialty. They must have very thorough work experience in the field to earn a management role, and may add a second degree in business administration or in a related field.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org