How to become an Architect. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
What does an Architect do?
Architects design and construct new buildings and restore and conserve old ones. Their work also involves planning the layout of groups of buildings and the spaces around them.
As an architect, you would create a design, taking into account all of your clients’ requirements and a range of other issues including:
- social factors
- building regulations
- planning laws.
Once a design is agreed, you would:
- produce a further set of detailed drawings for the building contractor, with precise dimensions and materials
- work closely with contractors, engineers, surveyors, lawyers and planning departments
- regularly inspect the construction work to assess progress.
You would be responsible for a building project from the earliest stage through to completion. On larger jobs, you could work in a team alongside other architects and architectural technicians or technologists.
You would usually work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. However, deadlines and workload can sometimes involve working unsocial hours. With some organisations, you may be expected to cover an on-call rota.
You would be mainly office-based, although you may spend some time travelling to sites and meetings, visiting clients, planning departments and builders. When visiting sites you may need to wear protective clothing such as a hard hat and boots.
How much does an Architect earn?
Salary and pay information:
- As an architect’s assistant, during the trainee stages, you could earn between £19,000 and £33,000 a year.
- Newly registered architects may earn between £34,000 and £38,000.
- With three to five years’ post-registration experience, you may earn between around £39,000 and £46,000.
Salaries vary depending on the type of architectural practice/organisation and its location. For more information on salaries, including regional variations, see the Architects’ Earnings Survey on the RIBA Appointment website.
- RIBA Appointments
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
The most common way to qualify as an architect involves:
- five years’ study on a university course recognised for registration with the Architects Registration Board (ARB), and
- at least two years’ professional experience.
You would complete this in the following stages:
- a three year full-time undergraduate BA or BSc degree (known as Part 1)
- paid professional experience in an architectural practice, typically for one year (known as Stage 1)
- a further two year full-time degree, for example a BArch, Diploma or MArch (known as Part 2 – final award)
- at least one year’s further paid professional experience (known as Stage 2)
- professional exam (known as Part 3).
Once you have completed the Part 1, 2 and 3 qualifications you can register as an architect with the ARB and apply to become a Chartered Member of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
To get on to the undergraduate degree you will need:
- at least five GCSEs (A-C) including maths, English and physics or chemistry, and
- three A levels (some universities prefer this to include a maths or science subject).
Many course providers will also want to see a portfolio of your drawings and sketches. Entry requirements can vary and alternative qualifications may also be accepted (such as an Access course), so it is important to check with universities for exact details – see the ARB website for a list.
- Architects Registration Board
Some university schools of architecture will give you exemption from parts of their courses if you already have relevant qualifications or extensive experience. You should check with them for details.
See the RIBA and ARB websites for full details of qualifications and alternative routes to becoming an architect.
Training and Development
As a qualified architect it is important for you to keep up-to-date with developments by taking short courses run by your employer or organisations such as RIBA.
As a chartered member of RIBA, you need to complete continuing professional development (CPD) activities. They have a CPD online programme, and as a member you will have access to advice, seminars, courses and training. Check the RIBA website for details.
- Royal Institute of British Architects
You could develop your knowledge by completing a postgraduate course in a subject related to architecture, such as civil engineering, town planning, surveying, building and building services, landscape design, interior design and conservation. These are offered by most schools of architecture.
Skills and Knowledge
- an interest in buildings and their uses
- practical and scientific skills
- a methodical, logical and analytical approach
- design and computer/CAD skills
- strong mathematical ability
- good business awareness
- strong communication and negotiating skills
- the ability to manage and lead a team
- the ability to work under pressure
- an awareness of the social and environmental impact of your work.
You will find most jobs in private practice and progression will depend on your skills, competence and experience.
With experience, you may be able work on freelance projects or set up your own business. You may have the opportunity to work overseas, as many private practices have contracts or offices abroad.
You could also work in the public sector or in-house with a wide range of commercial and industrial organisations in areas such as retail, leisure, tourism and banking. In a public sector organisation, you may be able to progress to chief architect.